Silk Road of Armenia: Strange Drivers
Located at the northern end of the Geghama mountains on the shore of Lake Sevan, the village of Lchashen hosts one of the most important archeological sites in Armenia. The history of the ancient settlement of Lchashen dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. The historical artifacts were uncovered by archeologists in 1956 when the water level of Sevan decreased.
We arrive in the village early in the morning on a white Lada Niva that picked us up soon after we got to the road. Our driver, a young man named Andranik, who is a tour guide himself, joins us in our quest to find the first object of our interest in Lchashen – a huge rock with cuneiform inscriptions left by the King Argishti I of Urartu, the founder of Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. A young woman from a local store takes us to the rock. “It’s 4000 years old,” she says trying to impress us. Well… Actually it isn’t, since the king died somewhere around 764 BC, but still.
As Andranik leaves us, we slowly walk to the ruins of a 13th-century church, and then cross the village and walk up the hills to find the remains a cyclopean fortress, believed to be 5000 years old, or more. I climb up the hill to explore what’s left of the fortress, while Emée waits for me, sitting on rocks and playing guitar. When I return, we decide to have our breakfast. A few honey bees buzz around us while we eat the jam.
Back on the road we encounter two rather strange rides that eventually get us out of the Martuni city limits. The drivers of the first car, two mid-aged men from Gavar, begin to argue loudly over the music they play in the car just as we move on. They drive fast, which results in a fine by the road police officers. The rest of the way they argue over the actions of the police. Turns out, the car doesn’t even belong to them and they don’t have any documents to identify the owner. The second ride is even more strange. The driver, a big guy dressed in black, and his companion, a young lady, drink beer all the way. They say they’re in love with each other for many a year, but looking into their eyes I can see they’re stoned. They offer us beer. We don’t see any reason to object. The whole situation becomes even more awkward when we learn that the couple’s on their way to their friend’s funeral.
We leave the city of Martuni and cross into the Vardenyats mountain pass. Our next stop is the Orbelian’s Caravanserai. The people who give us a lift, aren’t going to the caravanserai, but they decide to drive us all the way to the place before turning back and joining their friends fishing on a nearby river. The Orbelian’s Caravanserai was built in 1332 by Prince Chesar Orbelian to accommodate travelers and merchants on their way to the northern regions of Armenia. We spend some time exploring the caravanserai and taking photographs of the stunning landscapes surrounding us.
At dusk we arrive in Yeghegnadzor. We need to figure out where are we going to sleep this night. But first we decide to fill up our starving stomachs with food at a roadside restaurant. The food is ok, the bill is far beyond any of our expectations. We leave the restaurant, taking what’s left on the table with us. Failing to hitch a ride, we just walk along the road, hoping to reach some village where we can ask for a shelter. Behind the next turn, we notice a man standing beside his car. Tuns our, he’s waiting for us. We greet each other, I briefly introduce him our journey.
He listens carefully and then suggests to take us to a TV broadcasting station on top of some mountains above the city of Vayk. “You can sleep there, and in the morning I’ll show you around,” he says. The Road saves us once again. We accept the offer. In the darkness of the night three of us arrive to the station, where Azat, the night guard, meets us and invites us in. The driver, Nairi, leaves us and drives back home, promising to pick us up in the morning.
The TV station where we are to spend the night is a one-story building surrounded by antennas and satellite dishes. “We receive the signal from Yerevan, and then transmit it to Yeghegnadzor, Vayk and the nearby villages,” Azat briefly explains their job. He himself works here for 30 years now. Azat offers as coffee and honey. He has to wake up at 3:00 AM to turn off all the equipment, so we go to sleep soon. Emée gets a warm bed in the garage, while I lay down on the floor in the main room where all the equipment is. The machines make loud and monotonous noise – not the best lullaby for a tired traveler.