Sightseeing near Yerevan

The work of a Kiva Fellow is busy and varied, but we also like to take in the sights while we are abroad.  One week this fall, I was able to spend a week with not one, but two other Kiva-ites.  Kiva Fellows Program Coordinator Shana Soltani came to Armenia to observe Liz Fish, Kiva Media Fellow, and me.  We had a great week of meeting borrowers and talking with the field partners, and on the weekend, we decided to visit 2 very interesting historical places near Yerevan: Garni and Gerhard.

Garni temple with Shana, Liz and Amy
Garni is the site of an ancient pagan temple that is reminiscent of Greco-Roman architecture.  Garni was built as a temple to the sun god, Mihr, in the Ionic Greek style in the first century AD.  In recent years, efforts have been made to restore the temple.  In the 1600s an earthquake destroyed the buildings, but so many of the large building blocks and pieces were sufficiently in tact to allow the rebuilding in the 1970s.

Aside from the temple, there are ruins of a bathhouse.  Unfortunately, because there were not many visitors on the day we were there, we could only peer in through the doors and windows to see the mosaic floor and small round pillars coming up from the floor which served to transfer the hot water from the basement into the bathing rooms.
view from Garni

Garni is one of my favorite places in Armenia partly because of its location.  It is on a cliff above the Azat river.  You can see the gorge that was carved out by the river over thousands of years.  The natural beauty is still in tact, and provides a serene locale that makes it ideal for worship.

After Garni, we moved on to Gerhard, a monastery built into the side of a mountain that is reported to have housed the spear that pierced Chirst’s side.

Shana throwing pebbles for a wish with Gagik advising

LIz throwing pebbles for luck at Gerhard
At the archway leading to the monastery many visitors stop to see if they can throw a pebble into one of the crevices in the wall.  Gagik explained that if you make a wish while doing this and the pebble does not fall out, your wish will come true.  We had fun trying to make our wishes come true.

Gagik shows blooming cross at Gerhard
Gerhard has some gorgeous Armenian blooming crosses.  Carving these crosses, which are narrow at the intersection and full and ornate at each of the four end points, is an Armenian art form.  Often pumice stone, an abundant volcanic stone, is used.
Liz photographs Gagik by carved blooming crosses on cave's outer wall at Gerhard

Amy with holy water in Gerhard
Inside the monastery there are several separate rooms.  One has a spring of holy water coming from the floor.  Others are set up with alters, candles and many carvings symbolizing Biblical stories.  The monastery is still used for religious ceremonies, in fact, as we were entering, we met a staff member of Kiva’s partner, Nor Horizon, who had just attended a baptism there.

Liz, Shana and Amy holding sunlight beam in Gerhard
Being a cave, there is not much light, but Gagik was thrilled to get us to pose holding the stream of sunlight from one of the windows.

Shana, Amy and Liz peering out of monk's quarters at Gerhard
Outside of the main church, smaller rooms were excavated as housing for the monks.

Shana, Liz and Amy at the entrance of Garni temple
We had a great day of exploring two of Armenia’s most historic and significant sites.

If you would like to consider helping Kiva’s borrower’s in Armenia, please browse Armenia’s current loans available to fund.
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Thank you for your interest in Armenia and Kiva’s work in this beautiful country.

About the author

Amy Williams

Amy is a native of Dallas, TX. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian Studies from Trinity University in San Antonio and lived in St. Petersburg, Russia for 3 years. While in St. Petersburg, she worked for a venture capital company and helped establish a Russian-American School of Management. Amy just finished Peace Corps service as a Community Business Development Volunteer in Armenia where she also volunteered at Heifer International. She is spending an intensive 6 weeks reconnecting with friends and adjusting to being home before heading back out to the Caucasus where she will serve as a Kiva Fellow in Georgia and Armenia.