Footprints criss-cross a country. “We bear witness to history”! Large and small, old and new, they are. This way and that, over and under each other, they go. Some stroll, some march, some stagger, some stomp. It always bewilders.
But in Armenia, two sets of bold footprints claim us! One set belongs to Christianity and the other to Communism. Steadfast and stubborn, these footprints zigzag Armenia, still today.
Imagine Armenia is the world’s first country to declare CHRISTIANITY its official religion. Way back in 301 A.D! Over 94% of Armenia’s are Christian and almost all belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church. Armenians, we speak to, say proudly ‘we are the oldest country in the world’! It is Saint Gregory the Illuminator that convinced the King to discard his pagan ways. Footprints highlight all over the place.
Armenia is a Soviet satellite state from 1922 to 1991 but it still feels like a COMMUNIST country in 2018. As we ride into Yerevan, the capital, my heart and jaw drops. Where is the post-Soviet City? The forlorn Soviet apartment block is everywhere. Armenians still live in grey, and often crumbling buildings. What! No clean break from the past! It shouldn’t surprise me. Our own township style housing still clutches firmly. Little boxes find rows in South Africa but columns in Armenia. Yes, the demise of one system requires the birth of another. And it’s complicated.
Here are a few photos of both Christian and Communist footprints that jump out at us in Armenia.
This the renovated Temple of the God Mihr near the village of Garni.
A dedication to the Sun God, this footprint belongs to Pagan times and was built 1 century B.C. in pre-Christian times.
In the same village of Garni there is a 12th century Christian Church.
It is raining and we are called inside for shelter and a chat.
We ask to take these few photos …
And here we see Geghard, a chapel and monastery complex.
The monastery was founded in the 4th century and the chapel is built in the 12th century.
And the famous Khor Virap stands in the Ararat Valley in the shadow of Mount Ararat, which we did not see because of cloud cover …
… until the next day …
…. no soft landing for the Ark of Noah, we reckon.
Khor Virap, in the shadow of Mount Ararat, is a small citadel that includes the Temple on the left and the Chapel on the right.
Below a prayer room is the famous pit where the founder of the Armenian Apolstolic Church, Gregory the Illuminator, was imprisoned for 13 years.
Here I drop into that pit. In Gregory the Illuminators time it was filled with snakes, scorpions and a kind woman rather dropped a loaf down once a day.
It is the commitment of Gregory to stay true to his beliefs that convinces the King to convert his Kingdom to Christianity.
Out of the pit and into the chapel. It is an active chapel and a service is about to begin …
Footprints of a different kind. In the very center of the capital, Yerevan, there are some very grand public buildings.
But just beyond … it is still surrounded by the typical Soviet apartment block …
Take a peep through the arch ….
The extent of it and …
… the monotomy of it takes your breath away. We see similar patterns in other ex- Soviet capitals, Bucharest, Tbilisi, Baku, etc
There seem to be few sectional title or body corporate rules … everybody pretty much does their own thing.
This is the view from our apartment. Even the newer buildings on both sides have the same look and feel.
The apartment block across from us ….
… with its residents …
But we believe the apartments are probably very nice on the inside …. ours is …
Weird, isn’t it? Communism doesn’t erase Christian footprints. And Democracy doesn’t erase Communist footprints. Footprints seem to last forever.
But, to be honest, the Armenian imprint that lasts the longest is … the bread, the BreaD, the BREAD. We don’t so much see it, as smell it. As we walk, as we ride. As we approach each village, each market. Every morning, every afternoon and every evening. Its fresh smell hangs everywhere. Its full taste satisfies every time. BREAD is, without doubt, the Ground beneath their Feet!
Armenians kneed, roll, bake, sell and buy fresh bread ceaselessly. It has many forms and all are delicious! Lavash, it is most well-known for. It’s a flatbread now used throughout western Asia and the Middle East. Fresh, it’s great for wraps. Dried, it lasts for a year.
The secret behind the loud Christian and Communist footprints is the Ground beneath their Feet.
! BREAD !
But the bread, the bread, the bread … the smell of it draws us inside this bread factory. The flatbread in the foreground, is called Lavash, an Armenian invention.
Our lady bakers are thrilled that we were drawn in, from SOUTH AFRICA, by the smell of their Lavash.
They are tucking away at their own fresh Lavash with boiled eggs, beans and relish.
Here Lavash makes a delicious wrap.
And here Lavash first covers and keeps warm, and then is eaten with Kebabs and roasted tomatoes.
And fresh from a bakery, a light savoury round bread, at the back, and a pancake filled with a lovely wild subtle herbs I dont know.
And a delicious chewy round bread straight from the oven.
Yes, for sure, the secret behind all those impressive Christian and Communist footprints is Bread. The Ground beneath their Feet.