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Chilly in Dilijan

October 2 – 4, 2009: I had been so impressed with the scenery driving north from Vanadzor, that I took a taxi instead of a marshrutka the short distance to my next stop, Dilijan. I was well rewarded, with more forested hillsides backed by steeper mountains. The taxi also saved me the uphill trek to my homestay, Nina’s. There I met an Englishwoman, a retired archaeologist who had been helping out at Erebuni, a Urartu site in south Yerevan. We agreed to share a taxi to visit the local sights next day.

Near Dilijan

The bathroom at Nina’s was a bit primitive, with unreliable hot water, but indoors, and otherwise she provided a comfortable place with lots of good food. I would have been even happier if the weather had been better. Plenty of sunshine during the day, but temperatures plunged at night, and I needed two quilts and blankets to keep from shivering.

While Dilijan enjoyed a beautiful location, I wasn’t as impressed by the “made for tourists” street of craft shops just down from Nina’s. Nor was I impressed by the cost of the posh new guesthouse at one end of that street – 40,000 dram compared to the 10,000 I was paying (which included dinner as well as breakfast). I did enjoy apricot and mushroom soup for lunch at the equally posh restaurant at the other end of the street.

Goshavank

The monasteries around Dilijan proved a bit of a disappointment, as one was essentially off limits for renovation. I really missed the more graceful architecture in Georgia, although once again I saw some good carving – but not up to the standard around Vanadzor. After lunch back in Dilijan I managed to visit a couple of nearly deserted churches deep in the woods.

A non-touristy street in Dilijan

Initially I thought, based on a USAID map, that I could walk in, but eventually I gave up on that and took a taxi the three and a half kilometers in from the road, before walking the last half kilometer alone. My boots got a bit muddy but the peace was notable – plus the trees were sporting autumn colors. The churches were in poor repair, but not totally I abandoned – I noticed a few feathers on a stone outside one of them – likely the remains of sacrificed chicken.

That evening Nina’s husband cooked barbecue on a hearth built into one of the walls in the dining room. A spread of assorted salads accompanied some good tasting meat, which for once in this part of the world turned out to be tender.The next morning he drove me down to the main square to catch a marshrutka on to Yerevan.

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