Armenia’s Silk Road: The Ancient Rocks, The Strange Drivers and The Caravanserai

Hitchhiking Armenia’s Silk Road
Part Eight

Prologue: How it all started
Part One // Part Two // Part Three // Part Four
Part Five // Part Six // Part Seven

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 artefacts were uncovered by archeologists in 1956 after water level of Sevan decreased. We arrive in the village early in the morning on a white 4×4 Lada Niva that picked us up from the road soon after we walked off the public beach to the road. The sun is already shining bright up in the skies over the blue waters of Sevan Lake, nevertheless the morning is cold. And after the night’s vodka adventure my head feels like a huge pumpking with a band of drunkard drummers inside who play rock’n’roll-ish beats on their invisible drum kits.
Lake Sevan and mountains in snow, Armenia

Our driver, a young man named Andranik, who is a tourist guide himself, joins us in our quest willing to help us, since I have no ideas what are we actually looking for. It takes us about half an hour to find the first object of our interest – a huge rock with cuneiform inscriptions left by the King Argishti I of Urartu, the founder of Armenia’s capital, Yerevan.
The village of Lchashen
A young woman from a local store takes us to the rock. “It’s 4000 years old,” she says trying to impress us. Well, it isn’t actually, since the King died in 764 BC, thus the inscriptions should be about 2800 years old. Still quite impressive, especially when you find it standing in the middle of the village, just like that.
A stone with cuneiform inscriptions dating back to 8th century BC
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 ruins of a cyclopic 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.
Ruins of cyclopic fortress in Lchashen
The excavations show that back in old times the settlement had straight streets lined by round and rectangular structures. Its population was occupied with farming, wood-making, basket weaving, ceramics. The people of today’s Lchashen are mainly occupied with farming and fishing. After exploring the fortress and the ancient rocks around it, we take a little rest and have our breakfast. Few honey bees attack us while we eat the jam.
People walking along the street in Lchashen
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 who gives an impression of an experienced prostitute, drink beer all the way. They say they are in love with each other for many a year, but through their eyes I can see they’re stoned. They offer us beer. We accept the offering. But the whole situation becomes awkwardly weird as I learn that they’re on their way to a…funeral.
The road from Sevan to Gavar
As we leave the city of Martuni, we cross into the Selim Mountains and head for the Selim Caravanserai. Though people who picked us up aren’t going to the caravanserai, they decide to drive us all the way to the place before turning back and joining their friends fishing on a nearby river. The Selim Caravanserai was built in 1332 by Prince Chesar Orbelian along the Selim mountain pass to accommodate travellers 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 of the Selim Pass.
The 14th-century Selim caravanserai
At dusk we arrive in Yeghegnadzor. Now it’s time for us to think of where we are going to sleep this night. But first we decide to fill up our starving stomachs with food at a roadside restaurant. The food is rather ok, the bill is far beyond any of our expectations. We leave the restaurant, taking what’s left on the table with us. We fail to hitch a ride, so we just walk along the road, hoping to reach some village where we can ask for a shelter.
Landscapes around Selim mountain pass
Behind the next turn, we notice a man standing beside his car, and as it turns out, waiting for us. We exchange hellos and introduce each other. Eventually, he suggests to take us to a TV broadcasting station on top of some mountain above the city of Vayk. “You can sleep there, and in the morning I’ll show you around,” he says. And once again, the Road saves us. 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.
TV station above the city of Vayk
The TV station where we are to spend the night is a one-storey 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, of which 15 years he was a driver for the station. Azat offers us coffee and honey.
A man turning on the gear on TV station above the city of Vayk
Because he has to wake up at 3.00 AM to turn off all the equipment, we soon go to sleep. 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 traveller, but still.

(to be continued)

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6 thoughts on “Armenia’s Silk Road: The Ancient Rocks, The Strange Drivers and The Caravanserai

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  4. Pingback: Armenia’s Silk Road: Epilogue | On The Road

  5. Pingback: Through the Mountains | One Hundred & Eight Roads

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