More than a year ago, when I was visiting the monastery of Goshavank with a group of friends I had a chance to exchange few words with one the ladies selling candles and postcards there. It was from her that I first heard of the monastery of Makaravank – and the images she showed me on the postcards were impressive. But ever since I didn’t come back to the region, and that’s why we decided to dedicate the second day of our 2-day trip to Tavush Province of Armenia to the 10th-13th century Makaravank monastery located about 6 km west of the village of Achajur, on the slopes of Paytatap mountain.
The ancient monasteries and churches are one of the top tourist destinations in Armenia, which is understandable given the history of the country and the role of Christianity in it. Monasteries and churches are spread all over the mountains, and Jukhtak Vank, Matosavank and Makaravank (‘vank’ is the Armenian word for monasteries) are just the few of them. While we have heard of the latter, the first two were mystery to us, and these monasteries made the itinerary for our next trip to Tavush province of Armenia. It took us about 2 hours to get to the city of Dilijan from Yerevan, with a short stop by the lake Sevan. And sometimes we didn’t even need to stretch our hands out with thumbs up – the drivers would stop upon noticing us walking along the road with our backpacks.
“Here, take these walnuts. They bring luck. They’re from that 800-year-old tree outside,” an old woman named Zarik gives us a nut each and takes us on a tour around the little museum behind Goshavank monastery, once a major religious, cultural and educational center. Zarik briefly introduces the area’s history to us, then presents us with another nut. “Keep one at home, and the other one in your pocket,” she says. We take the nuts, thank her and walk away to explore the Goshavank monastery. Usually, Goshavank is full of tourists. But not today.