Photographs. Makaravank Monastery

The legend goes that a certain craftsman named Makar built the Makaravank monastery together with his son. As the walls were growing higher, Makar was spending nights on the walls of the monastery, while his son was preparing the stones for him. One day he noticed that the stones and the patterns carved into them now looked different. When Makar found out that his son passed away, he committed suicide jumping off the church’s top. The villagers buried him under the walls of the monastery and named it after the craftsman – Makaravank (monastery of Makar).
The main gates of the Makaravank monastery, Tavush province, Armenia

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In Search of Jukhtak and Matosavank Monasteries

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.
On the road between Yerevan and Dilijan, Armenia

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Father Aspet of Haghpat Monastery

The little square in front of the UNESCO World Heritage Haghpat monastery in Lori province of Armenia is not crowded when we arrive there, hitchhiking from the town of Akhtala. Three or four grannies sit by the entrance to the monastery waiting for the occasional tourist to sell their handmade socks, hats or scarves along with honey, herbs or nuts to. Showing no interest, we pass by them and walking up the stairs we reach the gates where we meet father Aspet in his black robes. He greets us with a warm smile, we exchange few words and introduce ourselves. “Welcome to Haghpat,” says he, and as we walk away to explore the monastery, he joins some old women to continue their conversation.
Father Aspet in conversation with parishioners of Haghpat Monastery

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Jai Guru Deva Om

“Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.”
G. Harrison

Back in my university years I was very much into Hare Krishna movement, of which I came to know through George Harrison. Although a big fan of The Beatles, I wasn’t particularly interested in George’s music then. So when I first heard his song “My Sweet Lord”, the words “Hare Krishna Hare Rama” sounded strange to me. I had no clue of what it was about, but there was something magical and attractive in the mantra. Then during my first year in the university I received a precious gift from my close friend from Mauritius, Kevin. It was the “Bhagavad Gita as It Is”. In Russian. From that moment on began my journey to the beautiful world of Hindu religion, and particularly the Hare Krishna movement. And of course, George became my favorite Beatle, and today I call him my first guru – the one who awoke me from a deep sleep.

Years passed, and in the end of July of 2008, when I was back in Moscow for a few days after just another hitchhiking trip and getting ready for another one, a friend of mine invited me over to join an event at the Moscow ISKCON temple. A lecture by a man named Prithu Prabhu was scheduled, and in fact the whole event was in his honor, but I didn’t really know who he was.
Prithu Prabhu at ICKSON Temple in Moscow

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Noravank Monastery, Armenia

The next morning after the Areni Wine Festival in Vayots Dzor region of Armenia, together with my friends we decided to visit the famous 13th century Noravank Monastery. Leaving the village of Areni, we walked along the road until the Novravank intersection and from there hitchhiked an old red school bus full of 10th grade pupils who sang The Beatles and Bob Dylan songs with us all the way to the monastery. Meanwhile, the mad driver was doing his best in attempts to scare us to death cutting the sharp curves of the road through the Arpa river canyon without slowing the speed. When we arrived (thanks God, in one piece), the school teachers offered as a ride back. We thanked them and together with youngsters went to explore the monastery and its surroundings. According to a legend, Noravank is said to have housed a piece of the True Cross stained with Christ’s blood, found by a mysterious stranger who discovered its origin after it performed a miracle raising a child from the dead.
Noravank monastery, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
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