Walked up a mountain today to Goshavank Monastery. Sunny day, 3°C, the only sounds were birds and a stream, and the road sign ahead indicated a 12% slope. It was cold in the shadows.
Yesterday’s blue toes were now black, so the problem toes were taped and bandaged inside my boots. I have no problem losing a few toenails, but worry losing toes would affect my marriage chances, especially in cultures where one has to remove ones shoes when entering a house.
Goshavank, founded in 1188, once had a library that held 15,000 books, a lot in the 12th century when they were all hand-copied. They were burned by Timur, a fathead responsible apparently for the deaths of 17m people, about 5% of the world’s population at the time. The history of Armenia is miserably punctuated by fatheads from just about everywhere coming through sacking monasteries, burning books and butchering locals.
Subsequently restored, Goshavank still has a quiet dignity.
Given my chequered history, who’d have thought I would one day spend so much time visiting monasteries. If only my parents, who lamented that I was godless, could see me now.
The monastery was in, and dominated the village of Gosh:
I stopped at a nearby store to buy some bread. I rested my stick and stood outside to eat it. An old woman motioned me to sit at a table on the balcony, and brought me salty cheese to eat with it, refusing to take money for it. She sat with me, and told me in Russian that she milked the cow and pressed the cheese herself . I don’t speak Russian, but the signing for milking a cow is universal. I did however look up my Russian dictionary to confirm that she was talking cows not goats or horses or anything else.
I got up to leave but then her daughter, the shopkeeper, brought out fruit, cut it and we all ate. I took their pictures but couldn’t capture the niceness of the old lady (on the left).
She had a kind of harsh, unsmiling but genuine niceness and hospitality that took me a while to understand. Once I understood it, I was disappointed in myself for days that I had so missed capturing it. The best I could do was to put her in the context of her daughter (the woman on her left with long hair), her friends, and the cheese.
(events 15 Nov 2012)