I am walking up to the ruins of Kobayr Convent, the mountaintop retreat of a set of unusually muscular 13th Century nuns.
I leave the main road that follows the Debed river, cross the railway line and head upward. The single railway line is more important than it looks: it links Armenia to Georgia in the north, while east, west and south are blocked by hostile neighbors Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Trains come through only 4-5 times a day, so even with my history of poor judgment and bad timing, my chances of getting knocked over by one are remote.
At the lower levels of the mountain a farming community makes its living. It does not seem like much of a living as the houses are in generally poor repair.
though still working. The track up leads between houses and barns and past some very friendly looking roofs:
About 1/2 way up I realize I am lost. I shout to a local farmer “turn left or right”. Rather than answer he grabs his big stick, works his way up to me and then kindly leads me up. He has probably determined the further away he gets me the less damage I can do.
The convent sits under the top edge of the mountain, stone walls in front, basalt cliffs behind.
On one side are dripping caves set into the cliffs. It is absolutely quiet, and I guess has been for 900 years. Here one of the places they worshipped. Cold, stony, but with the soft light coming through the window, an easy place to pray:
There are 10-20m drops everywhere. I feel the need to tie myself to something. There were no safety rails in the 13th either, every step just nearer to God.
The whole place is built from rocks, big rocks. Cutting them, carrying them and carving them into shape is real musclebound work. Fallen boulders everywhere, like marbles. These must have been real muscly nuns.
I imagine them fending off drunk barbarians with a headlock.
On the road back I am threatened by a 3-legged dog. Yes, one 3-legged dog. Has he no friends? Has my life come to this that even 3-legged dogs think they can take me on?
The clown has only 1 front leg. So my battle plan, should one become necessary, is to knock the other one out from under him with my stick, and laugh.
(events 1 Dec 2012)