One rather okay winter day, Laura and I decided to take a two hour hike to a neighboring village to see some old churches. One of the advantages of being a “local” is getting to see sites off the wide, paved “touristy” path and instead see what’s at the end of that beaten, worn-out and neglected dirt road. I’m not exactly sure how many people go to this particular tiny little village, which was established in 398 BC, but we saw exactly two cars on the rutted snowy route the entire two hours there and additional two hours back, so I’m guessing not too many.
At first sight, the churches in the village looked pretty old. It wasn’t until we got back and did a teeny bit of research that we realized how old they actually were. One, the Astvatsatsin Church, is dated 1181 and, 150 meters beyond, the Katoghike S. Gevorg church is from the 13th century, according to the one Internet site I looked at.
The insides were dark and cold with bare dirt floors and bare stone walls. There were a few small prayer corners with blackened, melted candle wax and a few pictures of Christ, typical of what I’ve seen at other churches in Armenia. Outside the churches were the usual elaborate hand-carved stone Khatchars or Cross Stones that are also typical of what I’ve seen in Armenian graveyards.
Laura and I sat and had a light snack of mandarins and muffins. We both activated our portable, disposable hand warmers, as the wind was starting to pick up and it was chilly, just sitting there. Then we started the two hour walk back.
My hand warmers were just starting to get cold as we re-entered the town limits. Then it started to snow, huge, thick heavy flakes. It was great timing on our part, as some parts of the road we’d been walking were treacherous enough with ice. At least we didn’t have to deal with the blinding snow as well.
I discovered something more than old churches at the end of the beaten path that day.
From starting out as just an “okay” winter day, it actually became much more than that, because I interacted with it. I’d gotten exercise in the fresh air, had seen a new part of the world I’d never been to before, spent time with a good friend, and could justifiably spend the rest of the day cuddled in a warm blanket in my apartment drinking hot chocolate and reading a new book.
You know, people are always telling you to “get off the beaten path.” I say just the opposite. Get on that weather-beaten, muddy, worn, decayed, bleak, wild, raw path and see what lies at the end. It’s much more interesting.
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