Thursday, February 4, 2016

Getting Adopted in Garni/Geghart!

With Björn's mom in town, we all decided to go to Garni and Geghart on a Saturday in October. I have been there a few times, but not for a while so I was happy to revisit the area. Last time I was there, it was with Allegra and Rita, where we found a great place to hike, but my horribly worn out shoes fell apart on one of the hills and this happened:
That morning as Björn and I were heading over, I saw that my neighbour, who had a jealousy-inducing quince tree, was getting some help in picking the quinces off the tree--with some interesting homemade tools. I really craved one so I had a mischievous plan to ask if they were apples, and after correcting me, he told me I must try how delicious the Armenian sergefil is. I felt a little guilty but it was delicious and a perfect breakfast and we are friends now.
Bjorn is a hand model in Germany
We got to the bus stop on Mashtots, to catch a bus to Gai Station in Massiv, which is where the buses to get to Garni leave from. As we were waiting, a man with a falcon on his arm walked right passed us to get to a mashtooka, where the poor bus driver just stared in disbelief. 

After advice from the all-knowing Gohar, I decided to ask the bus driver not for Gai Station, since it was the formal name, but rather for the Massiv shuga station, since she assured me that was how it was known. It worked right away and the bus driver told us he would let us know when we got there, with two other passengers also helping us out.

About 10 to 15 minutes later we reached the area and were happy to see the bus station was just really a non-hectic parking lot with lots of Garni-bound buses and mashootkas parked. We found the one that was leaving the soonest and claimed our seats, with me of course noticing how much Björn and his mom, as they spoke German to each other, were stared at. Compared to them, I was invisible.
Before the bus began moving, an older and very elegant looking couple boarded, with the husband sitting on one seat and the wife sitting beside me, jokingly asking if I had been reserving it specifically for her. The wife began talking to me non-stop, asking me every question imaginable, and then focused her attention on Björn and his mother, who were sitting directly in front of us. She asked what Björn's mom's relation to Björn was, because "she was much too young to be his mother", and then asked me to ask her if her hair colour was natural (it is).

After inquiring about our plans in Garni and Geghart, she told me that her and her husband simply went out to the nearby shop for some light shopping, and after seeing what a sunny and beautiful day it was, the husband said "let's go to Garni!" and she agreed.

During this trip, a reoccurring joke that never stopped being funny was that whenever something absurd would happen, the wife would look at me and say "I just wanted to go to the shop!"

After this particular discussion, the husband proclaimed they were adopting us and they would make sure we would see both Garni and Geghart their way. The bus went to Garni and they both convinced the driver to take us to Geghart, telling him they would rather pay him extra than pay for a taxi. The driver agreed. When we arrived, the man payed for all of us, and told us not to argue, as they were "adopting us". As we arrived, the husband saw some friends right away.
As soon as we began walking, the husband bought many soujoukhs and gatta and kept giving us all pieces of both saying "Ger! Ger!" (Eat! Eat!). He really did not take no for an answer, so I learned to eat a piece of soujoukh extremely slowly so I could always say I still had some left. (Muahaha)
There is even kiwi-based soujoukh nowadays!
We walked around with our jolly couple laying down some facts, and with the husband singing when we were inside the monastery with a very nice and pronounced voice.
Of course I have a habit of making fun of these types of signs, but this particular one  just set the bar up for me. Please note the emphasis on the very excited dog:
We then saw the spring where the water would come in through the walls of the monastery, and we all filled our bottles with what is considered to be holy water. It did taste very refreshing. The wife noted that people threw coins in there too, and asked, "what place does such an unholy thing like money have in there?"
We went outside to appreciate the view, and the couple said we could go to the area where people tended to camp. On the stairs there was a wedding shoot taking place so we all had to awkwardly wait for it to end, which it didn't, so we opted to clumsily walk around it, hoping we weren't as disruptive as we felt.

Once we got to the other side, where the river began, we could see where people would put their "wishes" on trees, and create mini rock statues. It was here that the husband yelled "PARI LOUYS!" (good morning!), saying it was for the mountains, and told us that every time we saw mountains so beautiful, we had to acknowledge them. Björn let out an impressive one, and the mountains seemed pleased with us.
Apparently there are no buses that go between Garni and Geghart (can that be true?), and I do remember last time we hiked to get to them both, so the couple ordered a taxi to take us. It was only during this time that I finally felt a little overwhelmed: we were all a bit squished in the car, with the wife telling me stories in one ear, and the husband forcing everyone (including the driver) to eat on the other side. I hate the middle spots in cars. After poor Björn and his mom tried to refuse any more food, with the husband trying to force them to take/eat more, the wife finally told him "they only eat when they are hungry, they are not like us". It was cute and worked temporarily.

We got to Garni and we stopped by the stands first, where the husband went wild again and bought something from every vendor, asking questions and getting to know them as well. We were too soujoukhed-out to even think about eating more. He bought two kinds of wine, one called majjar, and another regular, saying the former was made differently, and was lighter. We sat on the bench where we all enjoyed some wine, and Björn toasted to them, which they appreciated.
The last time I went to Garni was for the Vahakni holiday, which all happened outside, so I guess I forgot going inside requires tickets now. The husband payed for all of us, and this time we tried to be more stern and refuse, but he said it was done and that we were his adopted guests, and that they shouldn't be charging at all.
We went inside and we all kind of did our own thing, and I took some photos I was actually impressed with afterwards of the gorge. We agreed next time we would focus mostly on hiking through that beautiful area.
The husband then called us all over, and said he knew the best spot to really witness an incredible view. He took us to a fenced area, and we all squeezed through, and left our bags on the side. He told us it was technically owned as a "backyard" now, but that he believed the view should not be limited and therefore wasted. We went to the edge, where he and his wife reminded us to be very cautious (falling here=death) and the husband began to sing.
He then asked me to sing and I told him I had a very...unappealing singing voice. The wife said she believed me but he said he didn't. Conclusion: I didn't have to sing. A few minutes later, we could see people beyond the gate looking over, either envying out bad-assery, or wondering how we got there. The owner came out soon after with a very serious face, and we all headed back, with the couple stopping to explain why we were there. The owner seemed to end up being okay about it.

The husband then become annoyed that a nearby spring was not working, and was convinced it was just due to a switch in the sewer, and made it his life's mission to get it to work.
Soon, as we all predicted, he requested the help of "the blonde guy" (aka Björn). I couldn't resist getting a photo:
The plan did not work and we felt it was a good time as any to start heading out. We then saw this adorable chubster dog who clearly was fed way too many sweets lying around, and pet him while the vendors confirmed he was fed well:
We all walked together for a bit to the closest mashootka stop, with the wife telling me all the original names of famous Armenian poets. While waiting at the stop, the husband tried to offer us more sweets and wine, but we could not handle any more, and I think he couldn't either, because he didn't attempt to push.

They invited us to have khash with them the following day, but we let them know we were 2/3 vegetarian and he said he was one too, but that he always made an exception for khash, making us all laugh.

The bus eventually arrived--packed, but Björn, his mother and I boarded it, and realized the couple did not, as they wanted to wait for a more comfortable ride. As a result we had a very quick and rushed parting, with me shouting out my number to them.

We all regretted not being able to properly thank them and treat them to dinner in Yerevan. Instead, we have this nice group photo as a reminder of the adoptive couple who went to a shop on a sunny day, and who, luckily for us, dropped everything to go somewhere to appreciate a beautiful day:
They might call!


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