April 2016

The main focus for the year 2015 was travelling about Georgia which implied the next direction of our field of interest whose principal subject includes studies of Caucasian art. Another step on this way was the visit to Armenia where we travelled through a considerable part of this country within a week. The main goal of the whole excursion were architectural monuments dating back to the times between 7th and 13th centuries.

Before we could go to see the above mentioned places, it was necessary to find a way to get to Armenia. The whole trip consisted of two sections. The first one meant going by train to Warsaw where we changed for a night flight whose destination was the capital of Armenia – Yerevan. At the local airport we met up with the driver who accompanied us throughout the duration of the excursion. His knowledge of the local conditions was of great benefit for us, and it is necessary to appreciate the tolerance and willingness he showed during the excursion. Anyway, not even after spending a week with us was he able to grasp the fact how much time we were able to spend in places he thought to be of little interest to tourists. A disadvantage of the way there were more than 24 hours without sleep. Nevertheless, the first sunbeams in Armenia quickly made us feel energised again.

We spent the first few days of our excursion exploring the southern part of Armenia. Among the places we visited there were, e.g. Aruch or Talin whose poor repair (unfortunately) contrasted sharply with the monastery complexes of Sanahin and Haghpat. Apart from planned stops there were unplanned ones too. To name but one example, we came across the ruins of a temple near the town of Lmbatavank named after my humble self and dated brilliantly by Ivan Foletti at 11th century.

In the following days the situation turned upside down and it was the south of Armenia that played the leading role. We went to see the monasteries of Noravank and Tatev there. The second one became, unfortunately, a synonym for disappointment for the rest of the excursion. Reconstruction works on the monument being carried out since 17th century until now have changed the character of the whole complex in such a way that you can talk about „experiencing the Middle Ages“ with a great exaggeration only. There was a little bit consolation for us in the way how we got to Tatev. The chance to cross the Armenian hills by a cableway (by the way the longest one in the world) was an unforgettable experience.

The last day we spent in Armenia obviously offered us the widest range of experiences. From rock temples in Geghard, via the seat of the Catholicos in Zvartnots as far as the museum of Matenadaran with a breath-taking collection of manuscripts. Late in the day we had some time to walk about the local market places where some of us enriched their library and others their wardrobe. The highlight was the common dinner in the heart of Yerevan which declared our stay in Armenia closed. While waiting for the return flight we killed the time by writing picture postcards which there was no time left for during the excursion due to a demanding programme and permanent moving from place to place.

The way back to the Czech Republic passed off in the same tired manner as the way to Armenia. Yet, this is the only thing we perceived in the same way both on the way there and back. After taking part in this expedition we looked upon everything else in a different light. As the saying goes: An educated person is their country’s treasure.

Leoš Mátl