The most beautiful church in Armenia, part 2

First part can be found here, or you can read both together.

Yerevan - NoravankAfter meeting the Azeris at Yeraskh things got even more chilly and so did the weather. We enjoyed our candy bars and started climbing the mountains to finally get to Noravank.

At the final intersection we turned right across the small bridge to the narrow road that is perhaps my most favorite road section to ride in the south. It is a worn tarmac secondary road through a narrow gorge the color of the sun, and while the colors of the scenery resemble those of the Barrens in World of Warcraft (especially around summertime), the blooming trees, the wide expanse of the sky and the light tarmac all add fantastic bright shades, making the road a lot more like fantasy than any zone in World of Warcraft can be.

In Noravank it was already unpleasantly cold and windy. We parked in the small parking lot, locked the handlebar and headed to the churches.

Parking lot at Noravank

Architect Momik’s masterpieces were magnificent and beautiful as ever!

I insist that the crosses on the following photo signify the number of people who have died falling down the narrow stairs with no handrail. The crosses on each level signify the number of people who fell down the particular stair on that level for the given day. After the day is over, the priest registers the deaths in his statistics journal and carefully wipes the crosses using his Holy Armenian Apostolic Sandpaper. As we can see, higher stairs cause more deaths. I understand that this was Momik’s Evil Plan of Taking Over the World by slow and systematic kills over the centuries. Resistance is Futile!!

Sometimes the sandpaper does not wipe the crosses very well, and the priest has to swap the stones with cleaner ones from the other side of the church!

This is a very awesome illustration of Mary, Jesus Christ and two Angels (I think the one at the left is St. Gabriel) posing together.

After observing the churches and taking photos, we took a rest at the nearby cafe and warmed ourselves up with some tea. There was a heated discussion at the next table where two priests were explaining to some fellows that there is no such a thing as an Azerbaijani nation. Despite the scientific arguments, it sounded pretty odd after our recent encounter.

After a few minutes of walking, we realized that every minute spent at Noravank meant the way back was going to be colder. We headed back to Yerevan. The section from Noravank to Yeraskh was immensely cold, but after Yeraskh the air got warmer. Riding over 140km/h along the Most Boring Highway of Armenia (MBHA, aka M2), I was thinking about launching an awareness campaign for saving the innocent lives taken away by the absent railing of the narrow stairs.

First part can be found here, or you can read both together.

The most beautiful church in Armenia, part 1

Second part can be found here, or you can read both together.

Yerevan - NoravankSunday was the first ride of the Season and it was decided that we were going to Noravank. Comprised of two XIII century churches St. Astvatsatsin and St. Karapet, I consider the whole monument on top of the gorge one of the most beautiful and St. Astvatsatsin perhaps the most beautiful church on the territory of the present Armenia. predicted a high of 16°C for the day and we figured it would be tolerable for a ride of ~260km wearing sweatshirts. There were some morning showers reported, so we decided to head out of Yerevan past noon. The air itself was so chilly in the wind that at some point we contemplated turning right to Khor Virap, which would slash our trip, leaving less than a quarter of the planned mileage. However, at the crossroads to Khor Virap we decided to stick to the plan.

Something that I just discovered near Khor Virap is that along the M2 road there are many stork nests built on top of the lightposts. The nests are huge and they look like hats for the wooden posts, and there is a stork standing in almost every one of them—looks awesome! The storks gave me a pleasant flashback to my childhood when they were somehow directly associated with Armenia in my perception, albeit being a child in Yerevan I had never even experienced a real encounter with a stork!

So we rode all the way to Yeraskh, which is of course the standard rest point where we took a Snickers & Bounty candybar break. I was eager to find an ‘extra large’ Snickers instead of the regular size, so we started traversing through all the local stores (which are really just old cargo containers turned into shops by cutting windows and doors into them).

And here we witnessed something extraordinary! There were other tourists taking a break in the area besides us, who I presumed were from Iran and were returning back after celebrating Novruz in Yerevan. Among these were two tan guys in mid twenties in one of the stores where we were looking for the large Snickers, and as all Iranians do in Armenia they were shopping for alcohol. These two in particular were going for some scotch and a bottle of Armenian brandy. While choosing and checking their goods out, they were chatting to the store owner, an old woman in her 70ies. A foreign speech catches anyone’s ear, especially if you are standing within half a meter of the speech source in a long–lost rural area in Armenia, and so I was trying to figure out how could that old woman speak Farsi so fluently, when it suddenly struck me—the speech sounded a lot more like Turkish than Persian! The guys paid for the goods and left, leaving an atmosphere of excitement in the dirty cabin and a sincere melancholic smile on the old woman’s face who obviously didn’t smile that often. I was already pretty shocked, and so I followed:

“Would you give me a large bar of Snickers?” I asked suspiciously.

After a short pause, the old woman replied with a mildly nostalgic voice, “I don’t have the large ones… You can have these, which are smaller…” At this point I realized the woman had a thick Baku accent. She seemed super nice, too.

“So, what’s up with those guys?” I tried to sound casual and careless.

“Ah, young Azerbaijanis… Came to visit from Iran. I used to live in Baku, before coming here… [pause] Still remember the language… not so well.” The woman too sounded suspicious but casual. “Had to check the amount by writing it down on a paper to avoid a mistake…” At this point she kept smiling like a kid who knows he’s done something wrong and yet enjoyed the experience.

“Thanks!” I replied.

I was feeling pretty confused. We walked out of the container and I told Nariné, although she was standing by me all the way:

“Those guys were Azeris…”

Second part can be found here, or you can read both together.

Sex, bikes and rock’n’roll

As we whip around the blind corners of the winding road at the bottom of the gorge I give myself in to the ride with complete abandon.  With all the senses tuned in, the amazing bliss of thorough unrestraint washes over me and I disengage from the daily grind left far behind within the confines of my office.  And in this feeling I catch myself thinking that the only thing separating me from the pavement is the thin layer of leather of my jacket. Acknowledgement of this vulnerability comes with a discovery of how similar riding a bike can feel to sex: the more open and uninhibited you are, the more vulnerable, but also the more able to experience the whole thing fully, to the last drop, and with nothing left on the table.

Somehow with all the cliche comparisons I can make between motorcycling and lovemaking, this one is the most honest and the most true for me: submitting to it is scary, but what you get in return makes it all worthwhile in the end.

And so we ride.

Crossposted: First flight of the year by Nariné

I took the motorcycle out of the winter storage today. I am delighted to have the first actual riding post a full crosspost from Nariné:

In the pitch black of the night we are flying together occasionally passing half drunk young men driving their SUV’s home unsteadily, from whatever questionable deeds filled their Saturday night.  They look like they want to race, but there is no catching us.  We are flying.

The sound of the engine fills the sleepy streets of the city.  I wonder what goes on behind the very few brightly lit windows that watch over the slumbering city like sentinels. I want a glimpse into the secrets that are hiding behind the curtains.  But we are flying so fast that the windows are way behind us now.

The rain is lashing us sideways, as if punishing us for missing our bedtime yet again.  The city feels so close and so familiar, the way it can only feel late at night.  And while we are flying It belongs to us.  I wonder if freedom tastes like dust in your mouth.

I feel like I’m meditating, concentrating on all and nothing: on the road that I can barely make out, on the twinkling lights far away in the distance, on the wind in my ears, on how comforting it is to hold on to you tight as the beast is revving and charging into battle under me.  I am reaching a Zen, Buddhist monks spend decades trying to achieve.  The only feeling I have is this sensation of flight and immeasurable freedom.

I now proclaim the 2010 motorcycle season open.

…so do I!

Season Opening Dinner

This winter was ridiculously warm and thanks to the forecasts, I am taking my motorcycle out of storage this weekend! That means, I personally am going to start my Season 2010 in less than a week! Yes, my sidebar counter turned out to be too pessimistic for 2010.

I have fabulous plans for the 2010 riding season, enough to say that among the plans is a journey of unprecedented mileage for any motorcyclist from Armenia!

On the subject of positivity, hat tip to Kornelij for the dinner ad!

Happy 2010 everyone, again!