Davit Gareja Monastary
So how old does something have to be before it becomes “ancient?” And how do we know how many “ancient” worlds there really are, if time has erased them? Here we are, in another ancient place, dating back to at least the 6th century but probably in existence long before that. If you go to Rome or Egypt or China, you will see well-preserved “ancient” things. Here in the “developing” world, the “ancient” things are barely even around anymore, if at all. And yet we call it developing, as if somehow they hadn’t already done what we’re doing first.
There is evidence of water management, sewers, timekeeping, surgery, and some pretty fascinating architecture.
They knew who God was. Or is. Or at least were trying to figure it out.
These ancient people somehow roamed the plains in the middle of nowhere, and built dwellings out of rock on the tops of the hills, and settled together, a family of monks, to live and worship God. What is it about mountains that inspires people to give up a material life, build monastaries, and pray?
We enjoyed wandering around their old stomping grounds:
Doesn’t this look like Arizona?
There are monks who actually live and work at Davit Gareja, one of the oldest and best preserved sites in the Caucasus, that sits on the border between Georgia and Azerbaijan. I think they get some visitors, but not many. It took us several hours of driving through the middle of nowhere to get here, so desolate that we thought we were lost. This part of the “developing” world is unique in that it does not have a population problem! When we arrived, one of the monks came out holding a freeze-dried packet of rice and beans, marked with a Humanitarian Food Aid stamp. All the instructions were written in English, and he only spoke some form of village Caucasian language. So his friend translated into Russian that he wanted to know how to make it. Imagine my pride at being able to tell him in Russian what to do! I could say “Add water, boil for 20 minutes,” and “this has dried carrots and potatoes!” Wow, 4 years of language training and I can tell people how to boil dried soup.
They are obviously restoring this place, and so we contributed by buying a few little icons from the gift shop, and peeing in the bushes. Mike and I hiked with Eli and Jake up the hillside, and it was so awesome to see that the boys like hiking! Now I am dreaming of backpacking trips. It is so liberating to have little independent people.
We still had some miles to cover before sunset though, so after seeing what there was to see and being glad we bothered to make the drive, we climbed back in the car to start home. The road was really bad and just going a few kilometres seemed to take forever. We passed some military training facilities and some old, thatch-roofed villages, and sang along to Air Supply. Back home again, we were happy to have a bath and get in our jammies! We are so happy Oma and Opa are here!
Now you tell us you thought we were lost! Actually, with Mike driving I never believed we were lost. What an amazing trip that was. So beautiful and yet so in another century. It was very peaceful though and I felt the presence of God.