TSAGHKADZOR – A WHOLE YEAR ROUND RESORT Tsakhkadzor is the most favorite whole-year-round resort in Armenia. Here you can enjoy the wildlife and different, especially winter sports. In the early Middle-Ages, the area around Tsakhkadzor belonged to the royal dynasty of the Arsacids being governed by one of the noble houses of Armenia. By the time it subsequently became the property of other Armenian princes (nakharars) who built a monastery Kecharis. The dense forests around Tsakhkadzor had been the favorite place for the Armenian nobles whose pastime was hunting and other open-air entertainment. From the XVII century, the region conquered nomadic Turkic and Kurdish tribes. For most of the XVIII century, the region has always been a scene of the Turkish-Persian wars. The history of modern Tsakhkadzor back to the time when, after the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878, thousands of immigrants – Armenians from internal regions of Western Armenia (which were part of the Ottoman Empire), had moved here. The name Tsakhkadzor is literally translated as “a gorge of flowers” (also known as “a valley of flowers”). With its soft climate, fresh air, bright but cool days and high scenic mountains, as well as the numerous rest houses, Tsakhkadzor hosts international travelers and gives them a chance to feel adrenaline while skiing down from Mt. Teghenis from December to March. The cableway with already five lifts will let you admire this jewel of the country of Armenia and breathe the cool air from above the high trees all year round. Now Tsakhkadzor has already become an international tourism center. Besides, numerous international conferences and seminars annually are being organized. KECHARIS MONASTERY Kecharis is a monastic complex of the 11-13th centuries. It is located in famous ski-resort town of Tsakhkadzor (the latter means “gorge of flowers”). The site is purely visible from above the mountain slopes. The complex was under the rule of nakharar (hereditary title of the highest order given to houses of the ancient and medieval Armenian nobility) families who turned it into a major center for learning. The educational process was led by the greatest Armenian academics and statesmen of the time. One of them, Grigor Magistros, who also came from a powerful ruling family, supported the monastery with gold and silver, furnishings and decorations. Now, admiring the powerful monastery of the kings, you may have the impression as if that fortune is still there, but in vain. Having overcome countless invasions and attacks by the natural calamity, the majestic edifice may never ever show us its powerful walls covered with silver and gold, with rich tapestries and silk carpets. Still, the royal monastery does not fail to impress and attract every visitor with the powerful beauty it possesses. GEGHARD – THE CAVE MONASTERY Another complex, which occupies an important place in Armenian architecture, is the monastery of Geghard situated on a wild narrow mountain gorge of unusual beauty. The Monastery of Geghard (geghard meaning spear) is a unique architectural construction. The chapel was built in 1215, but the monastic complex was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator, as the site of a sacred spring inside a cave. The monastery had thus originally been named Ayrivank, meaning “the monastery of the cave”. Nowadays nothing has remained of the structure of Ayrivank. The monastery was destroyed by the Arabs in the 9-10th centuries, and the architectural parts that survived belong for the most part to the 12-13th centuries. According to the inscription on the west door, there is a church dating from 1215 inside the monastery walls. The 13th century became a crucial period for the construction of Geghard. During this period rock-hewn structures became the work of masters. The first church was hewn in a primeval cave where there was a spring gushing from the rock. It had been held sacred since times immemorial. The largest of the monastery constructions is a four-column belfry hollowed out of the cliffs in 1288. This type of construction in Medieval Armenia could serve either as a building for civic purposes or as a burial vault. The monastery complex as a whole possesses the charm of an outstanding and unique monument of Armenian medieval architecture. All around the monastery is full of caves and khachkars. The monastery was deceased for a while. The main church was used as a shelter for the flocks, nomads in winter. It was until the time when a few monks from Etchmiadzin resettled there after the Russian conquest. Now with a small ecclesiastical presence, the site is still a major place of pilgrimage. The monastery is also famous due to the relics, among which the most important one is the spear which had wounded Christ on the Cross presumably brought there by the Apostle Thaddeus. Geghardevank (meaning “the monastery of the spear”) was first recorded in a document of 1250. The monastery is of great value not only in Armenia but also in the whole world. It is inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site. GARNI TEMPLE – THE ONLY SURVIVAL IN ITS TYPE The architectural complex of Garni, situated 28 km away from Yerevan, on the right bank of the Azat River, is one of the famous examples of ancient architecture. The fortress of Garni is thought to have been founded in the 1st century BC and was dedicated to the God of the sun Mihr. The temple is comprised of 24 columns and symbolized the 24 hours of the day. The temple remained standing until the sixteenth century, and was destroyed in 1679 because of the devastating earthquake in Armenia. The fortress was built by the Armenian king Tiridates I. The fortress crept into Roman history through a discreditable incident from the reign of Claudius, around AD 52, recounted by Tacitus in book 12 of his Annals. Rome had placed on the throne of Armenia one Mithridates, brother of Pharasmanes the king of Iberia (Georgia). Rhadamistus, son of Pharasmanes, thirsted for a kingdom of his own. He besieged Mithridates in the Garni fortress, along with a Roman camp prefect and legionary garrison. The prefect, "who had seduced one of the king's concubines and was reputed a man who could be bribed into any wickedness," lived up to his reputation and cut a deal. Mithridates was treacherously smothered under a pile of rugs. The Roman Senate opined in response that "any crime in a foreign country was to be welcomed with joy, and that the seeds of strife ought to be actually sown, on the very principle on which Roman emperors had often under a show of generosity given away this same kingdom of Armenia to excite the minds of the barbarians." The Parthians, less cynical, invaded. Rhadamistus was chased from his palace by the enraged Armenian townsfolk. Fearing his loyal wife Zenobia would be caught and subjected to a fate worse than death, he stabbed her and threw her in the Arax. Fortunately she survived, and Handel wrote an opera about them, called "Radamisto." The ruins of a classical temple can be found within the fortress. The towers and whole of the fort wall were built of huge basalt slabs fastened together by iron clamps. The classical proportions of the temple, the remnants of capitals, and many other fragments - all these are evidence of the fact that Armenian architects were greatly influenced by Hellenic culture. However, original national traits which were later to become the characteristic of medieval Armenian stone carvers were felt even in the way the building material was worked and especially in the choice of decorative motifs. Of particular interest is the bathroom located in the northern part of the temple. The floor is decorated with mosaic and has an inscription saying: “Work without being paid.” The inscription referred to the illiterate workers who were involved in the construction of the building. After the adoption of Christianity, pagan temples were barbarously destroyed and churches of the new religion were erected on their sites. The pagan temple Garni is the only survival of the Hellenic epoch in the whole territory of the Caucasus.