Staying for the night at the entrance of the Makaravank Monastery, Tavush province, Armenia


Well, we have slightly overstretched the ancient guest or pilgrim privileges in any culture to stay for the night at the compounds of a shrine, a temple, a monastery, a church… Yes, I admit we went there on purpose, knowing before that there is a kind of a picnic place, with a rich water source, benches, and a parking with a grassy meadow for camping… And yes, eventually we have camped just on the very yard of the old Makaravank monastery in the Tavush province of Armenia.

It was one of the most atmospheric night stays in a foreign place in my life. We arrived during the sunset, examining the surroundings thoroughly when a sudden storm came from the northeast, from the near Azerbaijan territory, and then after a short break a next one arrived, forcing us to find a shelter in the monastery church. With the time lost for waiting until the rain stops — it was getting dark very rapidly — we decided to camp and cook our dinner just on the church yard, the old pilgrims way… Tents unfolded and put up quickly between the storms, cooking in the wind and rain unsure if it is appropriate to move to the empty and open church narthex, called gavit here, and actually not considered a part of the church, just a place under the temple roof just by the entrance left for profane purposes… We were freed quickly of our doubts when the storm moved westwards: why not to occupy the benches outside? Well, a few sips of beer bought on the way there helped us to keep ourselves sure of what we were doing.

As we were just falling asleep in the shelter of our tents, the jackals came. They announced themselves by their characteristic barking in the forest surrounding the monastery. After the proper introduction, they appeared incredibly quickly by our tents, scratching the outer tent shell, touching the tent lines — unaware of the effect it makes for a humans in sleeping bags inside the tent. Brothers and sisters jackals — have you ever seen heaps of well smelling food covered with a shiny green cover yelling at you when you try to touch them? Shocked, the jackals retreated and we reassured ourselves it was two of them — it is well known they live in pairs male-female matched for their entire life…

The next morning everything was fine, we went on south towards the Sevan lake visiting the historic Goshavank, Hagartsin and Sevanavank monasteries on our way. Until someone has risked the life of his family and his own crashing his old Lada on the back of our sturdy Mitsubishi Pajero at the entrance to a hotel at the shores of the Sevan Lake. Turning left is extremely dangerous on the roads of Armenia. Note it well.

During the completion of the formalities after the accident I could not stop thinking about the Makaravank monastery. Yes, by such occasions you might think irrationally. St. Macarius the Hermit of Alexandria, were we wrong by staying for the night at your church entrance without asking for an allowance? Dear jackals, should we feed you with the best snacks we had? And these storms… Wasn’t it a warning sign from ancient gods?

The next time I visit an Armenian church I will light a candle for St. Macarius, for Makaravank, the jackals, all thunder gods and all these thoughtless drivers of this world.

The featured picture was taken during the breakfast on the benches by the Makaravank churchyard.