On driving between Armenia’s second city, Gyumri, and the capital Yerevan, we stopped at the village of Talin to see what was said to be impressive remains of an important 7th century cathedral. Unfortunately, it was surrounded by a high wire fence with seemingly no way of getting through, until we found a gap, but a very muddy path. Our guide seemed unfamiliar with the site but ran down the road to enlist the help of a nearby shepherd moving his large flock. He pointed out the right direction, but as it seemed complicated, left his sheep unattended and led us through a modern cemetery with elaborate portraits of the deceased engraved on the headstones.
A wealthy family are said to be in the process of restoring the cathedral, including the collapsed dome and west wing, it would appear to make it an expensive and lengthy project. The small church of Saint Astvatsatsin was to the side, and after a brief look, we exited the site at a different point. As we couldn’t find our driver, we once again had to enlist help, this time from a villager. We eventually discovered our driver was waiting at a different church: there seems to be so many in what is ultimately a backwater.
Our next stop was Aruch, one of Armenia’s oldest settlements. Here was the 7th century Temple of Aruch, said to be one of the most important medieval architectural constructions or as I would describe it, a derelict church with a palace to the side. The only thing of note I can remember is our guide’s mantra ‘How do we know it was a palace, not a church?’ The answer, underfloor heating for the baths.
By now it was raining, and pretty miserable tramping through the long grass and ruins – not the most spectacular of visits and I can see why it’s not mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide to Armenia.