Despite the fact that the extinct volcano Armaghan (2829 m) is one of the natural monuments of Armenia, one can rarely hear or read about it.
And maybe this is for the best. It helped preserve the purity and in some way the primordial nature of this remote and beautiful corner, which we visited together with the members of the Armenian Geographic Company and the Mountain Tourism and Rock-Climbing Federation of Armenia.
From Sevan, which in ancient times was called the Gegham Sea, it is difficult to look away from the beauty of the mount. We passed a village after a village, and soon, a smooth mountain covered with beautiful green coat was before us.
That was the extinct volcano Armaghan. The soil around it is fertile and the vegetation is rich. The aroma of the environment is such that it may cause dizziness. The smells of such herbs and flowers as poppies, buttercups, wild peas, oregano, thyme, and mint have become mixed up. Above us was the blue sky with cumulus clouds and bird’s hubbub.
I was too frightened to talk there as if I was afraid to scare away the magical moment filled with sounds that are so rare for the ears of townspeople. We rose in silence one after another. The mountain was steep and the soil was loose.
The first steps of climbing are always difficult as you need to enter the rhythm, adjust your breathing in the rarefied air. After that, you start to fall in some meditative condition step by step.
You hear only your heartbeat, rustle under your feet, and the sounds of nature. But the challenge was worth it as the peak of Armaghan hid a small beautiful lake and church. The nameless lake was like a saucer holding the skies, and the Armaghan Sanctuary decorated its peak.
The Armaghan Sanctuary was built in 2009 at the base of ancient ruins, age of which is difficult to judge since there is no data and the place is unexplored. But judging by the old cemetery and tombstones, this treasure belongs to the distant antiquity.
It seems that the ruins belonged to the period when the Armenian khachkar (memorial stele with a cross) art wasn’t even developed. On the steles in the ruins, there were no patterns of khachkars, only human silhouettes and pitchers, which clearly symbolized abundance and wealth.
On the stones, there were pagan symbols. For example, a circle with a point in the center, a kind of the Heart of the World. It was a symbol of motherhood, fertility, and abundance. There were also other pagan symbols, but they were difficult to distinguish.
In the temple itself, there were two old burial places. But even the new walls couldn’t cover the old age of this place. On the altar, wax candles and matches lay. Here, anyone can light a candle.
Inhabitants of nearby villages love to make pilgrimages here. And this time, we met two young individuals from the village of Madina. Looking at them, I got surprised by the sincere purity and inexperience of these guys with blue eyes like Lake Sevan. They were open and friendly.
In the corner of the temple, 16-year-old Koryun created an abbreviation from candles. I asked him what it meant.
He explained that those were the first letters of his and his beloved’s names: Koryun and Hripsime. I asked if his love was mutual. He pointed his blue eyes at me, which immediately lit up with joy, “Yes, she loves me! We study in the same class!” I rejoiced at their first love and lit a candle.
Our lunch near the Armaghan lake was especially delicious. Ducks fled over us. They disturbed the silence by their quacks and the sound of splashing water. Far away, you could see the borderless Lake Sevan surrounded by hills and clouds. I wanted to just fly like these ducks above the dreamlike scenery…