The Silky Way Adventure
Slices of Armenia
Chapter 12 – Dried fruits
Previous chapter: It’s the Road!
It was raining a little outside Kajaran. The Iranian petrol trucks were honking at us and sometimes asking for the way. For an hour, out in the cold, we played guitar and sang random silliness.
Finally, a rather strong man of about forty years of age stopped for us and took us all the way to Meghri, the last town on our Silky Way. It was a little town of maybe five thousand dwellers. The houses and small buildings were scattered in the mostpretty way on several levels up hilly slopes, between trees that were still very leafy and happily displaying the whole range of autumn colours. On the road to Meghri, once the last snowy pass is behind you, you go down and down and down, losing altitude fast, until you arrive in the quite different climate of the valley. In Meghri you find fruits that you can’t find growing anywhere else in the country, mostly persimmon and pomegranate. Our driver was a policeman – or an ex-one, I didn’t quite get it – who was very angry against the government. He had come to Meghri to buy crates of those very fruits so that he could sell them in Yerevan and add a little extra to the pot. He promised, if he had to stay in town, to call us up and to have a drink of cognac with us. He was probably able to get back on the road the same day, since we never heard of him again.
Artyom wasn’t in the mood for a walk up to the citadel, so we aimed directly for the old town on the other side of the river. It was a maze of small houses, most of which were empty and decaying. Nice-looking typical balconies were abounding. For a while, the only souls to be seen around were cats. We had a break. Leaning on a stone wall, we watched strange and beautiful orange garlands on the balcony below us, slowly swaying in the breeze. The man tending them finally looked up and gestured us to join him the second he saw our backpacks.
Strange fruits hanging
The orange garlands turned out to be hundreds and hundreds of persimmons drying in the sun. The family was making a living out of selling dried fruits and home-made liquor. Armen invited us inside for a coffee along with his friend Mikail who was helping him out. After arranging the cups for the coffee, he took out wine glasses. Then added another set of glasses, for Armagnac this time. On little plates, he put some fresh and dried fruits. The quinces were of a different kind, since they were not the least bitter, even raw.
Ultimate Armenian coffee session
Our host decided to take care of everything until the end of our adventure. He called a taxi to drive us to the Iranian border, a few kilometres away. The road we followed had barbed wire all along, and guarded watch towers. Nothing much to do with exciting caravanserai and monasteries anymore but it was official, we had completed the whole of the Armenian Silk Road. Good reason to celebrate and drink some more – I was already feeling quite merry after this first upgraded “coffee”. We visited a little church just above the old town, the first and only Armenian church I had seen that had heavily ornamented walls. Unusual and beautiful.
Delightful fresco in the little church above Meghri
Armen explained a few things about the old town, then drove us to a restaurant. Good food, drinks, and we played cards. Before going back home we picked up Küç, who was on her way to Iran and whom I had not seen for about ten days. We had actually planned to go together to Iran, but it was not going to happen, although I would met her there later. She didn’t think she would make it to us that day, the last truck-driver who had given her a lift was not to be trusted. But luckily he was going back to Iran with an empty truck, and driving up to the pass had not been a problem. We happily got reunited then went to Armen’s house. His wife and children were back and the former had been busy in the kitchen for quite some time already. There was a piano, I played a few tunes. Some guitar too, while the guys were chatting. Armen’s wife had prepared a feast for us. I was delighted to find on the table my latest discovery, the aveluk from Tatev, prepared in a different way. There was of course plenty of alcohol again. The evening was nice, warm and cheerful. After the first set of yawns, everyone found him- or herself a bed.
Our new friends wanted us to stay longer. They had already planned to demonstrate their home-made device to distillate alcohol. We turned the offer down. They invited me to come back for New Year’s Eve, which I didn’t do. But I definitely had the intention of stopping by again on my way to Iran. It turned out not to be possible either.
Küç was to leave towards the border, with its barbed wire and watchtowers. Towards Iran – its beauty and tragedies, its head-scarves and contradictions and the incredible hospitality of its people, too. And Artyom and I were to try to get back to Yerevan within the day.
Next chapter : Epilogue