13 October 2008

A field trip and a party

Last Friday my class took a trip to Garni as part of our Cultural Studies unit on Ancient Rome. I don't think the Roman Empire ever extended this far east, but it sure came close.

Here's some info I pieced together from various sources, and one of my favorite photographs from our little excursion.

The temple was constructed in 76 AD by the King Tiridates I of Armenia and probably funded with money the king received from Emperor Nero during his visit to Rome. The temple, resting on an elevated podium, was most likely dedicated to the Zoroastrian sun god Mithras. The roof is supported by 24 Ionic columns on Attic bases. Unlike other Greco-Roman temples, which were usually made of marble, the temple of Garni is made of basalt, a material of abundant local availability.

After Christianity had been proclaimed the state religion in Armenia in 301, all other pagan temples were destroyed, but the temple at Garni remained, and was probably used as a summer residence of the kings. A chronicle describes it as ‘a house of coolness’. It was ransacked in 1386 by the Turkish ruler Timur Lenk. In 1679 it was destroyed by an earthquake. Most of the original pieces remained at the site until the 20th century, allowing the building to be reconstructed between 1969 and 1979.

In addition to the temple, we also visited the ruins of a Roman-style bath that still has some ancient mosaics intact. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo, but it was really awesome to see. You can see someone else's photos of them, and read more about Garni HERE.

After working up an appetite at the Garni complex, we drove about 20 minutes to Geghard Monastery, where we ate lunch and walked around a bit before heading back to school. The whole trip was amazing, and as you can tell from the photos, we couldn't have asked for better weather. We had to wear light jackets in the morning, and by afternoon it was warmer, but not hot enough to sweat, even with all our hiking.

On Saturday night we were invited to a birthday party for our nanny, Marina. It was also a celebration for her recent engagement to her longtime boyfriend Karen (kah-REN). The party was held in the city center, at the apartment of Karen's parents. It was a very traditional celebration: the guests sat at a long table that was literally COVERED with food. When someone brought out a new dish from the kitchen and there was no empty space on the table, they would just stack it on top of something else. There were at least three types of salad that I could see (not like American salads with lettuce...more like various mixed vegetables and grains), big bowls of fresh whole fruit, tolmas, barbecued meats, bread and lavash, Georgian pickled vegetables, yogurt and sour cream, sliced salamis and cheeses, soft drinks, wine, and several kinds of vodka -- which the Armenian men kept making Jarred drink and drink because, to their amazement, he didn't get drunk. My favorite food was the homemade tabouleh. Meanwhile, Nathan filled up on corn, olives, and grapes.

There was plenty of Armenian music, singing, and dancing, and Nathan was the hit of the party. He played with the balloons and danced with all the ladies. Eventually, we had to leave, as it was getting late, and Nathan was tired...too tired to even try the birthday cake.

See all photos from the field trip, Marina's party, and more by clicking here.

One final note: our school will be closed for fall break Oct. 17-24, so unless we go to an internet club or come in to do some work during the holiday (which I would rather not do), we won't have access to email or anything for over a week. Please don't be alarmed; we'll be back as usual on the 27th. =)

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