Garni Temple doesn’t represent the kind of architecture you expect to find in Armenia. In fact, it’s a bit off –putting to see classical Greek columns in the first Christian country. The history is actually more interesting than the ruins. The temple dates back to the 3rd century and was part of an entire compound of royal palaces, a bathhouse and elaborate defenses. It is believed to have been built by King Tiridates I of Armenia with money from Rome’s Emperor Nero and was probably dedicated to the Zoroastrian god Mihra.
All that history aside, it was on the way to Garni Temple that we met a group of Iranian tourists. Chatting along in broken English, they were as curious about us and our life in America as we were of theirs. After Garni Temple, we set off together to visit another monastery. Before the day was out, we were sharing a cold beer in the back of a van!
IF YOU GO: Armenia is a relatively inexpensive country to visit, and the comfort level is similar to surrounding Caucasus countries. Due to unfriendly relations with its neighbors, fewer people speak English in Armenia as it has been somewhat cut off. It’s worth a visit to the North to view the old monasteries and churches.