I like having schedule and orderly events in my day, but sometimes it’s the unexpected that stand out the most. We had just settled into our luxurious bus seats for a long ride when we jumped right back off again to climb a giant hill. Photos from the view looked like we were simply admiring landscape paintings in an art gallery – there’s no other way to describe the majestic colors that lay below us. We took selfies on the hill, enjoyed the slight breeze, and cheered and clapped as Stevie performed a back handspring for us.
One of the things I’ve loved most about this excursion is the variety of things we do, even in the span of one day. The hill was gorgeous and sunny and a great view; we ended our day at Ani, a ruined and uninhabited ancient Armenian city. Now it’s in Turkish territory, but we could see Armenia right across the river. Ani used to be at a crossroads of trade routes like the Silk Road, and rivaled cities of its time like Constantinople and Damascus.
We kicked up dust in the muted silence, treading the same paths that great explorers, religious icons, and simple peasants once frequented. We originally grumbled about the weather, but the grey clouds and harsh sunbreaks did something that yellow sunshine could not. I felt small, and transported back to a time of forgotten splendor.
We are transient. That much was apparent by looking at the barren fields that surrounded us. Even after a city at its prime disintegrates, the cliffs will still roar with the rush of the river underneath. But we are also a resilient kind. Structures manmade to divine a reason for the beauty and hope in the world still stand, lone sentinels against the harsh wind.
Standing in the formidable space with impossibly high columns, where the slightest whisper seemed to reach straight for the heavens, it was easy to see how one could believe in a god.
I intended to take many photos of Ani to show everyone how amazing this place was. In my photo review though, it just looked like some old columns, stones, and high cliffs. On one hand, it makes me sad that I can’t capture the awe that I felt in that moment. But I guess that’s what travel is for, to be in the moment and feel it sing through you.