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Alaverdi (Arm: Ալավերդի), Lori Marz
The picturesque river-canyon starting S of Tumanyan and reaching N almost to Georgia is incredibly rich in monuments. The hub of this entire section of Lori is the rather bleak Soviet town of Alaverdi, with its upper suburbs of Sanahin and Sarahart. The well maintained cable-car runs from next to the post office at the bottom of town, up to the Sanahin suburb, where you can visit Sanahin Monastery and stay in the extremely run down hotel for a few dollars a night. The economy is in shambles today, and the privatized copper mine produces the majority of the jobs. Unfortunately the smoke stack sends out clouds which interact with rain and cause acid rain.
The city of Alaverdi (18395 v., "Allah gave" in Turkish, red-stone/Ալ-վերտ/ in Armenian) owes its existence to the rich copper mines nearby. Systematic exploitation began around 1780, with Greek miners brought in to supplement the conscripted labor of local villagers. The mines benefited the Argutinskii-Dolgoruki noble family, which claimed descent from the Zakarian princes. Members of this family, serving the Czar as military officers or Armenian archbishops, were central to the annexation of the Transcaucasus. At one point, Alaverdi was allegedly the source of one quarter of the Russian Empire's output of refined copper. In the 1880s, the concession was sold to a French company, but the skilled miners remained primarily Greek. The collapse of the Soviet economy has contributed substantially to cutting the once terrible pollution the works generated.
Built along the Debed River, with some suburbs above including Sanahin and Sarahart which are accessible by road or cable car. The older parts and Sanahin are flatter and more interesting as a matter of course. The newer parts are full of taller pink tuf building, and the massive copper mine complex.
At the S end of town, a modern double bridge crosses the Debed river and winds up to the E district of Sanahin, with the drafty, delapidated but survivable Debed Hotel on the main square. Beyond the hotel, the road goes straight and then right to the important and richly decorated monastic complex of Sanahin. There is also a cable-car which will take you up from Alaverdi to the village of Sanahin. When you get to the top, walk straight up from the cable car to the town square, turn left till the road enda, turn right heading uphill, and you will soon be close, and may be able to see it. This is about a 15-20 minute walk. Near the bottom of the cable-car is the 12th century pedestrian bridge, with nicely carved cats in it. You can walk up to the top of the canyon to the monastery of Sanahin from this bridge. Also near the bottom of the cable car is the brand new town church, which was completed in 2001.
Alaverdi lies in one of the milder parts of Armenia, with relatively little snow, and nice summers. The area is very green in the spring, but dries out towards the end of summer. The upper parts of town, above the canyon walls are noticeably colder in the winter.
Many of the local attractions can be hiked to, or you can catch a bus from Alaverdi to many of them. Starting from S to N, the regional attractions are:
- S. Grigori Monastery
- Kobayr Monastery
- Horomayri Monastery
- Odzun Church
- Ardvi Monastery
- Sanahin Monastery
- Haghpat Monastery
- Kayan Berd Fortress
- Akhtala Monastery
- Khorakert Monastery
The best place to eat in town is across from the WWII memorial, right on the main road. It is a petrol station/restaurant and often has interesting food. The prices are reasonable and the service very friendly.
You can get to Alaverdi by taking a minivan (catch this at Kino Rosia in Yerevan, costs approx $6).There is the option of taking a train, but it arrives at an obnoxious hour early in the morning on its way to Tblisi.