havent taken even half of the crop that
we had last year", says the head of the
village Ishkhan Taroyan.
The mountains looming on the horizon look similar,
except one that is crowned with a yellow-reddish
wreath. Its gilded peak rises above grey clouds
covering slopes where Geghard village in Kotayk
region lives with its cares and joys.
When you take a closer look, the wreath turns
into pear and apple orchards between which the
roofs of individual houses are winking.
"Pick apples with tails but without leaves
to keep a place for the coming year's crop,"
65-year-old Taguhi Hambardzumyan repeatedly advises
young pickers in the gardens.
Her garden is full of work noise. From one side
branches of trees heavy with apples are shouting
and calling and from the other side those who
take part in cropping are talking, singing and
crosses, remains of the ruined church are
sacred for the villagers.
The lighter pickers climb the trees so as not
to break the branches. They pick fruits one by
one and pass them down to colleagues standing
under the trees, who in turn place the fruits
one by one into buckets or boxes.
Taguhi works in the storehouse, carefully sorting
"You must put aside any apple that you drop.
It has received a bruise and won't live to see
the end of spring. I talk to each apple. Look
how beautiful they are," she says stroking
red-cheeked and tempting fruits.
The entire village is involved in the process
of cropping, which begins on October 1 and lasts
for two to three weeks. Villagers call out relatives
and friends and pay them to help as family members
cannot do it alone.
Despite a heavy crop this year, the head of the
village Ishkhan Taroyan is disappointed.
"We haven't taken even half of the crop
that we had last year. Half of the orchards were
frozen in early spring and the quality of the
rest of crop worsened as a result of summer hails."
pick fruits one by one and pass them down
to colleagues standing under the trees.
Samvel Harutyunyan and his family have already
finished cropping. He says that the autumn shows
how villagers will live during the whole year.
"I picked three tons of fruits and 100-150
kilograms of nuts from the 3,500 square meters
of my home ground. Our apples are late-ripening
and we start to take them to market from March
and sell for 200-400 drams a kilo," he says.
Those who finish early help others, so you cannot
find anyone sitting at home. They are all in a
hurry and ask God to keep the weather good.
Taguhi says: "This is a mountain village.
You can wake up in the morning and see that everything
is covered with white snow and the whole crop
will be spoiled."
From a geographical point of view, Geghard is
located right in the center of the republic 42
kilometers south-east of Yerevan at the foot of
the Geghama Mountains. It is 1,880 meters above
sea level, and has a climate which locals say
helps to explain why their fruits are so tasty.
fruits of mountainous village.
However, Hambardzum Tonoyan, the 46-year-old
village accountant, who is a construction engineer
by profession, says the secret really lies in
the water flowing down into the village from the
Irrigation and drinking water come from seven
sources located in the Geghama Mountains, pouring
out 150 liters a second.
Taroyan says: "Our villagers almost don't
pay for water. We brought water from the mountains
to our village through our own efforts and the
Government spent nothing for that. Every year
we reconstruct and renew our 18 kilometer long
channel of water."
Ancestors of today's residents came to Geghard
from Van in 1915 after the Genocide, while others
originated in Sarukhan village of Gegharkunik
Today there are 139 houses and 350 residents
in the village, a population that has increased
gently by 80 or 90 people over the past decade.
Every year, three or four children are born.
Villagers are proud that they stand firm on their
land and that emigration hasn't penetrated life
in Geghard. Only builders are not involved in the
cropping as they are busy constructing a new school
with state funding of 80 million drams (about
fruits are carried to the storehouse, they
are carefully sorted..
Director of the school Vigen Taroyan says that
the village children enjoy studying but their
achievement level drops when they abandon classes
to help their parents with the harvest.
There are 84 pupils and this year six children
entered the school. It is written on the front
of the school's old building that it was constructed
by Turkish mullah Umbat in 1914.
The historical name of the village is Artiz.
Taroyan says: "According to historical sources,
King Trdat, whose residency was Garni fortress,
argued with his son and expelled him from the
palace saying, 'here take some span of land and
live'. After that his son came here and founded
Artiz. The village is approximately 1,500 years
In 1931 it was renamed Geghard. To get to it,
one must climb the last five kilometers on foot
as transport companies say there are too few passengers
to justify a service to the village.
Stone crosses stand in the yards of many villagers.
They say that these are remains of the village's
ruined church. They put images of saints next
to the stones, light candles and pray.
Nunush, a 73-year-old villager, says she prays
every morning that God will "let me die only
after we pick our apples and nuts".
She says today's village is a paradise compared
to the one of her youth, insisting: "If you
don't believe me then climb the mountain and take
a look at it from there."
As she speaks, soft autumn evening surrounds
the village which echoes to the sounds of cows
and sheep coming down from the mountains. Women
with bright colored aprons leave the gardens and
hurry as they do every evening to milk their animals
in the cowshed.