Father Aspet of Haghpat Monastery

The little square in front of the UNESCO World Heritage Haghpat monastery in Lori province of Armenia is not crowded when we arrive there, hitchhiking from the town of Akhtala. Three or four grannies sit by the entrance to the monastery waiting for the occasional tourist to sell their handmade socks, hats or scarves along with honey, herbs or nuts to. Showing no interest, we pass by them and walking up the stairs we reach the gates where we meet father Aspet in his black robes. He greets us with a warm smile, we exchange few words and introduce ourselves. “Welcome to Haghpat,” says he, and as we walk away to explore the monastery, he joins some old women to continue their conversation.
Father Aspet in conversation with parishioners of Haghpat Monastery

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Jai Guru Deva Om

“Everything else can wait but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.”
G. Harrison

Back in my university years I was very much into Hare Krishna movement, of which I came to know through George Harrison. Although a big fan of The Beatles, I wasn’t particularly interested in George’s music then. So when I first heard his song “My Sweet Lord”, the words “Hare Krishna Hare Rama” sounded strange to me. I had no clue of what it was about, but there was something magical and attractive in the mantra. Then during my first year in the university I received a precious gift from my close friend from Mauritius, Kevin. It was the “Bhagavad Gita as It Is”. In Russian. From that moment on began my journey to the beautiful world of Hindu religion, and particularly the Hare Krishna movement. And of course, George became my favorite Beatle, and today I call him my first guru – the one who awoke me from a deep sleep.

Years passed, and in the end of July of 2008, when I was back in Moscow for a few days after just another hitchhiking trip and getting ready for another one, a friend of mine invited me over to join an event at the Moscow ISKCON temple. A lecture by a man named Prithu Prabhu was scheduled, and in fact the whole event was in his honor, but I didn’t really know who he was.
Prithu Prabhu at ICKSON Temple in Moscow

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Noravank Monastery, Armenia

The next morning after the Areni Wine Festival in Vayots Dzor region of Armenia, together with my friends we decided to visit the famous 13th century Noravank Monastery. Leaving the village of Areni, we walked along the road until the Novravank intersection and from there hitchhiked an old red school bus full of 10th grade pupils who sang The Beatles and Bob Dylan songs with us all the way to the monastery. Meanwhile, the mad driver was doing his best in attempts to scare us to death cutting the sharp curves of the road through the Arpa river canyon without slowing the speed. When we arrived (thanks God, in one piece), the school teachers offered as a ride back. We thanked them and together with youngsters went to explore the monastery and its surroundings. According to a legend, Noravank is said to have housed a piece of the True Cross stained with Christ’s blood, found by a mysterious stranger who discovered its origin after it performed a miracle raising a child from the dead.
Noravank monastery, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
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Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Georgia

Listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is located in the city of Mtskheta, about 20km northwest of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi.
The Cathedral is known as the burial site of Christ’s robe. It used to be the largest church in Georgia until the Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral was recently consecrated. Today it is one of the most venerated places of worship and serves as the seat of the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia. During my recent visit to Georgia I visited Svetitskhoveli twice: first time with my Georgian friend Vakhtang, and then on the next day with friends from Russia and Belarus who were in Georgia at that time.

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Masjid Jamek, Kuala Lumpur

Located at the convergence of Klang and Gombak Rivers, Masjid Jamek is acclaimed to be the oldest mosque of Kuala Lumpur.. And of course I wouldn’t forgive myself for missing it.. Not because it’s a famous touristic spot, but because I prefer to learn the history of places through their churches and temples, which play an important role in the life of any community.. From the hostel in KL’s China Town, where I was staying I decided to take a long walk to the mosque under the burning Malay sun! And as I suffer from “topographical cretinism” (as the Russians say) in big cities, I got lost, even though I had a map with me.. Luckily, with the help of the locals I made my way to the mosque, where an old man with a long white beard greeted me..

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