Garni Temple has nine steep steps at the front and 24 columns supporting the roof with Ionic capitals. Inside is a reconstructed altar and a sacrificial pit. When I was there, a man was playing a duduk, an ancient double-reed woodwind flute made of apricot wood and indigenous to Armenia. The duduk has a haunting quality and many Armenians consider it the instrument that most eloquently expresses warmth, joy, and the history of their country. It was easy to close my eyes and be transported back, by the music, to an earlier time when Garni was newly built and another musician was playing a similar instrument. Sometimes all it takes is a sound to transport me out of my time and I then realised not much has changed here at Garni in the last 1800 years.
Nearby is a bathhouse with a mosaic floor depicting sea gods, fish, and nereids. An inscription says “We worked, but did not get anything.”, believed to be a reference to the slaves who built the bathhouse, but I can’t believe the slave owners would allow such a condemnation of them to be left for posterity to see. I wondered whether in a newly Christian country it might be a reference to the Bible where Simon Peter says to Jesus when they first meet “we worked all night, and we have not caught anything.” referring to fishing. There are fish in the bathhouse mosaic, so perhaps there’s a connection?