I am not a normal travel blogger; not a travel blogger at all really. I frequent the lost places, and sometimes I write about them. It is an uncommon world we live in, that is what the great lockdown has reminded me. Layers upon layers upon layers of life, sadness and frustration and meaning; energy and purpose and misfortune. Each of us striving for what we believe, to make our mark in a world that is crowded and mean.
This weekend, respecting the distances less imposed and more desired in my own focus on staying healthy – no need to tempt the devil if unnecessary I say – I eschewed the madding crowd. Up, high and far afield.
Hi up in the south Caucasus on that ancient path from the east through Persia and the ‘Stans and down into the Ararat valley to traverse the Byzantine empire (Turkey before the Ottomans) to Constantinople, there is a cool old inn. Caravanserai, they called them. ‘Caravan’ the Persian word for, well caravan – and ‘serai’ the Persian world for palace.
I took some time sitting in the damp interior of this stone building, imagining the distant past when it rang with the choruses of travelers. Perhaps a few stalls outside selling bread or wine or cheese; vegetables from the fields above irrigated by the runoff from yet another hard cold snowy winter; a priest in the little church calling people unto himself to take the sacraments, thankful of another hard leg in the journey made safely. Maybe they were forced to wait for a short time, the road having turned perilous, the soldiers from the king on the way to escort the travelers into Dvin. Maybe the armies of the king were hunting the brigands, “Stay in the safety of the caravenserai” they might have said, “we will catch the thieves shortly.” One can see how this might have been the case, even now the lands are wild and empty and full of crevices and gorges, caves and meadows where the hearty might thrive. There was certainly a makeshift bar, perhaps inside at the far end where the mumbles of the journeymen could be heard late into the night. What is the news from Constantinople? They say the emperor is ill? What do you hear from Persepolis? Are rumblings of war well-founded?
Is it true the pestilence has returned?
Some things never change, that is the lesson for our pandemic. We who thought we were above the ancient tribulations of the world have now been reminded of their prescience during our own times of pandemic. Cowering in our homes afraid of the mailman when we had considered ourselves the masters of the universe. That while technology might change, people do not, we have the same motivations and fears and respond to the same stimuli as the ancient travelers who walked down that road and over that bridge, through the spring valley which then too glimmered with yellow-flowers. That there is something, the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen, which was also seen by the travelers of old; that though they might not have known they were witnessing one of nature’s great wonders, they too marveled in its beauty, sitting for a season to eat a piece of bread or take a squirt of wine from their pouches before marching on in the affairs of men unsung perhaps – but to them…? the most important things in the world.