This photo was taken by one of our clients from Germany. It is of a ‘wish tree’ in the southern part of Armenia, in the Syunik region. You can find such trees in many places across Armenia, but usually they are found close to churches, monasteries and chapels. Legend has it that a wish will come true after a person ties his or her handkerchief to a tree branch and walks around the tree seven times.
If you come across such a tree in the middle of the field, you can be sure that a sacred site is nearby, since they are always found in locations closely connected to holy locations. In fact, there are some Armenian monasteries very famous for their wishing trees, although the latter can be found in all regions, not just in a single area. Commonly called wish trees, they perhaps should be called burning bushes, since they resemble the burning bush of the biblical story, with their multicoloured attachments flickering in the breeze.
The wish-tree tradition is very old. Churches and monasteries in Armenia were built starting in the 4th century AD, after Christianity was proclaimed the state religion in 301 AD. As a Christian country surrounded by Muslim neighbours, Armenia has always been wary of the risk of attack, so early architects often chose particularly remote locations for their churches and monasteries – mainly as a means of defence. While this means that contemporary travellers have to follow serpentine routes through mountainous areas to reach the monasteries and their wish trees, the journey is almost certainly worth the trip.
The man who took this picture hired a car and driver from us and spent eight days travelling across Armenia. As his hobby was photography, he started his days early in the morning and could spend hours waiting for a good shot. After he finished his tour, he visited us at our office to thank us for a patient driver and to share his shots with us. I wondered at the time why he mentioned the patience of a driver, but then he showed us his photos. There were thousands of them from the places he had visited – people, monuments, animals, scenes of nature and even some of national minorities from villages in Armenia. Amazing photos.