Right of  the  main  highway  is  Pokr Vedi (also Vedi Nerkin), first village in the old mahal of Vedi Basar.

   The road through Pokr (Little) Vedi is signposted for Khor Virap. The left fork beyond Pokr Vedi leads to the village of Lusarat (till 1968 Khor Virap or Shikhlar), with a conspicuous statue of one of the early 20th c. fidayi, nationalist fighters against the Turks. Take  the  right fork and drive  past  the extensive cemetery to the monastery of   Khor   Virap   ("deep  pit"),  built  on

        

the side of one of a chain of low hills looking out across the Russian-guarded border to Turkey and Mt. Ararat. The central church, S. Astvatsatsin, dates from the end of the 17th c. The smaller S. Gevorg church was originally constructed in 642 by Katholikos Nerses the Builder, but has been repeatedly rebuilt.  In this second church are two deep stone cisterns, the further of which, then garnished with serpents (or alternatively poisonous insects), is said to have been the pit in which Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned for 13 years by the cruel king Trdat (Tiridates) III (or maybe IV the chronology set forth by the ancient Armenian sources makes no sense without finding another Trdat the ancients left out). The descent into the pit, now via a perilous metal stairway, is spiritually rewarding and generally not fatal. Nerses the Builder is supposed to be buried in Khor Virap, along with relics of Gregory himself.  Khor Virap was an important educational center in medieval times. Abandoned in late Persian times, it was rein habited by three monks from Ejmiatsin after the Russian conquest. It remains a pilgrimage site and place for wedding photos and sheep sacrifice up to the present day. The hill of Khor Virap and those adjoining were the site of the important early Armenian capital city of ancient Artashat or Artaxiasata, built by King Artashes I, founder of the Artashesid dynasty, around 180 BC. This dynasty was an offshoot of the Parthian royal house, reflecting Armenia's status then as Parthian protectorate. According to legend, the Carthaginian general Hannibal, who spent his twilight years in flight from a vengeful Rome, chose the site and inspired the founding of the city. Though well-known in literary sources, Artashat remained long-undiscovered, archaeologists misled by its ancient description as a spacious and well-laid-out city located at the confluence of the Araxes and Metsamor rivers. The course of the rivers has changed, and that confluence is now 20-odd km further N of the city site. On the upper slopes of the hills, extensive excavations have revealed the foundations of residential and other structures, along with Mediterranean-style art and other traces of a rich Hellenizing culture. Short stretches of well-preserved mud-brick fortifications line the N slope of the third hill from the NE.  Ancient coins and potsherds can still be found, showing links with the whole ancient world. Armenia's capital was moved to Dvin by King Khosrov III (330-338), partly because of the increasingly unhealthy swamps nearby.