<<  Yerevan, 10-May-2014  >>

Yerevan - Soviet Washington DC

Trip to Armenia begins: Yerevan. Could not be more different from Tbilisi, given how close they are. Armagnac, Ararat, and omnipresent pink

First of all it was spring, so everything was greener than the last time and we also ventured much deeper into Armenia, and so I can say that actually it’s very pretty country. But the naked concrete leftovers are still there, spoiling the views.

Tbilisi… 7 hours in crazy marshutka (minivan) on shittiest two-capitals-connecting-road in the world… Yerevan.
If you think that Yerevan is anything like Tbilisi, you’re wrong. It’s as different as possible. Yerevan has nothing of Tbilisi’s old world charms and crumbling old buildings. Yerevan looks like Soviet answer to Washington D.C. There is zero, and I mean ZERO historic buildings in Yerevan. Although it’s probably one of oldest cities in the world, it was rebuilt from scratch not so long ago. But don’t think that it is a bad city. Yes, it is history-less, but it is shockingly metropolitan and modern. For an ex-Soviet city that is, we are not talking Sydney or Tokyo here.

That one and half year ago I didn’t give too much credit to Yerevan, I thought that the lack of historic buildings or sights rendered it uninteresting for tourists, but now, when I knew what to expect, I liked it a lot. That Soviet version of cosmopolitan city has its kicks.
When you enter Yerevan it looks like town straight from your nightmare - ugly communist concrete residential blocks sitting on top of arid hills, under hot Armenian sun which dries all life. However once you enter into the center suddenly long and wide avenues await, lined by trees and relatively stylish ochre-pinkish buildings made of volcanic tuff build in first half of 20th century, cafes everywhere, well dressed people, well-stocked shops and fancy cars. Indeed the difference from Tbilisi is immense. There are no junk cars missing half of their chassis driving here, neither you will find small family shops with humble supplies, and no there is not a single run-down building in the downtown. Frankly, stepping into Yerevan seems like moving 10 years ahead, or coming to a much more developed country. But don’t be fooled. Yerevan might be wearing its best dress, and so do people in Yerevan, but rest of the country is downright poor, well behind Georgia.

But in Yerevan it’s time to live up it big time, for cheap. Well, not so cheap, Yerevan is way more expansive than Tbilisi, but it’s still alright. Fine Armenian brandy – Armagnac – in a café, ice cream glass, traditional dinner, rock concert in fancy cosmopolitan bar… it seemed like my posh ex-life back from times when I was earning more than Rockefeller :-)

By the way, here in Yerevan, capital of Armenia, one of world’s oddest capitals, they have noiseless asphalt on roads. You sit in a café in park surrounded by 4 lane roads all around and you don’t heer any noise of the cars passing by. Me and Jirka realized this during our first visit. There is a lot of traffic in the city, but it’s suspiciously quiet. We almost got run over by a car because we didn’t hear it approaching, and that was when we realized that they used some noise-absorbing type of asphalt here. I haven’t seen this luxury anywhere else around the world.

Oh, and you can see Mount Ararat from Yerevan. The city was designed to be staring right at sacred Ararat, which, unfortunately, since the Turkish genocide on Armenians sits in Turkish territory, although sole 50 km away from Yerevan. The closed Turkish-Armenian border, drawn by Turkish army, took Armenia’s priceless treasure away and into hands of their nemesis, so there is nothing left to do but look at Ararat from a distance. Every time we saw it I was trying to picture Noah and his ark landing at its peak, while the whole wide world was covered in waters casted from the sky by YHWH to clean the Earth from sin and godlessness. I wonder how did Noah and his animals cope with altitude sickness, though :-) Mt. Ararat reaches 5100 meters above the sea level, which is exactly the same altitude as Mt. Everest Base Camp…

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak