Wednesday 26 September 2012

Picture post number seven - Arbovian Street, Yerevan

Armenia 2008 by Yekkes
I visited Yerevan in 2008 as part of a tour of Armenia and Georgia. I landed at 1am at a busy airport in about 35 degrees of heat. Well, it was August. I had arranged a transfer and was driven through the night to my hotel on Arbovian Street, where after calling the middle aged female handy-person to fix my air conditioning, which she did by switching it on - how embarrassing, I collapsed into bed.

After a breakfast that included fresh apricots and a drink of fresh cherry juice I set out to explore. Yerevan is not especially large (about 1.1 million inhabitants) and much of the old city was destroyed in various earthquakes. However, there are still some pockets of elegance from earlier times - or as in the case of this picture, faded elegance.

The wooden framed balcony - clearly too delicate to be used - hangs over a barber's shop on Arbovian Street and gives a clue of how pleasant the city must once have been. It also shows just how alike the Caucasus countries really are - despite their political differences. Old Baku has several of these structures, whilst Tbilsi in Georgia has even more. It is sad that Yerevan has so few left, but look at the picture in this post and then look at this picture from Azerbaijan and you will see the similarity.

I enjoyed Yerevan. There is a National Gallery that contains a number of paintings by Russian artists from the the early 20th century, but the real attraction is the large number of works by Armenia's own Matiros Saryan who was clearly influenced by his "eastern background both in terms of subject matter and colour. There is also an excellent Matiros Saryan House Museum in Saryan Street which all visitors should take the time to see. In addition to the very large collection of his works from a number of years, the house itself is also interesting. The covered bazaar is another great place to visit - it was extremely quiet on the afternoon I strolled along and I was clearly looking good as I was swooped on by many of the traders who wanted me to try apricots cherries, apples, nuts and myriad other items. I bought a kilo of cherries - kept them in the hotel fridge and enjoyed them over four days. Very sweet and very cheap.

Armenia has a strong musical tradition with live folk music being easy to find in restaurants throughout Yerevan, but the city also boats a jazz maestro in the shape of  Levon Malkhassian. Mr Malkhassian has his own jazz club and it is fairly easy to find his recordings in the city. You can here a short sample of his music here. Khatchaturian (sabre dance) was also Armenian whilst the city's musical heritage is further marked by a very striking monument to the composer Arno Babajanian just across fro  the Opera House.

Like their Azeri and Georgian neighbours, the Armenians enjoy an evening passagiata - and the streets were full of families strolling in the late evening and as late as 1 am once the heat began to reduce a little. To coincide with this, many of the cafes remained open late and a musical fountain performance was held most evenings in the city's main square outside the art gallery. Yerevan was a friendly, welcoming city - its hard to believe that four years have gone by since I was there!

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