Monthly Archives: October 2010

Yerevan Is 2792 Years Old

Yesterday Yerevan celebrated its 2792th birthday.  I’m not sure how exactly they came up with that age, but it’s a noteworthy milestone nevertheless. Yerevan dates back to pre-Armenian times, back when the Uratu civilization flourished in this region. At some point along the way the city became known as Erebuni, then Yerevan.

And the city has come a long way, from a multi-ethnic small town a century ago in which Armenians were practically a minority to a thriving city of a million people taking pride in promoting the arts. Last night there were five concerts being held at the exact same time. I attended four of them–there was a rock venue at Cinema Moscow, jazz at the Cascade, folk near the Dramatic Theater on Isakahyan Street, behind the Poplovok cafe, and classical music at the park on Place de France, beside the Komidas statue. I didn’t make it to Republic Square, which featured a “gala” performance, I imagine probably consisting of various pop stars lip syncing to their own songs. The evening did not mark the first time that such events have taken place throughout the downtown area, however. If I am not mistaken such simultaneous programs were held at least twice before.

There is one thing I admire about Yerevan and that’s dedication to music and theater in particular. Nearly every day there’s an opportunity to see a stage play, and ballet, opera and classical performances are always being given. For only a few dollars you can hear spectacular music performed by the Armenian Philharmonic. Jazz and rock concerts are also being held more and more regularly every passing year.

The diversity of the arts is just as notable. Cascade park has become a showcase of sculptures made by artists around the world, and the collection always seems to be expanding. The Cafesjian Museum, which is housed beneath the Cascade steps, offers an amazing array of figurines and larger, standing pieces of work made from glass. The National Art Gallery also has amazing permanent exhibits documenting Armenian history and showcasing artifacts thousands of years old that have been unearthed throughout Armenia. The famous oldest shoe in the world is also there, although I’ve heard that it is already deteriorating at a rapid pace due to careless handling. Then there are the museum’s painting galleries that I am ashamed to confess I have yet to explore after all these years of being here. Also, new Armenian films are also popping up in the theaters, which is just fantastic. There will be a festival taking place in the next few weeks showcasing classic Armenian films from the Soviet era, something cannot be passed up. Actual film prints will apparently be screened at Cinema Moscow, probably for the first time in decades.

Anyway, here’s to Yerevan’s birthday and just as important, its enthusiastic, much appreciated promotion of the arts.

Finally Raining In Yerevan

This morning I was awakened by the patter of a rain shower, the second one in a week. It hadn’t been raining for the entire summer, which was brutally hot. For the most part the temperature was averaging in the high 90s Fahrenheit for two consecutive months. I don’t remember it being hotter in Yerevan.

Usually there are less cars on the road during and after the rain. I used to attribute that to people afraid to get their cars dirty or simply being unconfident about cruising in wet road conditions. This morning, though, there were the usual number of vehicles on the road from what I noticed. When people really need to get somewhere, seems they don’t hesitate to drive any more.

With the rain comes a fine grain dust. I’ve only seen dusty rain in Armenia. While the rain naturally helps to clean the air, it doesn’t do much to curb the dust problem. Once it dries, it’s back up in the air again, ready to coat everything in its reach.

My car is always caked with dust after a rainstorm. Logically you would think it would have the opposite effect. In Boston, where I’m originally from, you can count on the rain to do a decent job with washing down the car, but not in Yerevan. Actually, the only memory I have of the precipitation actually having a cleaning effect was when I drove through a rain and hail storm in Vayots Dzor, on my way to Jermuk last year. The Niva looked like it had just come out of the car wash.

As I write this from the office where I work on Gomidas Avenue, the blinding sun is attempting to break through the dense, billowy clouds. It won’t last for very long though because it’s still generally overcast and supposedly will remain so throughout most of the weekend according to the forecast. But weather conditions change fairly quickly here, so you can never tell. It makes living in Armenia all the more fascinating.