American entrepreneur Gerard L. Cafesjian (1925-2013) renovated a Soviet structure known as the Cascade in Yerevan, turning it into the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. His immigrant parents had fled to the U.S. before the “Armenian Genocide” in 1915.
Armenia – Been There

Striking ugliness, poetic beauty

Photo by Luis Dafos

Armenia – Been There Striking ugliness, poetic beauty

A city of brutally functionalist architecture, mingled with a few Neo-Classical facades, the Armenian city of Yerevan makes little attempt to seduce its visitors.

Tara Isabella Burton
Tara Isabella Burton Travel Writer

However, the wide streets and clearly-defined boulevards make perfect places to sit on outside terraces and the city’s cafe scene has evolved into the coolest in the Caucasus. On the balmy days that make up most of the year, locals congregate at their particular favorites to smoke and drink pomegranate wine.

I spend a few days tracking down the latest trendy “underground” ones, where you can find yourself wandering through a deserted-seeming parking lot, only to end up at the hottest joint in town.

Tonight, there is a celebration in store. It is museum night in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia: all museums are free and open to the public until midnight; many also offer live performances. I head to the house-museum of Hovhannes Tumanyan, Armenia's national poet, an object of almost religious veneration among locals, who see him as a spiritual as well as aesthetic leader. “Tumanyan’s past changes us,” reads the plaque at the entrance, “makes us kinder and fairer and braver. It helps us to re-find our identity and become citizens of the world. Tumanyan cuts our glance from the ground and directs it up to the universe, to the eternity where the TRUTH is.”

In the garden, a trio of musicians sing and pluck at the dulcimer. They wear the traditional dress of the ashugh, the mystic bards of old. The crowd is varied: there are hipsters in panama hats and silk shirts, old women in kerchiefs, couples nuzzling in corners, obscured by vines.

As they sing, one little girl gets up to perform an impromptu traditional dance. Her arms are jerky, her movements shy. Her grandmother starts to clap; the girl moves faster. Her motions are fluid now; she begins to spin; other children join her, swaying to the music, spreading their arms wide. They sing a song they have written about Armenian history, about Armenia’s legacy, about Tumanyan, the immortal poet whose words no amount of conflict can wipe out.

The girls keep dancing.

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armenia-jeravan

Yerevan has a population of 1.2 million and played a key role in the country's independence, when as many as 1 million people demonstrated on the streets against Soviet rule. The city has prospered since, at the cost of much of the center being a construction site. Photo by Carlo Bevilacqua

Carlo Bevilacqua

Carlo Bevilacqua

Nikon D7000

Aperture
ƒ/8
Exposure
1/100
ISO
100
Focal
10 mm

Yerevan has a population of 1.2 million and played a key role in the country's independence, when as many as 1 million people demonstrated on the streets against Soviet rule. The city has prospered since, at the cost of much of the center being a construction site.

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