Armenia Dispatch 13: Road Trip

I had several rather grueling days of shooting for various stories I’m working on here in Yerevan, and I knew it was time to get out of the city and do some relaxing. I’d been hanging out with the Bambir guys, and with the good folks at the Chess Academy, and I decided it was time to see the country.

So like an Armenian version of On the Road (would that sort of make me Jack Kerouackian?), myself and two friends, Dork and Mhaer, hit the road. I left the comfortable confines of the Armenia Marriott and we rented a car for the day (about $100…you might be able to do this cheaper, but gas prices are high, and well, maybe we’re not the best negotiators…this is Armenia, after all). We stopped off briefly at the local covered market and picked up some peaches, scallions, lavash bread (someone in America, PLEEEEEASE start selling lavash bread…the stuff is so good), Banir (cheese) and these amazingly tasty, but very odd-looking, ropes made of walnuts and molasses (I think) called Soujukh. A complete meal this would not make, but it was good for snacking along the way.

On the road out of Yerevan, we could see the genocide memorial on one side, and then further up on the hillside, the home of the first elected President of Armenia. The home is black, and I learned quickly that the color is somewhat appropriate. The first presdent is not widely liked here. The driver spat with disgust when we started talking about him, a sentiment that I’ve heard several times since I’ve been here. Not to get too deeply into the politics of it all, because I confess I don’t know the history that well (perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I can add a comment), but from what I understand, he and the people around him were rather corrupt, and many of the hopes for the new nation went unrealized after independence in 1991 because of rampant corrupution and cronyism. Again, I don’t profess to know this part of the story of Armenia, but judging from the what several people told me, and the comments of our driver, it seems black may be an appropriate color for the house on the hill.

Moving on.