For the past year, I had been literally stuck to my work and for that reason, I had spent most of my time in Yerevan until May of this year when my agency, Deem Communications, was tasked to organize a Eurovision party in Vanadzor, Armenia’s 3rd largest city. Since that date, I have been traveling in and around Armenia very regularly, either for business or pleasure, and have rediscovered my love for this beautiful piece of land.
In May 2011, I spent several days in this beautiful mountainous city. Once a vibrant industrial city, now a somewhat deserted and depressing place, Vanadzor reminds me a lot of what Yerevan used to be about 7 years ago. It is slowly coming out of the soviet era… key word is SLOWLY. Yes, there are businesses like the telecoms and banks and restaurant/café chains, but it is not at all doing well economically. In June, I had the pleasure of revisiting with another business trip (opening of Byblos Bank Armenia’s new branch). The most necessary thing right now is HOPE. The youth and young families need to have their hopes restored so that the city becomes, like its older years, a pleasant place to live and to visit. The lush green hills, the wide and clean streets offer a perfect setting for it!
Shushi, Karabagh (NKR)
When my parents were visiting, we all went down to Shushi. The drive was quite long as they had forgotten their passports thinking that Karabagh and Armenia did not need a checkpoint, let alone a separate visa – but that is a separate blog of its own. The scenery during the drive was breathtaking. July is a really nice time to make this trip. On the way, we stopped by Mirhav Hotel in Goris. This hotel is done very tastefully; bravo to the owner, a barsgahay from Germany. Once in Shushi, we took in the crisp fresh air. Did a bit of hiking in the medieval fortress Armenian city. We heard stories from before the war, during the struggle, after the victory and now. Not all these stories were enjoyable as one can imagine. Nonetheless, they mark me every time; the man, the wife, his children, her family, his land, her future, his life… The nature in Karabagh is just perfect. I met some kids whom I had worked with during my Land and Culture Organization (LCO) years back in 1999 and 2001… they had grown so much. It was also nice to see that 2 new hotels had opened, the roads are being built and new stores are popping up here and there. There is even a “marchrutka” that comes by our neighborhood. Two years ago, I had the chance to work on reviving the museum in Shushi. I highly recommend a visit there when visiting Karabagh (though they have messed it all up again… eh, what to do). The director of the museum, Ashot, is also a character!
My oldest daughter was hounding us to take her to this ranch where she wanted to spend several nights. To my surprise, this place called Ayrudzi was one my favorite new discoveries along with the Ashtarak city Pascal and Diodato café! I think we have been back at least 15 times since July. They have great middle eastern dishes and a really wonderfully decorated space … and WIFI! The more I visited Ashtarak, the more I fell in love with its quaintness, lovely weather and many beautiful churches. During one trip last month, we dropped by Saghmosavank, an all time favorite of mine, which reminds me again of my earlier days in Armenia with the LCO.
Another business trip to Sevan for our new client Bohemian Resort. Needless to say, any trip to Sevan is just great. It is soothing and refreshing. It takes you away from all your thoughts and hustle-bustle of the city. I went back and for on different occasions over the summer… great great great! So great in fact, that in July, we organized Yeprad’s baptism at Bohemian Resort. It was really a nice place to stay (although the rain prevented us from maximizing the 2 day stay). Prior to that, the entire Deem Team was invited for a staff retreat, which was exceptional!
After all the family visits and other duties Lara and I had to do, we decided we would need to get away from it all and be with the kids and only them for at least 4-5 days. Avan Tsapatagh from the Tufenkian Resorts is just the perfect place. The rooms are so nice and clean. The bed and couch are sooooo comfortable. The food is just good. The hikes up the mountain and to the lake are so relaxing… best experience in Armenian vacation destination. We used to spend much time there in 2004-2007… then, other neat places started popping up and we somehow forgot about this beautiful hotel. We really made the best of it and remembered all its unique attributes.
Another Best Western has opened in Dilijan. My agency was commissioned to do some creative and promotional work. The drive to Dilijan (not far from Sevan) is a special one with sceneries changing from rural to rocky mountainous to lakeside to green/lush mountainous… a photographers dream! We also visited Dilijan with my parents. Haghardzin… akh, what a beautiful ancient monastery it WAS. Yes, was! It has been commissioned to be renovated (not restored). It now looks like some new euro-stan trashy construction with white manufactured tiling… I do wish they decide it was a mistake and bring it back to what it used to be… a GEM! On this trip, we visited the new Tufenkian district (Old Dilijan). Deem had worked on some signage and the restoration of the museum. I am glad that the museum still is intact and has attracted many tourists since. Finally, we had coffee and desert at the Artbridge Café there. The kids loved this trip – we shall repeat!
This being said, after every trip outside of Yerevan, I always feel glad to be back – back HOME. Home to MY CITY, Yerevan!