Finding Armenia in Africa
Some 18-19 years ago I met this Nigerian guy sitting by the fountains in the largest square we have in our city. It’s called Republic Square. Back in the day it was called – surprise-surprise! – Lenin Square. Yes, my country, Armenia, is a former Soviet Republic. Lenin’s statue in this Square, Stalin’s on the highest hill of the city, you know how it was. They were everywhere.
So the Nigerian guy.
This was late 1990s, we didn’t have too many Africans walking around in our city back then. I was curious. And besides, I was studying English in the University and was eager to practice the language. So I approached and we started to talk.
Of course I started with what interested me the most. How did he found out about my country? I assure you, it’s a legitimate question. You have no idea how many times I got this “Where are you from”? “Armenia”. “Ah yes, Romania, nice nice…”
It’s now that Kim Kardashian and his husband Kanye have put us on the map. For an average tourist that is. I’ll tell about their last year visit in another article. It was something tell about.
So my Nigerian friend told me he read about us in a travel book and since he wanted to go to a place where average tourist wouldn’t go, he highlighted Armenia and read a little more about us. Buying the tickets and packing came right after that.
What is Armenia, after all?
Armenia is a country with a history. We go way back, farther than one can think. First country accepting Christianity as a State religion? Yes, that was us. In 301 AD. Can you believe it?
Some archaeologists insist, after a quite thorough search, that they found traces of the world’s oldest wine producing facility on our territory. Yes, we have good alcohol. Sir Winston Churchill was a big fan of our cognac. And we officially have had our alphabet starting from 405 AD. What can I say, our people were in a rush to read and write. We still love to do that, you know. Just can’t get tired of those letters.
Yerevan, the beautiful capital
I live in Yerevan, in the capital of my country. One of these days we are going celebrate 2798 year anniversary of our city.
Yerevan is an amazing city. It is a fusion of Soviet times constructionist, neoclassical and modern architecture and nowadays new wave with edgy, glassy and pointy tall buildings.
The streets aren’t very wide because they mostly were built in times of fewer vehicles. Sidewalks are beautiful, many trees and benches.
Yerevan is becoming more and more tourist oriented with every passing year. Nice three to five star hotels, chic restaurants with world cuisine. You can find very decent Italian pizza and pasta here. And of course, our own cuisine. Our famous thin bread called lavash and the unique pork barbecue which you can find in no other country. And so much more deliciousness.
There are amazing museums that will completely take your breath away, like Paradjanov Museum, of the legendary film director or Komitas, Armenian composer who changed the very notion of music for us. And the museums under the open sky like the staircase monument called Cascade, its whole area presented and breathing with interesting and peculiar statues. It’s a place where Armenian youth likes to gather, have a walk, play guitar and sing. In the evenings it becomes a magical place full of soft and beautiful light, chatting people sitting in cafes and beer houses. And sometimes rock and jazz concerts take place here with the whole town present charged with crazy positive atmosphere. And we have many other sites which are so worth visiting.
We will rock you
Speaking of rock music and the Republic Square. On April 23, 2015, that Square of ours embraced an event which many of us would call the most exciting one in our lives. The live concert of System of a Down, Armenian guys, by the way. During the whole concert, I’m not kidding, from the very beginning till the end, it was raining like crazy, but no one even thought to leave. It was a day to remember. The energy in the Square could generate a rocket, to the moon and back.
Oh, the Churches
Recently I was having a nice talk to a family friend who works at one of the Embassies situated here and he shared his experience about what amazed him in our country. It was the churches. Yes, we have many of them. Church wasn’t just a place of worship for our people. It was a symbol of unity and survival. The thing is, that our geopolitical location is not one of the best, being surrounded mostly by Islamic countries with whom we were historical enemies and with a couple of them we still are. But we are used to that, what can you do. Instead, we have our churches. Beautiful, ancient, mysterious and so serene. Like you are immediately in another dimension when you step there. Filled with so much history and hope. Our friend had been in so many churches, even I haven’t seen that much in my own country. And I was listening to him telling about the places he visited, with my mouth open, learning about my own country and my people from non Armenian. It was so precious and incredible.
A visit to Armenia can become one of the most memorable events of your life and it will not be because of the red, pink and yellow stone we use in our buildings and call it tufa. No, it will be because of our people. In spite of our rather unfriendly history and all the pain our nation saw, people are so kind and open hearted. You can become friends with a person whom you just asked directions. And it will come from a very honest place, no fake smiles. Don’t be surprised if you end up in their house drinking the best wine they have and eating the most delicious bread and cheese you’ve ever tasted.
That’s Armenia for you.