Day 8 – Vineyards and Taboule
Day 8 – A literally satisfying day as we finally visited Vahe`s vineyards in Armavir and had a fantastic lunch in Yerevan, which kept us satisfied fot the rest of the day.
Winemaker Vahe, who offered us to show the vineyards of his company two days before, kept his promise and picked us up at 9 o`clock. Armavir is probably one hour from the capital. We had a little walk threw the huge property and got to see the irrigation system and all of the hardware, that is used for keeping the yards going.
When we arrived at the depot, Blake filmed another 25 minute- interview with Vahe, whose wide views, thoughts and ideas regarding the big problems his small country has, are strongly different from a lot of other Diaspora Armenians we met before.
After 2 hours, we went back to Yerevan for lunch: Vahe took us to the “Taboule”, a friend`s Lebanese restaurant where we also met Irina, his beautiful assistant, that told us a little bit more about the present political situation in Armenia. The food was probably the best we had so far. A lot of different vegetarian dishes and sauces, delicious chicken and beef barbecue, lahmajun and köfte. Along with that, we enjoyed a few bottles of “Karas”, the best Armenian wine which is made by Vahe`s label.
In the afternoon, Erol and Anant met James Tufenkian, one of the most famous Armenians worldwide who has built a hotel chain and is known for developing a lot of different social projects for the country. Meanwhile, Blake and I took some shots of the Blue Mosque, a wonderful old building in the center of Yerevan.
Day 7 – German class in Dilijan
Day 7 was all about UWC, the international in the tiny village of Dilijan.
8:30 Artyom and Sweettella picked us up and took us to Dilijan in northern Armenia, about 1,5 hours from Yerevan. In the Soviet time, the party leaders used to come there for vacation. The pristine village in the mountains is often called “the Armenian Swiss” in Europe.
14:30: After having lunch at the local “Tufenkian Hotel” and taking some shots of the old town, we had an appointment wit Gulia, the public relations manager of the brand new UWC-school in Dilijan. UWC is an education movement, that includes 14 international schools all over the world. Most of the students from all over the world get selected by their potential and get scholarships, a small number of paying students are also accepted.
The recently inaugurated buildings themselves were pretty impressive and modern. 96 Students already moved in, more than 500 are supposed to follow in the next few years. Anant had the chance to interview some of the German kids at the school, while Blake finally finished his multimedia language project.
20:00: After a long day at school, we met Srubhni, an old Armenian friend of Erol. She could answer all our questions about the country we didn`t get answered yet. From the Azerbaijan conflict to the life of an average Armenian family.
Day 5 – The Bagpipe is Armenian!
Today was our first day with Anand, who joined us in the night before.
On the schedule: a guided tour through the National History Museum of Yerevan and visiting the “HyeLandz” Eco Lodge owners Arthur and Caroline Zacharian for an interview.
The tour began at 11:15. Anna, our guide, is a very kind, old fashioned lady, armed with a pointing stick. Although she had never been to Germany, her German was excellent as well as her knowledge about Armenia. Starting from the landing of Noah`s ark at the holy Ararat mountain to the years of the turkish genocide, she took us for a trip through the history of her homeland. We got wised up by the fact that almost everything, from the chariot to the bagpipe, was invented by the Armenian people. In her explanations, Anna constantly recommended professional literature: Franz Werfel`s “Forty Days of Musa Dagh”, Burchard Brentjes` “Three Thousand Years of Armenian History”, Tessa Hofmann`s “Annäherung an Armenien”. The extent of her knowledge was impressive. After an information flood of at least two and a half hours we finished our tour.
In the afternoon we went to the large open air market called “Vernissage” where Artyom and the blessed “Sweettella” picked us for the 20 minute ride to the small village of Garni, where Arthur and Caroline, an Iranian-Lebanese-American-Armenian couple, built their holiday resort, “HyeLandz”. After a short walk through their 13 acres with dogs, cats, goats and rabbits all over, Anand started his interview while Blake was filming.
In the end we got invited to stay for dinner, containing fresh homemade cheese and bread with incredibly tasty barbecued pork and potatoes.
Day 4 – Sweettella`s dead, long live Sweettella!
Ready for an adventure? Eat this!
11:00 The 4th day and yet another nice breakfast at “Artbridge Cafe”. Pancakes, fried eggs and sandwiches!
13:00 Our first destination was the Sardarapat Memorial Site, which had been built in 1968 to remind the people of the Armenian Defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the great battle of 1918. The memorial consists of a few arches and sculptures and one big belltower in the center. Blake took some timelapses with the prestine landscape in the background.
15:00: Erol then suggested to have a look at the Turkish Border which is not far from Sardarapat village. We finally reached a viewpoint from where we had an amazing outlook over the river aras and the red mountains on the Eastern Anatolian side. As the diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia are as bad as it gets, it`s not possible to cross the border by the overland route.
16:00: We went on to a small village just a few hundred meters away from the river where a bolted military building is located conducted by the Russian-Armenian border patrol (the Russians still take care of Armenia’s borders) . To Artyoms horror, Erol spontaniously mentioned that it would be great to take some photos from the guard tower so we headed on to the gate. “99 percent – no” our driver mentioned, but it was too late. A grumpy looking soldier with evil eyes waited for us and yelled after his Russian comrade when we arrived. Artyom translated for us while we had to get our passports. As Blake and Erol are American citizens, they both showed some German credentials as we had already told them that we`re from Germany. In the end – after some calls and smartphone shots of our documents, the Russian guy told us it wouldn`t be possible to get in. At least he wanted to take a selfie with the three of us.
17:15: We decided to get back to Yerevan. Meanwhile, Artyom got pissed off by this bad eyed border guard, that I think must have said some indecent things before. All of a sudden the taxi stopped with a big noise – “Sweettella”, his beloved car, broke down. We got out and saw a big hole in the right front tire. The break pad somehow came loose and got into the tire, but it`s still a mystery to be honest. Luckily, Artyom, who blamed the accident on the mean guard, had another one in the trunk so we were able to move on. Otherwise it could have ended badly in the middle of the Armenian nowhere.
19:30: In the end, our Driver took us to his favorite restaurant in Yerevan, the Golden Fork, where we once again had a delicious meal with kebap, potatoes and lahmajun.
Day 3 – Khorovats & Octopus
Our third day was definitely the most productive so far. Artyom, our Driver took us to 3 completely different, but equally beautiful spots.
The first place was Tsaghkadzor, a small upland village with wonderful view of the landscape. The spot to be was an old dilapidated schoolyard located among a small apple orchard. Back in the Soviet Era, the building was used for orphans.
After a one hour ride we reached Lake Sevan, one of the largest high altitude lakes in the world. From the viewpoint at Sevanavank Peninsula we got an amazing look over the area and the old church. At Sevan City we had a nice lunch with fresh Kebap and Khorovats, the most popular Armenian barbecue dish.
The village of Noratus is famous for the largest ancient cemetery in Armenia, which is probably one of the most spectacular places in the country. The oldest of the over 800 tombstones you can find derive from the 9th century, but people still bury their relatives there. Blake and Erol took some nice shots and videos.
After returning to the capital City, we decided to take some photos at the Monument Park, a funny Theme Park next to the Mother Armenia Statue. The rides there are minimum 30 years old and fun to watch. Blake and I took a little walk through, filming and watching fearless Armenians having fun. In the end, we wanted to shoot the “Octopus”, so I was needed as a volunteer. Well, it didn`t seem dangerous at the beginning, but then I started to get twisted and shook. Blake definitely had fun from the outside. The Octopus would beat any Oktoberfest-ride, that`s for sure!
Day 2 – Back to the roots
9.30: The “Green Bean” is a Silicon Valley Style organic café in Amiryan Street: fair coffe, free wifi, bagels and busy people from everywhere but Armenia working on their macs.
11.00: Arrived at Arabkir, a Yerevan neighbourhood, that once used to be a separate village. A lot of the original citizens moved from Arapgir in Turkey, which had one of the biggest Armenian communities before the Genocide in 1915. Blake and I took some time lapses from different spots around the area.
15:00: We wanted to meet at Luna Park, an amusement park which is near the Mother Armenia sculpture that you can see from almost everywhere in Yerevan. But the weather got worse and we found out that Erol was already on his way to the apartment.
17:00: After we finally met at home, we went to Vartan and Emma’s studio to film and get dressed up. His wife took some nice shots of us in traditional costumes. It was awsome fun, especially Erol and Blake seemed to feel happy like never before.
19:00: Vartan took us to a restaurant called “Gaidz Lahmajun”. The owner is a Syrian Armenian, who came here because of the war in his country. The food was delicious, Lahmajun in all kinds of variations.
20:00: We decided to have some Armenian Wine at “The Club”: a nice basement with Livemusic, regional cheese and local wine and extraordinary service.
After all, it was an interesting second day because we got to see a little more of the city. While downtown Yerevan is obviously a very kept clean and a prestine area, Arabkir is rundown but still has it`s own charm.
Day 1 – Forget Paris!
After having a rich and typical armenian breakfast with hashbrowns, eggs and bacon at Central Cafe in Abovyan Street, we went to the cascades – one of most important sights in Yerevan. This huge building, which reminds you of an inca temple, is also used as a center for modern art. Well, what you get to see is a lot of fat women sculptures and gilded jumping animals.
There are 572 steps up to the rooftop. Lazy as we are, we took the elevator. On the platform you probably have the best view over the city. Big squares, rundown buildings, wide streets and fountains make you feel like standing in the middle of a smaller and more fascinating Paris.
In the afternoon we met Rafi and Vartan, who had all the contacts we need for our project. After discussing our ideas and plans for the week, Vartan showed us his studio, where he and his wife take photos of people in traditional armenian costumes. Unbelievable how original you can make a blonde haired russian family look!
For Dinner, we chose a nice Pizza-Restaurant with elevated balcony. Blake tried his best to film the Republic Square from up there, but after having only one beer in 15 minutes the manager got curious and told us not to use a tripod for the camera. The two other guests still must be very thankful! The Pizza was delicious and the square’s gorgeous fountain water show, which runs every day from 8 to 10 with music from Aretha Franklin to Mozart, gave our first day the worthiest end it could have.
First Look at Lebanon
The trip was great success and we have made many contacts in the Bourj Hammoud Community. We look forward to returning with the crew to document the city and the stories of the people who live there.
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Greetings from terra arMEnia
terra arMEnia is a project that will look at what binds the Armenian diaspora communities after generations away from their homeland. We also hope to tell the rich story of a culture that has thrived and made itself present in countries all over the world.
We want this website to be an open door to the journey we take into terra arMEnia and to open communication channels for those who have a story to tell and those that want to hear a good story.
Be on the look out for updates from the production as well as photos and video from the process of making terra arMEnia a reality.
Don’t forget to like our facebook page to get updates from points along the way!