Landing safely in the land of Cher (and the Kardashians, Ugh!), I arrived at passport control where the officer noticed that I had just visited Azerbaijan with whom Armenia has extremely strained relations. I had anticipated this, but my plans were made long before I was made aware of this problem.
Thankfully, after stating that my visit to Azerbaijan was purely touristic, and explaining that I was on a five-year journey with the accompanying visual aid of a passport complete with 86 customs stamps, he let me go on my merry way.
REPUBLIC SQUARE AT NIGHT
DANCING FOUNTAINS – The dancing fountains kick off the festivities. They are not quite as resplendent as the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas, but they still have a charm all their own.
TAX MONEY WELL SPENT
AND WITH THE HEAT, THE OCCASIONAL MIST WAS A WELCOME COOL DOWN
ANOUSH RESTAURANT – This understated and beautifully appointed, relaxing establishment is located just off of Republic Square in the Republica Hotel which is clearly a four-star star establishment. This was my first dinner in Armenia, and it was an auspicious start to my visit to this country. Let me state that I don’t really like lentils, but that is lentil soup you are looking at. I decided after a considerable recommendation to give it a try, and I am certainly glad I did. The soup is made up of lentils, yogurt, sour cream, herbs & spices, and an olive oil drizzle. The soup had such a wonderful sour tang and a slightly spicy bite. It was heavenly.
(Just to confirm my beliefs, I brought a French friend from Strasbourg to the restaurant two nights later to put it to the test. As expected it passed with flying colors. Unfortunately, his girlfriend was feeling a little under the weather back at the hostel, but at least he got to try out some outstanding Armenian cuisine. We split the main course as well, and with drinks we got out of there for ten dollars each.)
APRICOT LAMB – Boiled lamb wrapped in an apricot lavash with apricot rice and a couple of dried apricots. I followed with a very rich tiramasu and waddled home. I could have easily skipped desert.
GARDENS AND THE YEREVAN CASCADE IN THE BACKGROUND
Fernando BOTERO – Roman Centurion
Fernando BOTERO – Smoking Woman – The last time we encountered this artist was in Moscow when we discovered that some ill-mannered museum goers had rubbed the patina clean off of a reclining nude’s bum. From a distance, this one looks okay since we don’t see the telltale signs of golden bronze glinting in the sun.
However, upon closer investigation, one can see that the patina has been violently carressed in three places, and has been subsequently repaired. To all those who would damage sculpture in such a fashion, find another consenting adult and play with their buttocks instead. Or if you’re really in need of some silly superstitious luck ritual, toss a coin in a fountain or the cup of a person who’s down on their luck. Just quit destroying art!
LOVE – A favorite from the sixties.
Peter WOYTUK – Kiwi – 2011
FACIA OF THE YEREVAN CASCADE – The Yerevan Cascade is a giant stairway that links the downtown Kentron area of Yerevan with the Monument neighborhood. The construction of the cascade designed by architects Jim Torosyan, Aslan Mkhitaryan, and Sargis Gurzadyan was launched in 1971 and completed in 1980.
Inside the Cascade, underneath the exterior steps are a couple of escalators going the length of the complex. There are also rooms connected to some of the landings along the escalators which compose the Cafesjian Museum of Art.
The exterior of the Cascade, in addition to stairs, has multiple levels with fountains and sculptures. The stairs afford walkers unobstructed views of central Yerevan and Mount Ararat.
CAFESJIAN MUSEUM OF ART
AS YOU ASCEND OR DESCEND YOU ARE TREATED TO MULTIPLE ALCOVES OF MODERN ART SCUPTURE
THE ENTRY FROM ABOVE
You will find a few sculptures waiting for you on each landing. This is a very large specimen of a fossil turned into art.
Circle of Lynn Chadwick – Untitled – 20th. century
Such a wonderful space for modern art.
Maylee CHRISTIE – Giant Orchid – 2010
TOP LEVEL – For such ancient cultures, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia have some inspired modern structures in their capital cities.
A little closer so you can see in detail the most common water element in the form of a cylinder with a water jug protruding and pouring out its contents. This theme is repeated hundreds of times throughout the complex.
Stephen KETTLE – The Knot – Welsh Slate
William LAZARD – Black Gold – Bronze w/multiple patinas
EACH LANDING HAS SOME EXTERIOR WATERSCAPING
View of Downtown and the sculpture park below. You can take the stairs all the way up or opt for the escalators to cruise past the art indoors in air-conditioned comfort.
Jaume PLENSA – Sitting Tattoo IV – 2006
On the way back down the elevator, I decided to get some pictures of the sculptures displayed in the alcoves on the side. The challenge here was shooting pictures from a moving staircase. I decided to give myself one chance of going down without using multiple frame shooting, and the results were pretty good. Their pairings were very well thought out in terms of color and theme.
Roberto Sebastian MATTA – Magritte Chair – 1970 – “I really love this piece!”
Daniel CORDELL – Apple Core – Oak Wood
Studio 65 for Gufram – Marilyn “Bocca” Lip Sofa – 1970s
Giorgio LAVERI – Lipstick – Circa 1970
Jonathon BONNER – Yellow Vessel – 1994
Rebecca WELZ – Underwater Spiral – 1999
American Military Aircraft Navigator’s Seat – Circa 1960-1980
Georgiana CHAPPELL – Kalnins – 20th. century – Acrylic Lacquer on Masonite.
FINAL DESCENT – After the Modern Art Debacle in Azerbaijan this was a delight, as well as a cleansing experience. As an art space, it was very enjoyable, and I may return for another visit to see some of the museums in the complex. Given the forecasts of highs of 100 degrees on my last two days, indoor activities will be high on the list.
Manuel MARIN – Pegasus
Classy Citroen with a great red/black paint job in front of a French café. The art just keeps on coming.
DAY TRIP TO GARNI TEMPLE – GEGHARD MONASTERY – LAKE SEVAN
TEMPLE OF GARNI – The Temple of Garni is an Ionic temple in Garni, Armenia. It is the best-known structure and symbol of pre-Christian Armenia. It is the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union.
It is unusual to find such well preserved ancient structures, but you can find some wonderfully preserved specimens in Western Europe as well. In Nîmes and its environs, there is a beautiful Roman temple, a well preserved Coliseum, and an amazing aqueduct called the Pont du Gard which is in such good shape that it could actually function today.
If you are in need of some Greek temples, then a trip to Paestum in Italy will give you three amazing structures. They were tucked away in a disease-ridden swamp that protected them from damaging interlopers down through the ages.
MUCH OF THE DENTIL MOULDING HAS BEEN PRESERVED, AS WELL AS SUBSTANTIAL DETAILED ELEMENTS.
GEGHARD MONASTERY – A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
GERHARD IS A MEDIEVAL MONASTERY IN THE KOTAYK PROVINCE OF ARMENIA, BEING PARTIALLY CARVED OUT OF THE ADJACENT MOUNTAIN, SURROUNDED BY CLIFFS
WHILE THE MAIN CHAPEL WAS BUILT IN 1215, THE MONASTERY COMPLEX WAS FOUNDED IN THE 4TH CENTURY BY GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AT THE SITE OF A SACRED SPRING INSIDE A CAVE
MAKE A WISH
OPPORTUNITY FOR SOME ATMOSPHERIC SHOTS
BAS RELIEF CREATURES
Sorry for overdoing the theme.
MAGIC WATER – NATURALLY FED SACRED SPRING
SEVANAVANK, meaning Sevan Monastery is a monastic complex located on a peninsula of the northwestern shore of Lake Sevan in the Gegharkunik Province of Armenia, not far from the town of Sevan. Initially, the monastery was built at the southern shore of a small island. After the artificial draining of Lake Sevan, which started in the era of Joseph Stalin, the water level fell about 20 meters, and the island transformed into a peninsula.
“AUSSIE BADASS?” – No, it’s just a Parisian with a sour stomach, but there’s a good story about the hat though. Simon and a traveling companion found it on a beach in Australia, and being the gentleman that he is, he let her keep the hat. However, she made an agreement, that if they met up later on in that country, she would give it back to him. Well, it was truly destiny that they met up again, and here he is sporting one of the finest examples of a properly broken in Aussie hat. Good on yer, mate!
Simon and two friends, Romeo, and Mode from Strasbourg were on an all-day tour with me. It was fun to get warmed up for my trip to France and bitch about Trump a little. I can’t wait to pick up one of those hats next year in Australia. Maybe I can find one in a second-hand shop. They look so much better after they’ve been worn a while, but there is no way I’ll ever be able to make that hat look as good as Simon does.
Oh well, we can’t all be born French with movie star looks.
ARMENIAN GENOCIDE MUSEUM
A BEAUTIFUL MONUMENT FOR A HORRIFIC CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY
THE ETERNAL FLAME
A DEDICATED AND DEVOUT LADY IN HER NINETIES LAYS FLOWERS AROUND THE ETERNAL FLAME
ANOTHER SENSELESS ATROCITY – Killing People Because They Believe in a Different God
A COMPREHENSIVE MUSEUM CHRONICLES THE HORRORS THAT TOOK PLACE DURING THE GENOCIDE.
ARMIN WEGNER – THE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE GENOCIDE
Certain citizens of Germany, the ally of the Ottoman Empire and an accomplice in the Armenian Genocide, witnessed firsthand the horrible exterminations of Armenians and even made an effort to stop the massacres. Armenia Wegner was one of them.
Ignoring restrictions set by Turkish authorities Wegner photographed scenes of the massacres, Armenian deportees, and concentration camps. He wished to expose the German society to the Armenian tragedy, sending some of the photos to the German press and public figures, but his government vetoed their publication. Wenger was eventually put into custody and called back to Germany. More than 2,000 photos taken during his service were confiscated and destroyed. However, Wegner managed to hide several glass plate negatives and took them out of the Ottoman Empire.
After the end of the war in 1919, Wegner lectured in German cities on the suffering of the Armenians, driven to the deserts and massacred. In the same year Wegner published an “Open letter to US President Woodrow Wilson,” where he condemned the crimes of the Young Turks, raised questions of moral and material support to the survivors of the Genocide; providing a possibility to thousands of Armenians Islamized under compulsion to revert back to Christianity; and the right of Armenians to reclaim their houses and seek compensation for lost property.
In 1922 Wegner wrote an article, “Cry From Ararat,” referring the Armenian massacres in Smyrna. He wrote historical essays and articles about the tragic destiny of Western Armenians. After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Armin Wegner wrote a letter to Adolf Hitler condemning Jewish persecutions and was soon arrested. In 1934 he had to leave Germany.
Wenger visited Soviet Armenia 1927, 1968, and 1976. After visiting the Tsitsernakaberd memorial, he wrote: “I kneeled before the eternal memorial to unburied Armenians, and bowed on the eternal flame symbolizing the souls of the victims… Camps in the deserts, starving children, victims of the epidemic came to mind. Not many people can understand my feelings…”
ORPHANS OF THE GENOCIDE – I found this photograph to be one of the most haunting and moving in the collection. The young boy front and center looks like a man of forty or fifty. The intensity in his eyes betray the experiences that have pushed him well beyond his years. Take a moment to look at the other children in the photograph. You will see how they have been stripped of their innocence, and have a long road ahead in regaining any sense of trust and normalcy in their lives.
And to think they were the lucky ones. Many of their peers were impaled by bayonets, burned to death, or simply buried alive. Madness.
CONCENTRATION CAMPS IN SYRIA
Most of the Armenian deportees entered Syrian territory in the summer and Autumn of 1915. The Syrian and Mesopotamian deserts were their last destination, turned into concentration camps by the Ottoman government. The Turkish authorities were determined to complete the extermination of survivors through massacre and starvation.
In general, about 600,000 Armenians were exterminated in concentration camps and surrounding deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia during 1915-1918. The small number of survivors voiced the horrors witnessed by them to the entire world.
METHODS OF MASS KILLING
During the Genocide violence against Armenians was characterized by particular cruelty. Brutality against the non-Muslim population was used to intimidate and spread horror among the Christian subjects was an inseparable part of the ubiquitous Ottoman “culture of violence”. With their genocidal anti-Armenian policy, the CUP held secret discussions at its Central Committee sessions to work out methods of killing and torture to be used against the Christian population.
Torture methods widely used included mutilation, horseshoeing human feet, bayoneting children, and mass burying of live people. Thousands of women and children were driven away to the Arabian deserts, were drowned in the Euphrates and thousands more were drowned in the Tsovk Lake of Kharberd. Drowning of children and women was a widely used practice, especially in the Trebizond vilayet. Throwing groups of people off of bridges and cliffs was also one of the methods of mass murder.
The most dreadful and cruel way of killing was target practice on the wombs of pregnant women, or burying children alive. Survivors accounts describe the separation of children from deportee groups, squashing them under hooves, tying hair to horsetails, dragging on the ground, and amputations. The practice of burning children alive was used by the local thugs in the vilayets of Diyarbakir, Kharberd, Bitlis, and Aleppo.
Long starvation, thirst, and epidemics also caused death. Bayonets, hammers, axes, sickles, spades, saws and the like were also used as killing tools.
During the Genocide Ottoman Armenians were subjected to medical experiments. There was a concerted effort to engage in these practices by a considerable number of medical doctors among the Young Turk leaders. Doctor Mehmed Rashid described the policy of extermination of Armenians as a medical necessity: “Being a doctor could not cause me to forget my nationality! Rashid is a doctor, but he was born as a Turk… On the question how I, as a doctor, could have murdered, I can answer as follows: The Armenians had become hazardous microbes in the body of this country. Well isn’t it a doctors duty to kill microbes?”
Following the same logic, Armenians were labeled as “microbes” or “bacillus”, and were targeted for elimination. Medical experiment were also conducted on Armenian orphans.
Some German officers who served in the Ottoman Empire at the time of the Armenian Genocide subsequently influenced the formation of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi ideology.
THE ROAD OF AURORA: Odyssey of an Armenian Genocide Survivor
“I saw my own mother’s body, its life ebbed out, flung onto the desert because she had taught me that Jesus Christ was my Savior. I saw my father die in pain because he said to me, his little girl, Trust in the Lord, his will be done.” I saw thousands upon thousands of beloved daughters of gentle mothers die under the whip, or the knife, or from the torture of hunger and thirst, or carried away into slavery because they would not renounce the glorious crown of their Christianity. God saved me that I might bring a message from those of my people who are left, and every father and mother will understand that what I say in these pages is told with love and thankfulness to Him for my escape.”
New York City, December 1918
What I don’t understand here, is how she gives God a pass for letting her family and four million others perish. It would seem that God had forsaken the very people who would not renounce Him. Gods will be done, indeed. With imaginary friends like that, who needs enemies.
THE AUCTION OF SOULS – Aurora’s book which was translated and sold worldwide.
After witnessing the slaughter of her relatives, Aurora was brutally abused by the Turkish officials and Kurdish chieftains. Later she escaped from Kemal Efendi’s harem, throwing herself into the Euphrates, but was captured once again. She fell in the hands of the Kurdish slave-traders, who spared her life and sold her. She escaped again. Emaciated and dehydrated, Aurora trudged more than 600 kilometers over two years until, in the spring of 1917, she reached Erzurum, then already taken by the Russian troops. With the help of the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief, she moved to St. Petersburg, and in November of 1917, she arrived in the United States of America.
Her story, “My two years in ravished, martyred Armenia” appeared in American newspapers. Later the memoir “Ravished Armenia” was published in December 1918. Between 1918-1935 over 30 editions were published with a total run of about 900,000 copies. The book was translated into Spanish, Dutch, Polish and other languages. In late 1918 a silent movie was made based upon the book, “Ravished Armenia” (“Auction of Souls”) Aurora Mardiganian played the leading role in the film.
This Trunk was owned by Aurora Mardiganian and was designed for long journeys. She used it while traveling to major cities of the USA during the screening of “Auction of Souls”.
RAVISHED ARMENIA – The movie that Aurora promoted while traveling throughout the USA.
Aurora married at the age of 28, on December 7, 1929. Her husband, Martin Horvanian, was an Armenian who had sought refuge in America. Their only son was born in 1931. Following the death of her husband, her son abandoned her. In her declining years, Aurora lost her mind, the depravity and shock of the Genocide took their toll. She lived alone for many years fearful of being pursued by the Turks.
Aurora spent her last days in an Armenian nursing home in California and passed away at the age of 93 on February 6, 1994.
THE CLUB – YEREVAN
THE CLUB – GOURMET CUISINE & JAZZ IN A BOMB SHELTER
CARLOS JOBIM – ON FLUTE & GUITAR – AMAZING FLUTIST
AMUSE BOUCHE – YOGURT AND BERRY COMPOTE
FILET MIGNON – WITH DUCK BREAST, TRUFFLES & FOIE GRAS
A WELCOME RESPITE FROM THE GENOCIDE MUSEUM
KHOR VIRAP – ARENI WINERY – NORAVANK
KHOR VIRAP MONASTERY
TATEV ROPEWAY – THE WORLDS LONGEST CABLE CAR RIDE
Since we were unable to secure a round trip ticket, we would have to return by taxi on that windy road.
THAT MOUNTAIN IN THE DISTANCE IS ONLY HALF WAY