A few words about the fascinating automotive parts open market in Yerevan. Early Sunday morning, March 13, I met my mechanic Hovik at Karekin Njdeh Square in Yerevan and in his Volkswagon Vanagon—which he himself fitted with an ever-resilient Lada/Zhiguli engine—he took me to the auto parts open market, located on the fringes of Yerevan near Sovetashen, which I must locate on a map. To get there it was necessary to pass through an area of the city virtually abandoned, where only a few of hundreds of factories still operate, the rest either sitting idle, with their machinery sold off long ago by Iranian businessmen or people close to the first administration under Levon Ter-Petrossian in the early 1990s, or are now simply destroyed. The roads were a disaster, mainly in complete disrepair, some being left unfinished when they were being repaved or rebuilt at the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Out of nowhere it seemed appeared a road, in relatively good condition, ascending the hilltops of the far south end of the city. While climbing the steep hills it was possible to look below upon the garbage dumps where the factories ended. At the top of the hills was a virtual wasteland with the market in the middle as an oasis of sorts. Hundreds of vendors comprise the market, selling auto parts of all kinds, for nearly all makes and models of cars found in Armenia, although primarily for Russian autos. Parts from the smallest washer for some miscellaneous bolt to entire engine blocks could be found there if one looked well enough.
The usual open market flies could be found there as well, selling pastries and fried potato-filled dough pies, sunflower seeds, and so forth, as well as vendors selling barbeque kebabs. At all open markets in Armenia such barbeque stands can always be found, with a guy standing by the fire twirling around the skewers of roasting meat, cigarette dangling from his mouth. Another guy next to him actually prepares the kebab sandwiches, all the while smoking of course. And the customers never seem to complain, especially while downing a few vodka shots, even at mid-morning.
The auto parts’ vendors seemed to be aligned in a continuous chain, and it was difficult to distinguish where one vendor’s stall ended and where the next began. Surrounding the market were only parked cars of both customers and vendors—the rest of the landscape was pure wasteland. Hovik was in his element, hopping from one vendor to the next, visiting only those he knew and trusted, albeit to a limit. He helped me with the pricing and did all the talking. Most of the parts we needed were purchased there, save for new piston rings and pistons, as for some bizarre reason none could be found there, with vendors suggesting we visit their stores (although they could not guarantee that they had the parts in stock).
He finally suggested that we open up the engine in Vanadzor then inspect what was broken before spending all sorts of money on parts that didn’t need replacing. We spend close to three hours there and then left—he dropped me off at the closest metro station (oddly enough called “Factories”). Just today I picked up my car after a grueling day and a half repair job—only one piston needed replacing but all four received new piston rings.
Labels: Social and Cultural