I finally made it back on Sunday night and spent the entire day Monday with my wife at home. It's cold here--about 32 degrees F or 0 degrees C. My apartment is colder than it has been in the past since my mother-in-law washed the windows in late fall and peeled away the strip insulation that lines the frame of each window to keep the wind out. Today I will spend trying to reinsulate the windows and then return to work as soon as the guys exhausted from the trip back from California open the office.
Just a few observances of what's going on here. People have just wrapped up the holiday season, a time which is always enjoyable as people roam from house to house to visit, drink, and eat some snacks. I missed a steady stream of festivity lasting from about December 25 through January 7 or so, especially in Republic Square where about 10 Santa Clauses pace the stretch of tiled sidewalk in front of the hibernating fountains looking for kids to tease. There’s a huge tree in the middle of the square which is now being dismantled.
Traffic in central Yerevan seems to be cut in half. This may be due to the fact that the costs of fuel have risen dramatically--propane gas which is the preferred, cheap choice of fuel for cars has doubled due to an increase in Russian fuel exports, primarily to former Soviet satellites. Gasoline also remains pricey--just before I left Armenia two months ago the cost per liter for regular gasoline fluctuated between 380-400 drams per liter, or about 80-90 cents. I imagine the costs are about the same, as I have yet to start up my car and refuel it. So there is a lot less noise downtown, and it is safer for pedestrians to cross the streets.
A heartbreaking unwelcome awaited me when I saw to my dismay Monday morning that 75 percent of the secret small neighborhood which lies just behind my apartment building has been totally destroyed. Yerevan authorities have been promising to demolish the ramshackle shacks for over three years now, and they finally got around to doing it in the middle of winter, during the holidays nonetheless. Really, this is something that was to be expected although I started to think it would not happen, since the neighborhood really poses no threat to anyone except developers snapping up every square meter available or that can be made available for construction.
Thousands of people were either displaced or relocated from the half-mile or so stretch of land from Tumanyan Street near the Opera House to the end of Abovyan Street, just right of the half-renovated business building housing popular restaurants Marco Polo and Square One to make way for the Northern Boulevard, which is still being constructed and will go on for another year at least. Thousands more were evicted from their homes on Puzant and Arami Streets that run perpendicular to Abovyan Street and stretch to as far as Mesrob Mashdots Street, or “Prospect.” Other historic buildings, some dating to the first republic, have also been totally destroyed to make room for new, unaesthetically pleasing high-rise buildings, which will contain apartments fetching over $100,000 each. This sweeping away of Yerevan’s history is extremely careless and stupid, as tourists will wonder what has happened to the historic quarters of the city, and the city’s charm will virtually disappear. The Yerevan that exists today has less than an 80-year history, and any structures that managed to last that stretch of time --structures that are for the most part extremely solid and have few if not any cracks in the stone walls, foundations, or floors--are now being taken down. It is sloppy city planning and I believe is a total rejection of the envisioned design created by famous architect and Yerevan’s father Alexander Tamanyan.
In any case, I will write more about this in the coming weeks.
Labels: Personal Experiences, Thoughts and Musings