Swingin’ Armenia


New York Post

March 9, 2004 — NIGHT has fallen upon the cradle of civilization, and
high above the city of Yerevan, in the shadow of Mount Ararat, the new
Armenia is swinging drivers.

Men and women, bathed in flood light, stand in a row. They’re hitting
balls far down the immaculately kept range, toward the summit of a
mountain where, in biblical times, Noah’s Ark ran aground.

This is the only golf course in the Caucasus, brought to you by G. K.

Hovnanian, part of the family that brought us New Jersey’s finest
planned communities.

Across town and high in the hills, glasses clink and subdued voices
fill the dry night air. They’re coming from the patio of the Avan
Villa, one of two small hotels recently opened here by New Yorker
James Tufenkian, a purveyor of Oriental rugs.

And meanwhile, on a side street off of Republic Square, Yerevan’s best
restaurant, Dolmama’s, is closing up for the evening.

Owner Jirair Avanian is another New Yorker. He formerly owned the
Abovian Galleries, which hawked German impressionistic art to East
Siders back in the 1980s.

Armenia is reborn, and its diaspora has given it inspiration – and

(MGM Grand CEO Kirk Kerkorian sent millions toward rebuilding.)
Tufenkian is putting carpet-makers to work, and Hovnanian wants to
sell houses. His Yerevan Estates development calls for 600 or more

Here in this spot of land, smaller than the state of Maryland, the
very old and the very new sit practically on top of each other, which
always makes for interesting traveling.

An afternoon spent sipping coffee in one of Yerevan’s myriad new cafes
gives way to an evening of quiet along Lake Sevan, where fishermen
gather at day’s end to pull in the nets, as they have for centuries.

But you don’t have to swap locations to see centuries meet. Spend a
Sunday at the Geghard Monastery, founded in the 4th century, high atop
the Azat River gorge. Being here is to watch history come to life.

Teenagers bring lambs to the slaughter, old men share glasses of red
wine and smoke cigarettes, mothers pray. Outside the walls, old women
sell bread and fruit leather.

Eat it down by the river, where, perhaps, a small child will ask to
exchange rings, and you start talking with people who have relatives
in Glendale, Calif., Armenia’s other holy city, and you didn’t even
realize how bizarre it all was until long after it was over.

Info: armeniainfo.am
Stay: tufenkian.am
David Landsel

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