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Swingin' Armenia

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  • 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.

    David Landsel

    NEW YORK POST is a registered trademark of NYP Holdings, Inc. NYPOST.COM,
    are trademarks of NYP Holdings, Inc.
    Copyright 2003 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.