Yerevan Nights, Armaniac Drivers

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Dinner with the duduk makers…

YEREVAN is the capital of modern Armenia and can trace its history back to 782 BC as Yerebuni, making it among Europe’s oldest.  Sitting smack on the crossroads of space and time will put you through some changes, of course, and Yerevan has seen it all (or most of it, anyway) with Arabs, Persians, Ottomans, and Russians all leaving their piss tracks on Yerevan’s face.  Things were hard after independence, too, but are gradually getting better, with construction booming and the bars and clubs full.  They’ve even got bars in the parks, complete with sofas!  How’s that for service?  Still the symbol of Armenia, Mt.Ararat of Noah’s Ark fame, sits there in the distance, visible from any angle, across the border in Turkey.  Ouch!  That’s gotta’ hurt.  Armenians love to party; did I mention?  There are four hostels listed in the upcoming book, due out any day now, “Backpackers & Flashpackers: Eastern Europe,” with complete specs and contact info.  Have you been to Armenia?  Tell me (us) about it.  I was there in 2009:

“So I go to the one gen-u-ine hostel in town and book a dorm bed for the night, happy to punish myself for my excesses of the night before and ultimately balance out my payments.  And it’s good.  Now I remember why I like hostels.  It’s not about the bucks; it’s about the camaraderie and the cross-fire of information.  That’s what used to be fun about traveling in my twenties, even though hostels didn’t really exist as such, but the novelty of the situation created the same dynamic, and I’ve been missing it.  I don’t necessarily like shared rooms (there’s always one guy in the room coming in at 3 a.m.), but private rooms are usually available also.  If I once thought I was too old for “youth hostels,” such concerns are misplaced.

There are people older and straighter or hipper than I here, some real characters in fact, all here and playing their roles—the gay couple, the nerdy TV kid, the church lady, and many others.  Some don’t speak much; they probably don’t know English well.  Then there’s Andrei the wild man from Warsaw.  The man is a former smuggler, has been in almost as many countries as I—including many bizarre places—and exudes a joie de vivre not to be found in men half his age.  He gets my golden thumb award for traveler of the year.”

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