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December 1 , 2002

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First day in Yerevan, dreary and cold due to the fact that Armenia is a hilly country, 90% of the land lies over 1000 meters. From our hotel balcony we behold Mt Ararat, the landing spot for Noah's Ark. We're living in a refugee hotel again, this one for refugees fleeing Azerbaijan. In the hard luck Caucasus, Armenia may have had the hardest luck. At one time their empire stretched across Turkey to Northern Iran. Today they stand like a wedge between hostile neighbors. In the West presses Turkey, a country that killed 1.5 million Armenian people in 1915 in an event remembered here as 'the genocide.' The reason lies with Turkey's worry about Armenia siding with its traditional Christian ally, Russia, during WWI. More recently, from 1992-94, Armenia fought a bloody war with Azerbaijan over a disputed territory between them, Nagorno Karabakh. The refugees in our hotel fled from this war. The dispute actively festers and borders remained closed with Azerbaijan. It's a good rule of thumb not to mention either Turkey or Azerbaijan when traveling through Armenia.
Soviet legacy: As in every capital of the USSR, Yerevan has a monument built to commemorate Soviet power. On these massive steps, the Soviets planned to build shops, fountains, statues, and an escalator running beneath (in case you didn't feel like climbing the stairs). None of these things materialized and the escalator works only halfway - so much for Soviet power.
The 2001 Space Odyssey monolith?