The Past And The Future

Lilit Hakobyan

© Copyright 2004 by Lilit Hakobyan

Photo of columns of a classical temple.  (c) 2004 by Richard Loller.

Here They Are At Home

Getting out of my hotel room, finding nothing of interest in the lobby as well, to disperse the boredom, I decided to have a little walk around the city and directed my steps towards Plaka.

It’s an Olympic year and Athens seems to be a big ant hill; preparations for the coming events are in full swing and people seem to be happy about it... But even in this crazy haste you can feel some hidden caution flying in the air. As a good proof to this, a policeman approaches me and asks for my documents. Of course I try to explain him that I am a journalist from Czech Republic, come just for 15 days to take part in the International Olympic Academy Session which starts the next day, that in Holiday Inn he may meet many other delegates from all over the world... but the only thing that he cares for are my documents, which in no way I can find. 'I will not avoid visiting the police station.' I seem to put up with the idea when a tall, swarthy guy comes up.

 Davit, it was his name, introduced himself as Armenian delegate to the Academy session and asked for a little time while he hurried to the Hotel and brought my documents.

 ‘Aleš... Aleš Prazny,’ a bit confused from such treatment I introduced myself when the police car finally disappeared at the corner. Davit shook my hand and together we walked down Plaka. As we had already missed our dinner so had to look for a nice cafe to celebrate our acquaintance and, as it turned out later, the beginning of our friendship.

The plane taking flight Prague-Yerevan at last came in the land. The first what met me at the airport Zvartnots was the Armenian August heat; Davit came up a bit later. It struck me as strange to see so many guys accompanying him.

 'Just friends... you’ll get acquainted,' put Davit briefly, and our cars started. They were talking lively a language that was thoroughly strange to me. And I was watching them carefully; especially my friend, revealing in him traits that were unfamiliar to me until then. Here I found him more decisive, self-confident, somehow more caring and considerate. Here he was at home.

Three unforgettable days I spent in Yerevan; learnt much about that ancient city and the nation coming through millenniums, tried to grasp their traditions and involuntarily got attached to them. When leaving I gave Davit a copy of my article; I will publish it in Prague, though I am afraid I could not put to paper all my feelings and impression. I believe, there are a lot of things that are not to be talked about, they are just to be felt...

The Past and the Future

 Darkness retreated at last; reluctantly, step bye step, still retreated...

 The first rays of the Sun, like naughty kids awakened from untroubled sleep, rush down the Biblical Giant’s everlasting snows; 5,165 meters of ice and snow that for millenniums conceal the traces of the devastating flood, the saving Ark, blessed Noah...

Myth or historical reality, Ararat has made a symbol of Existence, Rebirth and Permanence of Life. It is a witness to the centuries old history, great victories and irrevocable losses, wars and disasters, yet unshakable faith and undying hopes for a small country lying at its foot.

 The last crumbs of darkness disappear when the beams, like an avalanche, fall down the mountains, spread over the valleys, penetrate into the densest forests, reach the deepest canyons...

28 fleetest rivers take them to Sevan: one of the greatest freshwater high-mountain lakes of Eurasia at the altitude of 1916.20 m a. s. l. But they are not welcome guests here at this early hour. The blue-eyed Beauty gets angry; capricious and self-willed she will not bear anything to violate her privacy. High waves like wrinkles furrow her surface, rush to the shore and recede just to come with a renewed force. She is beautiful even in her fierce anger.

 Eventually she seems to calm down; the waves turn into ripple and the beams after a cold bath leave the waters. They creep on the fine sand and huge rocks like lizards for the rest of the day to watch the lake changing all shades of blue and the restless jays flying about.

The wind blowing from the hills, which hours ago filled the air with terrifying howl of wolves and shepherds dogs` furious barking, now brings smells and noises from near-bye villages, bleating and lowing of the livestock that is moving to the pastures with a cloud of dust over it. Countryside is on the go.

 But suddenly this idyll is disturbed. The harmony is breached by those few lorries that carry vegetables, fruits and meat to city markets and luxurious cars that bring holiday makers from the city. Their annoying noise reminds us of reality and of civilization which will be the object of our observation for the next few hours.

 Have you ever been to Yerevan?

The capital of Armenia, one of the oldest cities in the world whose roots go back to pre-historic times... It was established in 782 B.C. and this fact seems to make one talk of it with great respect and veneration.

 The first thing you will admire here is the existence of numerous churches. More than 16 churches and chapels, monasteries, shrines and countless khachkars (stone crosses) are in a city where about 1.300.000 people live. Official recognition of the Christianity, Armenian Apostolic Church, and the construction of the first churches dates to the 301 A.D.. Actually Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as State religion. Religion and alphabet (Armenian alphabet was invented 401-406 A.D) were the great tools for Armenians to preserve their identity during invasions and wars and allowed them to avoid assimilation.

Of exceptional importance is Matenadaran Manuscript Museum, an Institute of Scientific Research of Ancient Manuscripts, which houses a collection of more than 16.000 manuscripts including almost all spheres of Armenian ancient and medieval science and culture – History, Geography, Law, Medicine, Mathematics, Literature, Miniature and others, as well as manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, Greek, Syrian, Indian, Japanese, etc. Inseparable part of the city are its more than 20 museums, art galleries, cinemas and concert halls.

 While going around you will notice that the city is like a great architectural monument that bearing Hellenistic, Roman, Persian and Arab influences, at the same time is unique and most national. Here you may meet the past and the future - the ancient and the most modern, that perfectly live together. I guess you, not accustomed to the climate and having had an eventful day, must be a bit tired. In the North of the city, beside a cascade that falls from the top of a mountain, among huge rocks we will find an open-air restaurant. Here Armenian national cuisine will be presented with all its diversity and originality: various dishes, divine assortment of wines and oldest cognacs. The sorrowful airs of duduk (national musical instrument) interlaced with the noise of the cascade will tell you the story of a nation whose songs are the reflection of the history from immemorial times, human feelings and experience. Then you will find yourself joined in the dances, which till then were totally strange to you, sometimes vigorous like the mountains around us, and sometimes amazingly graceful and airy like the finest flowers that grow in these mountains.

 After we will have a little walk down the parks and I’ll tell you about the Educational centers located alongside the parks. Many generations have studied in these most prestigious Institutions which today host students from all over the world. In the parks on every step you will meet monuments and statues mainly to composers, famous writers, artists, architects. They know all the couples in love living in the city. They are silent witnesses to first love confessions and break-ups, tears of happiness and sobs of the broken heart. It will get darker and darker and before us the night Yerevan will be revealed: thousands of lights around with their unknown stories and mysteries. The stars that are scattered in the bottomless darkness and the mild breeze playing with the trees and bushes will put us to silence and bring thoughts of something private, something sacred to each of us.

 We won’t even notice how we have got to our host house where laid tables are waiting for us. “At this late hour?” you will think to yourself. ‘Well, nobody has managed to escape Armenian hospitality,’ as if to your question will answer smilingly the host and everything will start from the very beginning - again national dishes and drinks... But you will feel the difference: prepared at home they are exceptionally delicious. You will give toasts, try to grasp some words to sing with the others and dance to music which is already dear to your heart...

 When the time comes for you to leave the city many people will see you off as one of their closest relatives. You will be really touched and will realize that in this marvelous country of stones and churches, which is a bearer of centuries-old history and culture, the greatest value are its inhabitants, warm-hearted and hospitable. I am sure you will never forget us.

Later Davit in one of his letters mentioned half-jokingly that the article seems to have been written by an Armenian. I am only happy for that.

I am from Armenia, 27 years old, philologist of Romance and Germanic Languages.  I published my first work, actually it was a fairy tale when I was 12. Since then I am writing, mainly short stories, essays, articles, sometimes poems, most of them in my native language.

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