Suitcase and World: Last Views of Yerevan. The Cascade.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Last Views of Yerevan. The Cascade.

View of Yerevan, looking towards the Opera Theatre, from the 2nd tier of The Cascade.

Pat and I started our last day in Yerevan (and Armenia) with breakfast at a small cafe called Crumbs, located on Mashtots Avenue, maybe about 50 feet away from our apartment.  It's a nice little place.  We had stepped inside yesterday and decided this would be a nice place for a light meal.

We just ordered tea and some pastries.  Nothing fancy as I told Pat, we'll be meeting up with Arshak, Anush and Gurgen later today for a meal at their place.  I am expecting a lot of food!!  That is the Armenian way.  Actually, I think that is the Caucasian way.  We've really been treated to a lot of heartfelt hospitality on this trip!

After breakfast, we decided to make our way back to the small handicrafts shop, Salt Sack, that Gurgen had taken us to a few days ago.  I knew exactly how to get back there.  We arrived pretty much at when the sign, hanging on the door, said the shop would be open but the doors were locked and the place was dark inside.  I told her perhaps we were just a bit too early so we would have to come back later.

In the meantime, I had wanted to pick up and SD card reader.  Last night, Gurgen had wanted to upload the photos I had taken onto his laptop but I didn't have a reader with me which usually I do.  We scrambled through his collection of cables (seems like everyone has a cable collection these days) to see he had one that we could use to hard wire my Nikon to his laptop but no luck.  So, I decided to buy a card for him.  It was also a good excuse to get us wandering about town.

I fired up Google and looked for a computer parts store.  Lo and behold, I found one just a few blocks from Salt Sack.  Usually Pat navigates but this time I led the way.

As we approached our destination, I saw another small computer shop open for business.  Might as well check it out.  Inside, I told the salesman what I wanted and he led me to a cabinet with several readers.  I asked him to describe each and then I picked on.  The reader ended up only costing 2500 dram - very cheap.  As I paid for the reader, I just prayed it would work long enough for us to complete the transfer of the God only knows how many photos I have taken in my short visit to Armenia!

I was happy to have the card with me so it was back to see if Salt Sack was no open for business.  The open front door was the answer we were looking for.  When we were here with Gurgen, I had spotted a tile, with the design of a pomegranate on it, that I liked.  I had told myself that if it was still here today, I would buy it - that would be my only souvenir from Armenia.  So, I made a beeline for where it hung the other day and there it was!  I gleefully asked the sales girl to take it down so I could have a closer look at it.  She showed me some other tiles, of the exact same design, but in a different color pattern.  I decided I liked my tile so I bought it.  Pat ended up getting the same tile but in another color.  We are once again twins :-)

We decided to head back to the apartment to drop off our purchases.  On the way, we stopped inside another souvenir shop - this one specializing in handicrafts from Artsakh.  Since we really didn't have time to shop for souvenirs from the region when we were there, this was a chance for us to may be pick up something.  Unfortunately, the stuff they had was not interesting at all.  I don't know if the selection was indicative of the handicrafts of Artsakh but there was nothing appealing to me.  Not surprisingly, there were a few politically inspired pieces as well.  Those I was certain I would not purchase.  My souvenir collection is as apolitical as I am.  I have way too many friends from all parts of the world so I will not display something that I think will upset someone.  That's not what my home is about.

It was a quick stop in the apartment before we headed out to The Cascade Complex.  With Gurgen, we just made a quick stroll through the sculpture garden.  Today, we wanted to visit the art museum itself.

The Cascade was originally conceived by architect Alexander Tamanyan to be a large artificial waterfall tumbling down from atop the hill where a large monument commemorating 50 years of Soviet rule now stands.  Construction began in the 1980's but The Cascade was left unfinished at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  In 2001, American born philanthropist and art collector Gerard L. Cafesjian, who is of Armenian descent, took over the project. Since then the vast concrete structure has been cleaned, the escalators through its core repaired and hundreds of flower beds planted.

The Cascade became the site of the Cafesjian Center for the Arts that opened in 2009.  The majority of the Center's starting collection were works that came from the private collection of Gerard Cafesjian.

Fernando Botero's unmistable style can be seen in Mujer Fumando un Cigarrillo (Woman Smoking a Cigarette), 1987 bronze.

A bit of whimsy with a bright blue bird.  Peter Woytuk's "Kiwi", 2011, aluminum.

We started our visit walking up the outside steps to the first tier.  The fountain jets were still today and the pools were empty.    I had to imagine what it would all look like when everything is in full operation.  On a hot summer's day, this would be the perfect place to come and sit next to the cool spray of the water.  Today, I just admired the art.  How I wish I was a millionaire so I could afford to have my own world class art collection.  One day.

"The Visitor" by David Breuer-Weil, bronze, commissioned by Gerard L. Cafesjian for installation at the Cascade Complex.

François-Xavier Lalanne's "Carpe (Très Grande)", 2000, bronze.

We then entered the building and took the escalator up to the next level.

There were more art pieces displayed on tiered platforms next to the escalators.

On the left, Maylee Christie's "Giant Orchid", 2010, mosaic glass, ceramic and semi-precious stones.

Then it was back outside and the first piece that greeted me was this one below.  Hard as I have been able to Google, I have not been able to identify the artist or the name of the piece.

My lion.  Yes.  Can you believe he's covered in bits and pieces made from tires?

"Lion 2" by Korean artist Ji Yong-Ho, 2008, stainless steel and tires.

Another piece that I fell in love with.  It's modern and simple but one look at it and I see Armenia.

Back inside to another set of escalators and more art.

Can you tell the chair caught my eye?  I had to take a closer look.  It's all beaded.

Straight to the terrace and a view of the fountain jets.  Just about the most beautiful jets I've ever seen.  A shame they weren't on today.

You can see Armenia in the wings of the bird - the pomegranates and grapes.

Yes, the art was amazing but the view of the city was nothing to scoff at.

Modern khachkars.  These are pretty but I prefer the ancient ones.

Back inside and up to the next level.  At the bottom of the tier of platforms stood the first sculpture that I just could not appreciate.  I think it's intended to be humorous but I found it oddly creepy.  Not my cup of tea.

In the foreground, an untitled sculpture by Yue Minjun, 20th century.

Up to the top level and outside to the terrace where the three drivers graced the pool.

"Three Divers" by David Martin

From the upper terrace, we had to walk up one last flight of steps to get to this view of the city.

Our apartment is just to the upper right of the patch of green, Saryan Park,on the left side of the photo.  That's how close we are to The Cascade.

Past the upper section was a construction site.  Apparently it has not been touched since the Soviets abandoned it in 1990.  It's an eyesore.  If the Yerevan city planners are not wanted to build up the site, they should remove all the construction stuff.  In any case, looking up to the top of the hill, we saw a tall pillar topped with what looked like a gold leaf (it's actually a gold feather).  That's the monument dedicated to the 50th Anniversary of Soviet Armenia.  Armenia officially became a Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922 so I am guessing that this monument was erected in 1972.

We made our way around the construction, which was fenced off, walking up a neighborhood street.  From there, we managed to find a set of steps leading up to the monument.  It was all pretty run down.  In fact, looking at the first set of steps, I wasn't even sure they were safe for us to be on!

At the top of the stairs was a large terrace area.  At one end was the pillar.

From here, we really had a wonderful view of the city.  I would say this would be the only reason to come here as there is not much else to see.

You can see the construction site just below; the sculpture garden of the Cascade and city of Yerevan beyond ,and Mount Ararat in the far distance.

There was also  a low-lying rectangular building that is supposedly a monument dedicated to the victims of Stalin. 

The doors were locked so we could only peer inside one door.  I have no idea what that column is in the middle.  If I had to guess, I would say it was stele.

There was a small park area with a few sculptures displayed.

More work from Cafesjian including a very whimsical boat sculpture titled,"Ahoy" by Paul Cox, 2002. 

After I got back to our apartment, I decided to look up more information about the monument - I was curious to learn more about what we had just see.  As  hard as I could to search for information about it on the web, I pretty much came up empty handed.  There are barely any images of it either.   It was very odd.  I was sure that someone would have written something about this place but there was nothing.  Perhaps, it's in Russian and therefore did not come up on my English language Google search.  Or perhaps,  while Armenia cannot deny that it was once a Soviet Socialist Republic, they would really rather not dwell much on it that chapter in their history.  So, for historic reasons, they will not dismantle this site but they don't want to pay it much mind either.

Here are some stats on The Cascade and the monument:
  • Number of steps - 572
  • Distance from the bottom to the top of The Cascade: 302 meters ( 991 feet)
  • Distance from the bottom to the top of the monument terrace: 450 meters (1476 feet)
  • Width: 50 meters (164 feet)
  • Height of unfinished section: 78 meters (256 feet)

We backtracked to the museum.  On our way down, I got a nice view of the Mother of Armenia statue which was sculpted by Sergey Merkurov.  She stands atop a pedestal designed by architect Rafayel Israyelian.  This monument to Armenia, which was unveiled in 1950, stands in Victory Park which we did not walk over to.  On my next trip to Yerevan :-)

Back inside the Cafesjian Center for the Arts, we took all the escalators down to the lowest level where there was a large room and a single, very large painting hanging on the wall.  I know that Gerard Cafesjian's collection included paintings as well as glass but I never saw any signs pointing to exhibition rooms.  It was very odd.  We needed a map.

We ended at the lower level entrance to the museum.  Opposite the reception desk was a small educational area for children and the museum shop.  We did a bit of window shopping.  The items for sale were very nice but pricey. 

Hanging on the wall, opposite to the childrens area was a large glass piece by Dale Chihuly - there are several pieces in the museum's collection.  I tried to take a photo of it but the patrolling security guard said, "No photo".  I didn't understand why as you were allowed to take photos of the rest of the museum's collection and most certainly there are plenty of images of Chihuly's work.  I've taken quite a few myself.  If I was a millionaire, Chihuly would be on the top of my list of artists to commission works from.  I absolutely love his work!

So, I stood outside the door and with my zoom lens, snuck a photo of the piece.

Dale Chihuly, Cafesjian Persians, 20th century, blown glass.

It was lunchtime by the time we exited the doors of the museum.  We settled on one of the restaurants situated alongside the sculpture garden.  After weeks of eating meat, I settled on a salad for lunch.  Okay, I know that Armenia is nowhere near the sea so having shrimp might not have been the best choice but I really needed a change from meat.  My salad was very refreshing and pretty tasty.  The meal was very reasonably priced by US standards and it was lovely to be able to dine outside.

Citrus and shrimp salad.

We had a few hours to just relax before Gurgen would be back to pick us up for dinner.   We were headed back to the family home for one last meal.  I'm looking forward to spending our last hours in Armenia with a family that I've grown very fond of.

From The Cascade, we made our way back to Saryan Park and then to the apartment.  

Saryan Park.