It’s hard to believe that my time in the Motherland, at least for this round, is almost up. Only one month left before I return to the Midwestern Megapolis to finish up this seemingly never ending writing project that I’ve started. It is really going to be hard to leave Russia. As crazy as this place is, I find, after living here on and off over the course of seven years, that I really love the craziness and the complexities. And yes, I even enjoy the absurdity and the paradox. That is, when they are not driving me nuts.
I recently made one last post-Soviet expedition to Yerevan, Armenia to hunt down some paintings that I needed to have a look at for work. The trip was a success on many counts. I found the paintings I was hoping to see and was granted permission to photograph them. We were able to do some sightseeing outside the city, traveling to Geghard Monastery, which contains the remains of an early Christian cave church and to Khor Virap, a church on a hill adjacent to Mount Ararat and within spitting distance of the modern day heavily patrolled and highly disputed border with Turkey. And to top it all off, Yerevan is just a lovely city, filled with pink and red sandstone architecture. The streets are clean and tidy. The people are friendly and are eager to tell foreign visitors about their country, its history, and its cultural highlights. And…wait for it…wait for it…Yerevan is the most ACCESSIBLE city that I have ever visited in the Former Soviet Union. Yes. It is accessible. The sidewalks are wide and paved with smooth stones that are easy to navigate on foot and would be easy to roll over in a wheelchair. There are appropriately engineered ramps and curb-cuts at every corner, easy to walk or wheel up and down. And in case you don’t notice them at first glance, the Yerevan city government has placed the little ‘handicapped’ icon at wheelchair eye-level on every single crosswalk signal. Also and in general, most public buildings seem to have ramped entries and actual working elevators. I was so impressed and excited to see all of these earnest attempts at accessibility that I kept enthusiastically pointing them out to my friend S., who lives in Tbilisi and who made the trip with me. She too has traveled quite a bit in the Former Soviet Union and had to admit that Yerevan was impressively accessible in comparison to most other places. My only regret is that I wasn’t able, due to rainy fall weather, to take more photographs of all this exciting infrastructure. With or without specific pictures, Yerevan deserves some serious praise for its efforts. Thank you Yerevan, for working to make your city and its culture easily available to everyone.