The Impossible Café
And other creative adventures on the streets of Yerevan
December 28, 2018 | by Anush Ter-Khachatryan
The holiday season is the perfect time to enjoy the warmth and culture of Yerevan's great museums. But if you simply walk around the city’s downtown, you'll notice that some of our most wonderful artworks require no admission fee. They're all around you.
The Impossible Café
A bus reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Knight Bus teleports you to the nostalgic atmosphere of the Soviet Union and serves coffee made by the 18th century method. This is an impossible time travel scenario which becomes possible on Parpetsi 7.
Tigran Zalinyan, the owner of StarBus Café is no less an impossible person — a swiss army of a man with six professions that include psychology and ufology who one day found a 1976 Ikarus for sale. “An old grandma,” he calls the bus, except that when he finally washed it down and dressed it up, he felt as though he was sending his kid to school. It has cozy seats and light bulbs hanging above the windows.
It has portraits of Dali, Van Gogh, Tsoy, and other artists painted on its windows. It has flowers on the tables and pictures on the walls. It’s no wonder that the café attracts both the Yerevan old-timers and the artists, tourists, and freelancers who come here to drink coffee, work, and think.
Call Me Jamalian!
A shadow stretches out over Northern Avenue and a baritone voice emerges from it with a Persian folk song. With his black jacket, white shirt, and long black hair gathered back, Yaser Jamali is a troubadour from Iran who works as a music teacher and plays his 12-year-old guitar — his first love.
Taking out a crushed phone, he raises his hand and says a few words in Farsi, waiting for Google Translate to do the rest. “Armenian music has no middle ground,” the voice says — meaning, it’s either too sad or too happy.
This feature of Armenian music had compelled Jamali since his teenage years, when he visited the Armenian community of Isfahan, Iran, and followed the labyrinths of Armenian music down its streets. As he tells his story, he looks out over the avenue with a smile that can’t be translated. He tells me that he’d like to sing Armenian one day, and he begins playing a Persian folk song.
We are the Street Art
Artak Gevorgyan is sitting on a bench, wrapped in his orange-blue coat. He’s telling me about Counterattack, the community of street artists he co-founded in 2012 and for which has helped write a manifesto. The 26-year-old isn’t interested in portraying cute, yellow sunflowers and aestheticizing the walls. In fact he says he’s been arrested many times over the years for covering walls with images containing political messages.
The first work of street art was in response to the police beating of activists near the Khnko Aper Library. You can’t see it there now. Within a few hours of its creation, the police wiped it clean. Artak’s artworks have short life expectancy. They influence people, raise questions in their minds, and then evaporate within a few hours.
“All one needs for street art is a couple of thousand drams to print posters — and glue to stick them on the wall. The former we may borrow from friends, the latter we can make from flour. So, in fact all we need is us, because if you think about it, we are the street art.”
Anush Ter-Khachatryan is a writer living in Yerevan.
Stefano Corazzin is an Italian photographer currently living in Yerevan.