Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Off to 'Lavash' Armenia

Early in July I received a call from Brussels asking me if I'd be interested to travel to Armenia as part of a European Neighbourhood Policy seminar organised by the European Journaliam Centre and the European Commission. The focus: Trade Flows and Internal Security in Armenia. Maybe you can guess what my answer was.

The last time I was in Armenia was more than 20 years ago... I was travelling with my parents through the Caucasus. First stop was Tbilisi and then we made our way to Yerevan. I vividly remember visiting the local market - the vendors were so much friendlier than in Moscow, where we were living at that time. I can still picture the zesty lemons and colourful exotic fruits I had missed for years in the Russian capital.

Of course it was not the West, and of course it was difficult to find anything but the typical Soviet era state run restaurants. Let's just say they were always slightly rundown, cold and deserted, staffed by grumpy waitresses wearing ugly uniforms and bad makeup, and decorated in bad taste 60's furniture and curtains that hadn't been washed for years. Does anyone know that sort of very distinctive Soviet smell?

As a 12-year old I was not a big fan of Russian cuisine, but I remember my enthusiasm for Armenian food and particularly lavash - a thin, paper-like bread they served us with vegetables. Yummy!!

So, of course there was little hesitation in saying "yes, let's go to Armenia!". And well, what about the European Neighbourhood Policy? What was that all about again? Ok, maybe it hasn't gripped my attention but with the ongoing crisis in the Caucasus there's no better time to be in the region looking at European foreign policy.


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