For twenty days home was a Soviet era flat in the heart of Yerevan. Fully furnished with the owners beds, couches, appliances, portraits, clothes, food, and even a toothbrush. Not exactly what you expect to move into when you rent an apartment. The owner even had 2 of the refrigerators and all 3 of the freezers full of fish for an upcoming family wedding. Half of a wardrobe had been cleared for Gor and I to share.
I got the impression that this is not an uncommon practice. It felt as if the owner had decided that it was more profitable to clear out half a closet and go live with a relative for the month she rented us the flat. I have to wonder if that is not exactly what happened.
It is odd to live in someone else’s home while they are not there. It was nice, in a way, not to move into a sterilized, newly painted, undecorated, apartment bereft of personality. At the least, the person whose apartment we moved into was very friendly, and even asked if we needed her to clear more space for the two of us.
Though the decoration was not exactly to my taste, there was a definite feeling of rightness, and authenticity to it. Basically, I am trying to say that my flat was not so flat. It definitely had a personality. It was the type of place where you could let your imagination run free, picturing the people who lived there, and what life must have been like for them.
The appliances were miniature versions of what you would find in the US. The refrigerator (all 3 of them) was a cross between your ANSI standard American Frigidaire ™ and the mini bar you can find in any Marriott ™ around the globe. The stove was a miniature 4 burner, about half the size of the 50’s era behemoth we use here at the dojo. The microwave, what the hell is a microwave? No one I visited owned a microwave. The same can be said about a dishwasher, though small ones were more common than microwaves.
We did have a washing machine for clothes, but it had a double roll compression style hand wringer (think two rolling pins that you roll clothes through to get out excess water). The dryer consisted of several clothes lines outside the bedroom balcony and a bucket of clothes pins. I opted for hand washing, as I just didn’t feel figuring out how to use the washer would be worth the effort.
Water was another interesting facet of my flat’s personality. There are some flats in Yerevan that enjoy running water 24 hours a day. Mine was not one of them. As far as I could tell (I wasn’t generally in the flat all day), there was running water for about an hour in the morning, a few hours spread over the course of the day, and again for about an hour at night. When the water ran, it filled a 1.5 ton tank that we had in the building for our own use. This tank also doubled as our water heater, which we generally left off. If one of us remembered, we would switch it on before going to bed so that there would be hot water for a shower in the morning. Hot, not warm, hot. There was no way to regulate the temperature of the water. Gor and I discovered that if one of us went first, and the water happened to be running, filling up the tank as we emptied it, by the time the second person was ready for a shower, the temperature would be just right. This happened maybe 4 times for each of us, but after awhile, you got used to the piping hot water.
No description of my flat would be complete without mention of the elevator and staircase needed to reach it. Picture a dimly lit, narrow, staircase sharing real estate with a tiny elevator. Turn off the light, squeeze the walls a little tighter together. Now you are starting to get the idea. If you are brave enough, and the elevator isn’t stuck somewhere, a frequent occurence, step inside. Feel the walls pressing in around you as the doors slam shut. Stand in the center, reach out, touch all four walls at the same time. Notice that you cannot fully extend your arms. Press 8. There are only 10 floors in my building, but the numbers in the elevator go to 18. If you push a button higher than 10, you are braver than I; please let me know what happens. If, at this point, the claustrophobia inducing coffin someone mislabeled “elevator” decides to move, you will be unable to tell which way it is moving. Up, down, left, right, at times I swear it was spinning in circles.
If by some stroke of good luck, you called the elevator and it was stuck, you could navigate the perilous staircase. If it also happened to be after sunset, I hope you will have remembered your flashlight, as the lighting leaves something to be desired. If you manage to make it to the 8th floor, Gor and I will be waiting for you with a nice shot of excellent Armenian Cognac. A well deserved treat.
Overall, my flat was a very nice place which perfectly suited my needs while staying in Yerevan. It was centrally located, provided the necessary amenities, and at $400.00 US a month, was a great deal. It would be considered a bit expensive when compared to other flats in Yerevan, but was definitely worth the premium.
More Pictures of my flat