Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mt Ararat is really a mountain

Ok, that really sounds nuts; I thought it was an international chain of Armenian restaurants.
Every city I have lived in seemed to have an Armenian restaurant called Mt Ararat.
I wonder if there is a real McDonalds somewhere.

We went to Yerevan in Armenia for a week, did a presentation there at the American University of Armenia. Haig, a great friend of mine teaches advertising and marketing there three months a year. Like a good Diaspora Armenian he lives in Glendale California, pretty much the capital of the Diaspora Armenian community.

 We had a great week. People were great, friendly and very open and knowledgeable. I found out to my great surprise that Mt Ararat, which you can see perfectly clearly from all parts of Yerevan, is in Turkey. OK, I should have known that, but I didn’t, never occurred to me that it would not be in Armenia.

Armenia is a country, where you can see the hand of the Soviet Union all over it; after all they were under it for 70 years. It has its seeming good side as well as its horrible side. The capital, Yerevan is beautifully laid out, wide avenues, tree lined, ending up in large squares with museums, elegant buildings, opera houses etc…a very cultured people in a cultured looking city. The ugly soviet style apartment buildings dotted through out the country are about as unimaginably ugly and dreary as possible.

Throughout the soviet hand, the good and the bad, ancient Armenia comes through and dazzles, and so does post soviet Armenia.

 There are huge private residences and new churches, cathedral sized that have been built by the oligarchs, huge pretentious mansions in the middle of some dreary countryside…battle of egos, really horrific.

A little about my presentation, Haig, a dear friend that has worked with me in three countries at least invited me to speak about my 40 years in international advertising in over 10 countries. The audience was his graduate students, the US ambassador, members of the university staff, members of the business community, all in all about 200 people.

My wife Jeannine and my daughter Justine, who flew over from NY, for my presentation, were there as well. I suspect my daughter was there to tell our other kids, “Dad was a dud in Armenia.”

The truth is I was really proud that she came to see me present.

I have not presented to a group in over 12 years, I was really nervous about it and wanted it to be a success for many reasons.

It was a success or maybe Armenians are really polite, especially to Greek Americans. They even did the wave for me when it was over; actually, I asked them to do it, although the second wave was sort of spontaneous.

If you go to Gregory Birbil on You Tube you can watch it, by the way, the one labeled part 1 is really part 2. Armenian logic.

I wonder if there is a restaurant on Mt Ararat called Mt Ararat.



  1. Yerevan, Yerevan...Fond memories of a place I only ever dreamed of seeing but never thought I would actually experience....It's good to have Armenian friends cause then you have a reason to visit....This was a special trip though and before Greg's presentation our dear friend Haig took us by the hand, well really in a big SUV with his friend Kevork at the wheel and proudly showed us all the meaningful places both in the city and out into the country side ..What an experience...Ancient places, sacred places and archaic churches and monasteries; one of my favorites was the impressive 13th century Geghard monastery a part of which was hewn out of the rock like formations surrounding the place and Etchmiadzin Cathedral (309AD) center of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Armenia and one of the oldest churches in the world... the marvelous unexpected collections of rare maps, documents, and extraordinary illuminated manuscripts at the Manuscript Museum, the fascinating artists we met and at whose homes we dined, their wonderful hospitality always warm and friendly, I can still conjure up the tastes and aromas of the delicious meals we had always accompanied by plates of crisp fresh herbs, cheeses, Lavash, humus dips, thick yogurt dips, dolma, (veg stuffed with meat and rice) grilled fish, by the lake and traditional grilled meats in town....an experience I
    treasure will be with me always...
    On April 24th of this year 2015 will be the 100th anniversary of the the Armenian Genocide and will be celebrated by Armenians world wide and it should be known that under the cover of WWI, the Ottoman Empire committed a terrible crime annihilating 1.5 million Armenians living in Anatolia and Asia Minor, their ancestral homelands for millennia.
    This was followed later by systematically attempting to cleanse Asia Minor of its non-Muslim peoples ( Greeks and Syrians, etc) through exile and death marches.....
    Armenians have much to celebrate, they are survivors with a rich historic past looking forward....As for Mt. Ararat it will always be part of the Armenian spirit .even though it is so near and yet so far away....

  2. Far from being a dud, it was amazing to see you doing what you love. It was a last minute trip but thanks to Kevork and Haig it became a jam packed adventure. A weasel wedding hood ornament, a spontaneous hug from a young teenage boy in his members-only jacket, being dressed in brocade before dinner just for fun, a church carved in the mountain, green thyme soda.
    Where's the next lecture dad. Sign me up