like a barn, Avan Marak offers creature comfort.|
reach the village of Tsapatagh over a bumpy road far from the crowded peninsula
that is the stopping point for most tourists to Lake Sevan.
On that distant
eastern shore poplars wave a greeting in the quiet breeze of a quiet settlement.
And there, against the shade of a mountain painted by wildflowers, a red
tile roof draws the eye to an unexpected structure surely made for another place.
on closer inspection under that roof a visitor finds the luxurious Avan Marak
hotel surprisingly at place amid the barns and small homes of its neighborhood.
is a village known for its advantageous climate (compared to other village settlements).
"We even grow apricots here," one villager said proudly, pointing out
that many lake-side villages don't have a long enough season even for apples.
it was its very scenic seclusion that attracted the Tufenkian Company to Tsapatagh
to open the second of its "Heritage" hotels. (The first, Avan Villa,
opened two years ago in the Nork district of Yerevan.)
For most travelers
in Armenia, a trip to Lake Sevan means going to the peninsula. But to reach Tsapatagh
from Yerevan, the popular peninsula is only half way. Another 65 kilometers farther
- away from crowded beaches with new hotels and those held over from Soviet times
- Avan Marak embarks on a path of its own, moving far from its competition in
terms of location, design, and attitude to customer service.
The 34 rooms
of Avan Marak (ranging in price from $45 to $120) follow the motif of hand-crafted
comfort that is becoming a Tufenkian (www.tufenkian.am)
trademark in Armenia.
Here, guests in Tsapatagh Avan Marak's hot tub or
swimming pool might see a shepherd leading cattle through a field, just steps
from the life of luxury. President Robert Kocharyan stopped in for a short visit
earlier this month and called Avan Marak "a masterpiece; a place where you
can feel like you're in paradise".
For all its relative extravagance
(compared to its surroundings) however, the hotel and the village share a complementary
Owner James Tufenkian's goal was not merely to create an escape
for those who can afford it, but to also create opportunities for the villagers
of Tsapatagh. (Tufenkian first started doing business in Armenia in 1993, with
three employees. Today his various enterprises - including a carpet and furniture
design showroom and a construction company - employ 1,700.)
The hotel staff
consists of 30 employees, from which 25 are Tsapatagh locals. At least one member
of each family from the village has a job at the hotel.
pool with a view . . ..
Further, the hotel's
restaurant (intentionally placed a short walk from the hotel, so that guests mingle
with villagers on the way) buys produce and cheese from Tsapatagh farmers, who
previously had to send their goods to Charentsevan for selling.
is an exceptional example of patriotism," says villager Grisha Mirzoyan.
"He never shouts that he loves his native country. He doesn't hang a picture
of Masis over his bed but he does his work improving his country and life of his
Built in the same general shape of a nearby barn, Avan
Marak is constructed from Sevan rocks. The interior features carpets, lamps, tables,
fixtures and even trash cans all specially made by the Tufenkian team.
the room keys maintain a rough-hewn but elegant attitude, attached by pieces of
frayed wool to heavy iron squares into which the room number is carved.
creative idea of an architect lies in being able to influence people's feelings
through small components and details," says chief architect Hrachia Poghosyan
(creator of several Yerevan landmarks, including the Concert and Sport Complex).
devotion to detail is apparent in the hotel's 120-seat Zanazan restaurant. Showcasing
an unhindered view of the lake, the restaurant is equal parts medieval dining
hall and New York City (Tufenkian's home) elegance.
The menu utilizes fresh,
locally-grown ingredients to prepare traditional Armenian cuisine, but with occasional
Avan Marak is in the peak of its first season, and already
Yerevan diners are making the four-hour roundtrip just to enjoy the restaurant
and its view.
Public relations manager Lilit Hakobyan says the company plans
to specialize in providing wedding receptions. The first, in fact, took place
earlier this month, hosting 170 guests.