Yerevan and around

Trip Start Sep 19, 2009
Trip End Oct 10, 2009

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Flag of Armenia  ,
Sunday, September 20, 2009

I arrived to Yerevan International Airport at around 4am - I didn't think about it when I bought my tickets, but it is not a nice time to arrive in a new country. The visa thing was made very easy at the airport, one just has to pay around 8€ and fill in a form and thats it. But besides that, I was totally exhousted and didn't know where to go, I wasn't well prepared. But then I found a friendly local family coming back from Russia, and they offered my a ride to downtown Yerevan. Or so I thought, they ended up asking me a lot more money than a taxi would have cost. I paid it and felt a bit ripped off. But fortunately, that was the first and last time anything like that happened to me during my trip. And the trip was going to continue for almost three weeks. Alone.  

I ended up going to the only hostel in Yerevan - and in whole Armenia - which was called Hostel Envoy. Obviously, as it was around 5am, they didn't give me a bad (they didnt have) so I just slept in their couch for a few hours, for free. The staff was really nice and the hostel was probably the cleanest one I have ever seen, and quite cheap, although a bit more expensive than popular home accommodations. I recommend that hostel to everyone! The location is excellent, only a few blocks away from Freedom Square and from Republic Squeare, right in the heart of Yerevan. The hostel also organizes free tours in Yerevan and for charge it organizes very, very nice day trips around the Armenia - its a small country, you can see all the main attractions by daytripping from Yerevan. That is, of course, except Nagorno-Karabah, but you need a separate visa to get there anyway.

After sleeping a few hours I went around wondering in the capital. It was different to any other city I have ever been to - it was not beautiful, it was really sleepy, but very interesting and fascinating. Almost all of the houses were kind of red due to the material they have used which can be found all around Armenia. Yerevan doesn't seem like an old city, although it is, because almost everything there is now was built in the soviet era. It is a really compact and clear city, and walking around and getting to places was easy from the first moment. I checked the two main squares that defines the city centre (Opera Square and Republic Square), went for a dinner to some weird western place, had a few beers and went to sleep. All in all, the first day in Armenia gave me the impression that I really like the country!

The next day in the morning I had a first try of the famous Armenian coffee. Its basically turkish coffee from an even smaller cup. Its ok but I definitely prefer a big cup of filtered coffee! After my morning time in the hostel I took a subway to the genocide memorial monument some kilometers away from the center. Over 100 years ago the turkish killed over a million armenians - they wanted to get rid of the christians from the way of an islamic empire - and that is very much a popular topic in Armenia still. Its a big part of ther identity and it gives them a sence of belonging together. Armenians are a really proud and strong nation, not least because of this genocide. Turkey still doesn't officially admit the genocide, and that is the reason why there still are no diplomatic relations between these two countries and the borders remain totally close. You can still sea to Turkey from Yerevan, as Ararat mountain, clearly visible from the city, is part of Turkey now although it is the center and heart of armenian culture. Those bastards - that's the attitude of armenians towards turks.

The subway in Yerevan is really interesting (see pictures). Horrible soviet stations, but really cheap, safe and reliable. Although theres only one line and altogether some 10 stops. The closest thing to a shopping mall in whole Armenia is shops gathered around some metro stations - I found that really weird in a seemingly international city of more than one million inhabitants! It took me some time before I found the genocide memorial, but it was all worth it. Mainly because of the magnificent views you get from the hill! There was also an interesting (and free) genocide museum with lots of information. It really was a horrible thing what happened to these poor people. And thats the reason why there still are four times more armenians living around the world than in Armenia! They fleed!

After checking the memorial site I took a nice long walked along the riverbank back to city center. Its was a nice way to see the city - up from the bottom of the "canyon". Then I went to Parajanov home museum, which was not that interesting, but apparently one of the best museums in the city. Well, maybe it is interesting if you know something about this Parajanov dude. I enjoyed walking around the city the rest of the day. I have never seen as much cafes and teraces in a city before, those were everywhere! Yerevan really is a cafe city, it beats Paris hands down. I also found one of the most interesting churches I have ever seen - in the middle of soviet buildings there is a tiny church built about 1500 years ago, looking really alien in the surroundings (see picture). Somehow this tiny church survived the soviet church destructions, thank God. There are only a few churches in the city of Yerevan, although it is the capital of the first Christian nation on earth.

Yerevan is a nice city. Laid back, stylish and fun. Easy to manage. Lots of things to do, if you care to look for them. It was a positive surprise, because all the things I had heard were not that good. And above all, it is really really safe, making wondering around really enjoyable.

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