When we compare Yerevan to Tbilisi, we are quite surprise how different from each other are both capitals. Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, was chaotic and noisy and much more dirty (especially in non-touristy places) but the capital of Armenia, Yerevan… I couldn’t believe that we’re still in Caucasus and not back in Europe!
The first thing that we notice is the traffic. Drivers really abide by the road rules and keep to their side of the road. And nobody uses a horn so the streets seem to be more calm than in Tbilisi. We are shocked. Literally. And the types of cars also surprise us – there are no Lada or Volga here, only Mercedes, Audi, Volvo… Some of them had dark windows. Can it be that the citizens of Yerevan create themselves to mafia wannabe? And people wear more stylish clothes, not so… hmm… tawdry. And women are so well-cared and they make only an unobtrusive make-up that emphasise their original and exotic beauty! I don’t feel being on the East anymore, the atmosphere of the city is so European!
The population of Armenia is about 3.5 million. The third part of Armenians live in Yerevan – here are universities, perspectives better than in smaller towns or countrysides. So young people look for their chances right here (if not abroad).
That’s why Yerevan still grows. Doesn’t matter where you look, you’ll probably spot a crane or construction site. The city is old but seems so new. It’s so socialist but at the same time colourful and pretty and not so concrete and grey. It’s because of the building material – the pink tuff (volcanic stone) – which is used here on every building. Since the beginning of rebuilding the city for Armenians that were coming back to Yerevan from other countries.
In 1828 Eastern Armenia became a part of Russian Empire (it was a result of war between Turkey and Russia and original Armenian lands were at that time under control of other countries). It was a signal for many Armenians to move to Yerevan because in Turkey and Syria their were often persecuted. But that time Yerevan was a small town (15.000 people) with tiny earthenware houses. Stright away there were made a plan of rebuilding the town for the raising population. In the centre the New District (Nor Tagh) was built with typical Armenian architecture. In 1910 the population was already 30.000 people.
In 1920 Alexander Tamanian became the main architect. Armenia was already one of the republics of Soviet Union so it’s easy to imagine that since that moment all the buildings should be in socialist style. Tamanian had an idea to create a garden city with wide streets filled with trees and parks. He didn’t want to change the New District but many other historic buildings were destroyed (like medieval churches). In that period of time the pink tuff was used plentiful, which made Yerevan the most colourful socialist city.
Unfortunately, Yerevan today is not the same like during Soviet Era. There are still wide streets with trees, but Nor Tagh is being regularly destroyed and replaced by modern pink blocks of flats and offices. Many parks have been cut out during the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, because the energy in Yerevan was blocked and people had to heat their flats somehow so they used trees from parks. Not all of them have been renewed, in some empty parcels new blocks have been built. In some places also people began to open new cafes and restaurant so the city slowly started to live again. Nowadays there is a lot of parks, cafes and restaurants in the city (less than during Soviet Union but still a lot!) so the city seems to be so fresh and lively. I just fell in love with Yerevan!
There is not too many historical sites in the city but some of them you should not miss:
– take a look of Mount Ararat above Yerevan from the Cascade,
– visit the Matenadaran, the museum of manuscripts (on of the most important aspect of Armenian culture),
– visit the Tsitsernakaberd, Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museumis commemorating the agony of about 1.5 million of Armenians in 1915-1922,
– stroll around the ruins of Erebuni Fortress, that was built in 782 BC and is regarded as the first and the oldest part of Yerevan (which is not exactly the truth but still it would make Yerevan 30 years olders than Rome so some of Armenian historians maintain this theory).
In my opinion, Yerevan is an amazing city, well-cared and so different from Caucasian East. I regret that I spent there only 3 days and I really need to visit it again! Just to have a drink in one of the cafes and take a walk around it in the evening when it’s cooler and all the people of Yerevan enjoys their life. I just want to savour this unique atmosphere of the city. It’s like on the East, but mentally so Western!
Have you ever been to one of Caucasus countries (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbeijan)? If yes, did you like it? Or would you like to go there someday? How do you like Yerevan?