If the post title had not given the answer away, I might pose the question, “Where was this photo taken?” A cosmopolitan square in summer filled with people enjoying the late afternoon hours…could be almost anywhere. It is, of course, Republic Square in Yerevan.
Our hotel was but a block from the square, though on my solo sightseeing day I had wandered afar and thought it would be fun to take Metro back toward the square. (Plus, my iPhone was registering a blistering 35° and I was rather wilted.) A ride on Yerevan’s Metro costs 100 dram (€0,20) so I walked up to the ticket counter, held up two fingers, handed the clerk a 1000 note and said, “Сласиьо” (“Thank you,” in Russian). She handed me two pink tokens and my change, with the same Epic Eye Roll that Anna Grace and I experienced at Moscow Airport’s Passport Control. Darn. On the city bus tour and while sitting for lunch I had been mistaken for a Russian Frau and thought I could pull the token request off. Ticket Lady had hurt my feelings.
There had to be English signs somewhere on the Metro platform (right?); I must have overlooked them. Thankfully that A+ I earned a hundred years ago in my Freshman year Russian class paid off; I could identify the Russian word for “Republic” on the directional signs!
The two subway stations through which I transited were in the classic Soviet style, but more on the “classic” and not so much on the “Soviet.” Station names were in Armenian and Russian, as to be expected. Elegant, I thought.
I somehow raised the ire of the Caboose Monitor (?) when I snapped this photo, and she said something to me in Armenian that could only be interpreted one way. Oops.
Though the pink sandstone architecture characteristic of Yerevan was abundant, so, too, were the leftovers from Armenia’s days as part of the Soviet Union. There’s just not enough gussying up possible to fix this ugly.
Back to the sandstone. Much prettier, of course, especially with the military equipment rehearsing for Armenia’s Independence Day celebration this month.
Yerevan offers visitors a two-hour* (*or longer, depending on traffic) bus tour of the city. The notion of trying to experience an almost 3.000 year old city in two hours is impossible, of course, but I have to write that the mere 3000 dram (€6) ticket was money well spent. The bus was driven by a charming elderly man who went above and beyond to make certain each and every passenger was comfortable and had an optimal viewing spot on the double-decker bus. He escorted me to the upper level, offered to hold my tote while I got seated, and then set up my audio guide…in Russian. Once he discovered that I spoke English, he pulled out a fabulous city map and outlined the route with his finger, then motioned for me to put the map in my tote. I noted that he did not offer the other passengers maps. Must be my Russian charm.
Promptly we began the tour. In between explanations Armenian music played; since this was my first ever city bus tour (we’re not Hop-On Hop-Off fans) I do not know if music is common, though I really liked it. Our first stop was the Armenian Genocide Memorial. The spire represents the rebirth of Armenia; the circle at the other end of the park is constructed of 12 segments with an eternal flame in the middle; each segment represents one of the Armenian provinces taken by Turkey. The downside of the tour was that we did not stop here for close-up photos, and before I knew it the remainder of the day had escaped me and I did not return.
Much attention on the tour was given to memorials and sights of great Armenian pride, including Erebuni Fortress. The fortress dates to 782 BC, and is considered to be the birthplace of Yerevan. The fortress and site was opened in 1968, in time to wish Yerevan a, “Happy 2750th Birthday!” Again, the downside of a bus tour was the inability to stop and visit.
The bus driver may have been charming, but his driving style and the hills we climbed up and down had me feeling a little woozy on the top deck, so I moved to the lower level. The tour assistant asked me if there was an issue and, not wanting to hurt the driver’s feelings, I only said that riding on top was “too breezy” for me. At our first designated rest stop the driver offered me his jacket, thinking I was cold. Too sweet.
Though a slightly erratic driver, he was very respectful of the zebras. I laughed aloud when opened his window to shout at an adjacent vehicle who seemed to be impatient with this woman crossing the street. (I had read that stepping into an Yerevan crosswalk didn’t guarantee that vehicles would stop, and found this to be mostly true.)
Naturally, Mother Armenia keeps a watchful eye over her country, high atop Victory Park. Once upon a time Stalin’s statue stared at Yerevan, but he was, according to the audio guide, “dismembered” in 1962. “Peace through Strength” is her message.
Our first of two 10 minute stops was at the monument to General Andranik, Armenia’s national hero, defeating the Ottoman Empire and protecting the capital city. Streets and squares (like the one below) are named for him; and songs and plays have been written about him.
We wound along the outskirts of Kond, one of the oldest quarters of Yerevan. Behind the main streets one could glimpse the homes influenced by Ottomans, Persians, and Muslims. What I would have given to have had the time to wander this neighborhood. On our way to dinner that night, Tony and I passed many little neighborhoods hidden behind the main boulevard, but once again the constraints of time kept from exploring.
All good things must come to an end, and with the tour this happened sooner than I had wished. The driver and the tour assistant thanked each us individually, and bid us a lovely time in Yerevan. I hurried off to find lunch, and to strategize as to how I was going to cram about two days’ of things I now wanted to do into the remaining six hours I had left.