We landed on Zvartnots International Airport on a chilly Friday morning. Right after disembarking the plane, we zoomed our way to exchange our USDs to Armenian dram, then to the visa counter with filled out forms and 3000AMD at hand, got stamped and out we went to discover Yerevan. Off to our hostel via two-door airport taxi that comes with Wi-Fi, wet tissues and some sweets onboard. Then we checked-in and our adventure began!
It was already lunchtime then and we haven’t had anything for breakfast so we went searching for some place to eat. At that moment, we were instantly struck by language barrier and whatever you call that difficulty when one cannot read someone else’s alphabet. At the sight of KFC, we thought we’re going to be fine. Unfortunately, the cashier doesn’t speak English and the menu was written in Armenian script. :s
Yerevan city is relatively small if you focus on its sights and attractions. Each one is easily accessible by foot. We made our way to a massive square that fronts one side of the Opera House. There were two big sculptures on both sides and they were supposed to be a known writer and a famous composer. Their names were written in, you guess it right, Armenian so we couldn’t figure out which one is who. On the other side of the building, the one that’s adjacent an intersection, was another sculpture of whom I assumed to be another prominent public figure.
From the Opera House, we got to stand on a four-way intersection and admire, what to me is, the heart of downtown Yerevan. The city planning was done beautifully; the Cascades on north, opera district on the south and perpendicular roads on an X-orientation dividing the area into four lush green parks. This is what I love about this side of town – the delegation of open spaces is not an after-thought. Ok, I’m talking too much.
We crossed the roads to get to the Sculpture Park, a park with, uhm, a collection of sculptures, to which we were welcomed by yet another massive sculpture of a man who seemed to be looking on something on a table. Turns out, he’s Alexander Tamanian, architect of the Opera House and city planner of Yerevan.
The Sculpture Park boasts pieces from international artists.
Think this is familiar?
If you know Downtown Dubai by heart, then you must be acquainted with the Horse 2007 by Colombian artist Fernando Botero. He’s the same guy who did the Smoking Woman, Roman Warrior and the Cat.
Then up we went to the The Cascade, a structure built on a hill, hence the giant staircase. On each landing are sculptures and water features. It offers an unobstructed view of the city and Mount Ararat on a clear day. Unfortunately, during those two times that we climbed the Cascade, we never got to see the famous mountain. It was fall when we visited and the fog has affected our view at the top. And it gets brain-freezing chilly, too, that we often take refuge inside to warm a bit. The Cascade also houses the Cafesjian Center for the Arts.
From the Cascade complex, we strolled south to the Opera, walked past Freedom Square and passed by yet another park. It has a lake, called Swan Lake, with swans (duh) gracefully swimming. On the corner is another massive sculpture of a known pianist. I like the strong presence of public art in the city, especially when they use it as a medium to honour their great men.
Then we crossed to the pedestrianised North Avenue. We passed through this strip a couple of times, but each time we do, the retail part of it always seem to be closed. Side story, one time, there were two men, prolly in their mid-twenties, who were tailing us as we walk the stretch. We got a little panicky but managed to scare the guys off.
North Avenue opens up to the beautiful Republic Square. Surrounded with prominent buildings such as the National Gallery and History Museum, a couple of government buildings and Marriott Hotel, Republic Square is busy day and night. During our visit, we saw a lot of kids/teens hanging out by the plaza’s benches and congregating along the fountains.
Then, with a map at hand, we walked to the Central Mosque or Blue Mosque. We were lucky to sneak in before the old lady who takes care of the compound goes home. We had a chat with her while she showed the area to us. In that little time that we spent there, my eagerness to visit Iran and the rest of Central Asia has elevated so much.
On our way back, we saw a nice church of Armenian architecture from afar. We’re pretty sure it looked like a few blocks from where we were standing but oh boy we were wrong. It seemed close because it’s one huge church! We had to go through a very chaotic road to get there. We kinda feared for our lives for a moment.
Back to the base and we decided to cap the day off early. The weather was damn cold for our weak mortal bodies; we couldn’t take another blow of the cool breeze. It was freezing even inside our hostel room. We kinda panicked for a moment when the heater won’t turn on. Even our thermal pjs didn’t help either. It took some time getting used to but we had to force ourselves to acclimatise ‘cause tomorrow is another day in the freezer. Mind over matter. Mind over matter. Mind over matter. :p