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Don’t Sleep On Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan Armenia republic square
Written by publishing team

My family visited Yerevan, Armenia on our last trip, and while I had my own assumptions about the city before I encountered it, I was very wrong. Do not sleep in Yerevan, Armenia.


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lack of expectation

For a travel writer, I failed at my first goal even before I got off the plane in Armenia – I did almost no research. I looked for a map of the capital, but this was mostly to find my hotel in Yerevan. Admittedly, I knew little or nothing of what to expect prior to my arrival.

What a wonderful surprise.

There was a state of growth, energy, and excitement, but there was a reversal of what had happened before as well. As a former country in the Soviet Union, the Russian elements remain in place, but Armenia is an entirely different place with its own identity. It lends some flavor to its northern neighbor, Georgia, in celebration of its Middle Eastern neighbors Iran, Iraq, Syria and western Turkey, all of which contribute to the city’s scent, people, style and character.

If I’m being honest, I’ll probably bet I’ll look in town because I was there on business. My marketing agency opened an office there to support staff in the area. It was also at the end of a long trip full of stops in Barcelona (we canceled that part), Manchester (our former home of three years), and Athens (a place we haven’t visited in over a decade and the first time for our seven-year-old daughter.)

But my lack of research made every meal a delightfully delicious.

hops

This was my first visit to – where to again? Is it Europe? No. Is it Asia? I mean, not really. Can we say Eurasia? Sure, but that’s not really the case. The caucuses are an interesting combination and Armenia is right in the middle of it. It is a culture of its own.

The food was interesting and delicious. It borrows traditions from other regions and makes it something new and original. Dumplings in the region have the texture of xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) and a similar approach, but it will be news for the Armenians that this dish may have been copied from China. The region has a beautiful, brined, salty cheese that sometimes adorns the dumplings as well as showing that instead of borrowing from China, they (dares I say?) improved the dish. Turkish pide gets its own twist as katchipuri, which looks a lot like a biscuit pizza but with marinated meat and often no cheese.

Yerevan, Armenia Lavush

Yerevan Armenia Lamago

Yerevan Armenia Lavush restaurant

The streets and sidewalks of modern European design feature slabs of stone instead of concrete. The construction of the buildings appears to be Soviet, as well as the uniforms of the police. Across the Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan is in turmoil. Turkey and Syria still have their own problems and Iran is as much a point of contention as is Iraq in the south. After the last war with neighboring Azerbaijan, the disputed territories in the hills and mountains (Nagorno-Karabakh) are still disputed to this day with Russian peacekeepers stationed in the region. However, despite what others might consider a potential cause for concern, we felt safe and comfortable in the city throughout our stay.

The Armenian people are proud of their culture and their city, and for good reason. It was a great introduction to the Caucasus Conferences for me and my family.

Yerevan Armenia grape market

Armenia, Colombia?

Recently, Spirit Airlines began flying to Armenia, Colombia – the coffee home of one of the world’s most prolific coffee producers. The confusion between Armenia, Colombia and the country of Armenia can be overlooked, if it depends only on the number of cafes. It is said that there is a cafe or kiosk every 100m in the city and it somehow seems to be an understatement. There are coffee shops next to the coffee shops across from the coffee shops, and luckily, almost every one of them is great. I haven’t seen coffee booths in public – restrooms, yes, sidewalks, no – in years. The people we found around town (although I didn’t choose to try them) were busy too.

Yerevan cafe, Armenia

Matthew has reviewed great coffee in cities around the world, just search this blog. Although this destination was discussed previously, this aspect was never mentioned, and I began to wonder if there was a deeper reason for it. My days on LiveAndLetsFly may be coming to an end, much to the chagrin of a select group of commenters. Then again, he was probably just busy.

However, I have had great coffee all over the world. This might be the world’s best city for coffee shops, and if you’re excited, add it to your list.

Yerevan Armenia coffee

Remnants of the old, signs of the new

The traces of governance under the Soviet Union still exist but there is a different, new and exciting development in Armenia. The busy pedestrian center (above ground and underground) at Tashire Plaza mirrors the past with a beautiful opera house at the end of the plaza. Our friends celebrated the opera and ballet which were showing the Nutcracker at the time; It seems to be that classic view of the Russian state.

Yerevan, Armenia, Tashir Plaza

Yerevan, Armenia, Taşir plaza mall

Yerevan Opera, Armenia

We happened to be in Yerevan to celebrate Christmas for Armenians (different from orthodox or catholic/protestant dates) and this gave us the opportunity to visit the oldest church in the city, in the oldest Christian country in the world.

Yerevan Church, Armenia

The city is showing signs of new growth all around. We were stationed on Republic Square, which is a huge, traditional monolithic circle full of people, traffic and a reflection of the past. The Museum of History of Armenia is located in the center. But just blocks away we found modern restaurants and clever urban planning that blends new construction and renovations.

Republic Square, Yerevan, Armenia

The Museum of the Armenian Genocide is located on a hilltop above the city with beautiful views of Mount Aragats (Ararat), reflecting a dark part of Armenia’s history but showing progress (the US just realized this genocide committed by the Lebanese in 1915). Art at Cascade presents a blend of traditional Armenian art with new performances at home and abroad. A towering statue of Alexander Tamanyan, a modernist architect in Yerevan, reclines on a crafting table at the base of the Cascade.

Yerevan, Armenia Arts

The Republic of Armenia and Yerevan State, in particular, focus on the future without giving up on the past, creating a great mix for those who visit.

conclusion

Yerevan was a wonderful surprise for myself and my family. Remnants of Armenia’s past still linger, while progressing forward shapes the city for its residents. Not being prepared for the trip (read:) added to the joy we found there and we look forward to many more trips in the future. The reception from friends and family with the news of our trip was lukewarm, but that comes from the same ignorance I had before my visit – don’t sleep in Yerevan, Armenia; But if you do, there will be coffee waiting for you in the morning.

What is your opinion? Have you been to Yerevan, Armenia before? How was your experience? What were your expectations?

About the author

publishing team