Yerevan City

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  • Elevation: 950-1,200 meters
  • Established: 782 BC
  • Founder: King Argishti I
  • Population: 1,200,000
  • Museums: 20
  • Intn'l Airport: Zvartnots
  • Climate: Continental
Map yerevan.gif

In Yerevan, you will never need rose-colored glasses, because most of its buildings use a pink shade of "tuf" stone which is quarried in Armenia. This is the most prominent feature of Yerevan's otherwise usually utilitarian Soviet architecture and is unique to Armenia. An appropriate nickname would be the city of cafe's, for in the summer it is often hard to tell where one cafe ends and the next one begins. The downtown or "getron" area of the city is very compact and contains everything you will probably want to visit. No matter where you stay in this area you will be within easy walking or metro distance of everything important in the city. The very heart of the city, and indeed the nation, is Republic Square. It lies in the very middle of Yerevan, which is home to a third of the republics population and over 15% of the worlds Armenians.

Just about everybody's favorite museum in Yerevan is the Sergei Parajanov Museum, which has surprisingly little related to his great films, but rather is filled with his hand crafted arts. He had a talent for turning a few usual things into fascinating works and this is a museum everybody can appreciate and will love. The National Art Gallery is another must, but skip the floors which do not contain Armenian art work. The Children's Art Gallery is a refreshing place to pay a quick visit to right on Abovian Street. Martiros Saryan's House-Museum is a perfect place to see the works of a man whose life typified a great Soviet-Armenian painter. Ring the doorbell to be let in and make sure you see the hidden studio! The Matenadaran on the top of Mashdots Street is the place to go to see a sampling of Armenia's highly developed illuminated manuscripts. If you want to take a piece of art home with you, there is a painters bazaar on weekends by the Saryan Statue, and lots of art galleries all over. There is a lot more to see if you appreciate painting, but these are the highlights.

The Opera House contains separate opera and symphony halls, and is one of the nicest Soviet buildings in Yerevan. Tickets and schedules for the world class performances can usually be obtained for under $2 at the ticket booth. The sports complex, and the youth palace are my other architectural favorites, with one resembling the Sydney Opera House and the other a huge corn cob. There is also the Cascades, a huge, wide, stairwell-like structure dominating the side of a hill overlooking Yerevan and leading to Victory Park. It has a stunning view, so definitely make the climb. Additional architectural interest lies in the "old town" section just outside of Republic Square as you head past Mellat Bank. This area has some nice examples of pre-soviet architecture (among modern day hovels) and a couple of amazing but deteriorated traditional carved wood balconied.

Vernissage is the great weekend tourist bazaar. They sell everything you can imagine that is hand made, old soviet souvenirs, and things you will literally never find anywhere else, or even at next weeks vernissage for that matter.

Proshyan is better known as "Khorovadz Street" (or BBQ Street) for good reason. This street is the perfect manifestation of the Armenian love affair with shish kebab, with a almost every shop on the street being a barbeque restaurant. In Armenia, a khorovadz is the perfect way to celebrate anything, or nothing at all. Technically khorovadz means skewered whole chunks of meat or vegetable, while kebab refers to meat which has been ground.

Wherever you go in Yerevan, watch out for pot holes as you walk, but fear not pick pockets, assaults, and other kinds of crime which are unheard of here.