Updated: Mar 24, 2019
If you thought, sharing a desk with a colleague you dislike is harsh, imagine snuggled in-between countries that have enemy-zoned you! I’m talking about Armenia, Land-locked by its rivals, Turkey in the West and Azerbaijan in the East, this beautiful Caucasus country with its mountainous geography and a culture that is over 3000 years old shall find a way to your heart.
Yerevan is the capital city of Armenia and affectionately known as “The Pink City” due to the color of the stone used for its buildings. The Republic Square is the city’s core with its grand architecture, endless taverns and water fountains. Be that as it may, from a touristic point, exploring beyond the downtown area can be lacking things to do. Don’t let that discourage you as there are plenty of historic and cultural things to visit within the city and a day trip from Yerevan offers for a gorgeous scenery to all nature lovers.
Traveling to Armenia with a friend who had recently visited Azerbaijan, caught the attention of the Immigration officer who then led us to his seniors. It was the first time I witnessed a situation of being examined, and Yes, I did panic for a bit. The Immigration officer inquired details of his previous visit to Azerbaijan and sought answers to a few random questions while I waited for him. After screening his computer briefly, the officer uttered, “Have a good time in Armenia” and left.
Curious as I was to learn about the strained relationship that exists between Armenia and Azerbaijan acquired information around. The conflict that exists between the two is territorial and ethnicity based. The disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan is an independent state with Armenian ethnic majority. The solution to this on-going complex conflict is improbable, or at least at the moment. Of course, as a traveler or a tourist, you will not encounter any of the estrangement or the hostility. When in fact people here place a lot of pride in their hospitality. Being aware of the scenario only peps you towards the delicate setting.
Taking into account that Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as a state religion, it's hardly surprising to spot monasteries walking around in Yerevan. And, till date, the majority of Armenians are Christians (Around 95%). Many of these monasteries date back hundreds of years ago. Visiting a few accessible monasteries around Yerevan are a Must. The number of Armenians in the world counts to approximately 10 million people, and interestingly of whom, only one-third live in the Republic of Armenia. This is primarily because of the Armenian genocide caused during the world war I by the Ottoman government (Turkey continues to deny that till date), which led to the influx of Armenians fleeing the country.
Getting around in Yerevan is easy, apart from the delightful walks within the city, taxies are plentiful and reasonable. The Yerevan metro is also clean, safe and efficient.
English is not a widely spoken language here, and due to its Soviet ties, Russian has remained the most important foreign language in Armenia. Shockingly, the older generation of people, from time to time, indulge in Indian Soap Opera (Hindi Serials) as their pass time entertainment. While the younger generation prefers the very active Nightclubs, Jazz bars, and Pubs. All these bars are mostly located in the city center and the cryptic underground pubs are a great experience. Clubs are usually full and open until late in the night. If you're a nightlife lover, you'll be thrilled by the vibe and energy of the city.
Thanks to the frenzy tour of Kim Kardashian that put some of the city’s eateries on the spot. One of the finest and highly respected restaurants is Dolmama with its quaint interiors, and outdoor courtyard is a beautiful stop.
The origin of Armenian food calls for a discussion amongst Armenians who often disagree and debate on what dishes are authentically Armenian. And this is mainly because of the diaspora of Armenians living out of the country and their interpretation of the cuisine. I did take an instant liking to the food served, now, I do not know the scale of its authenticity. However, here are some honorable mentions. Mante, Armenian national food which is a grilled dumpling made of either minced beef or lamb. Lula kebabs, grilled lamb served with rice tastes heavenly. Dolma, which is a lent delicacy and an ideal vegan recipe leaving you speechless with its flavors. Also, The cuisine is incomplete without the mentioning of Zesty Armenian pastry Gata, Baklava, and Choereg.
The Yerevan Vernissage is a large open market that mainly features a collection of different types of traditional Armenian artworks. On Sundays, the market is lined up with a lot more traders, and on other days there are far few traders and Artists. You will find unique jewelry, great Armenian folk art, and exclusive handmade masterpieces. Swarming the market around shall bring you a lot closer to the culture, even if you walk away without purchasing anything, which I highly doubt you’d be able to.
On the flip side if you’re someone who prefers the shopping complex over the markets, heading to the northern avenue is a good idea. The Northern Avenue is home to many fashion brands, restaurants, and cafes.
The most compelling view that dominates the skyline of Yerevan is Mt.Ararat located on the Armenian-Turkish border. It consists of two major volcanic cones, Greater Ararat (5137 M) and Little Ararat (3896 M). These mountains are sacred and are the National symbol of Armenians. You can catch this picturesque view either from Lake Sevan, the high altitude fresh-water lake or the monastery of Khor Virap. Both make for a spectacular sight.
Not long ago, Armenia was not your go-to holiday destination, and I think that has been changing drastically ever since the mainstream touristic spots are headed towards saturation. If you’re looking for a destination that hasn’t been crowded by tourists yet, head to Armenia. What the country has to offer shall surprise you. The rich cultural heritage, enticing ancient sight, delicious food and tranquility of this mystic land shall leave you wanting your travel blog.
Travel Related information
Visa for Indians : E-Visa and VOA
Duration : 21- 90 days
Purpose : Tourism
Travel : By Air
Currency : Armenian Dram
Picture Credits :
Shilpa Srinivas @flohwithme