Thursday, December 15, 2011

Day 3 in Armenia: Everything I didn’t see on day 1 and day 2

Well, Yerevan isn’t such a big city that you could spend a long time here as a tourist. I decided to hit all the rest of the sights on the tourist scope on day 3 here, my last day, and I was pretty much able to do that and more.

 Entrance to the Echmiadzin Cathedral Compound

First thing in the morning I decided to take a trip out of Yerevan to the closest neighboring city, Echimadzin which also happens to be the location the Armenian Church’s Catholicos, The Vatican of Armenia, so to speak.

The journey there was the first challenge. The couchsurfers told me where to find the marshutka to Echimadzin but when I arrived there, there was no marshutka to be found. Some men asked me if I was headed to Echmiadzin and then pointed to an unmarked car and told me that the price was just 300 drams ($1.00). This seemed a little sketchy, but then an old woman hopped in. I asked her if she was going to Echimiadzin and she said yes. So, I hopped in and hoped for the best. The car zoomed along the highway and I was dropped in front of a very large cylindrical shaped building with a cross on top. It looked promising, so I headed through the gates and into the complex.

I had high hopes for this place, but I am sorry to say that there isn’t a whole lot to see here for a typical tourist like me. The main church (and main tourist attraction) is Echimadzin, the first Cathedral of the Armenian Church. I found it right away, but due to a lack of signage, I didn’t realize that I had found it. I was expecting a really large, impressive church, but found just an average sized church here with not a lot to see inside. 

Priest walking towards Echmiadzin


Because I didn’t know I had found the church, I continued to search for another hour looking for the cathedral that I had already, unknowingly, found. In the process I found another church, the St. Gayane Monastary, dedicated to a woman martyred in the 3rd century. 

 St. Gayane Monastary

I eventually realized that I had found the church of Ezchimadzin and then headed back to Yerevan. It was more challenging to get back because there were so many people trying to get to Yerevan at that time, so early in the morning. People waited in an unorganized group and whenever a car showed up (usually one about every 5 minutes) everyone would jostle to get into the car first. I wound up waiting about 30 minutes trying to get into the cars until finally a minivan showed up and I was actually able to get myself in position to get in before the other people waiting. 

 Blue Mosque

The minivan serendipitously dropped me off in front of the Blue Mosque, which was the next place I wanted to see. The actual mosque appeared to be closed but I walked around the grounds wich were nice, and probably much nicer in summer.

 Inside the market with lots of dried fruit products

Across the street from the mosque is the market. When the couchsurfers described this market, I imagined a very large complex, but it was rather small and about half the stalls seemed geared towards tourists. But, I was able to pick up some preserved fruit for my host family and co-teachers back in Georgia. Was probably over charged for them, but I guess that’s to be expected at a place like this. 

From there I took the long way to get to the Armenian Genocide Museum/Memorial. I walked through some interesting neighborhoods in the process. 

 Old neighborhood
To get to the Genocide Museum, I looked at the map and decided to follow the roads illustrated on the map. I climbed up the stairs to the sports complex, and then followed the road down a big hill. Then I found at the bottom I needed to climb back up the hill on a different road to get to the Genocide Museum. I was quite exhausted by the time I arrived at the Genocide Museum, I had been walking since 8 am that morning and by now it was about 2 pm. I walked all around and found myself at the eternal flame, but could not find the entrance into the museum. Finally, as I walked to see some pine trees planted in remembrance of the genocide, I found a staircase leading downstairs and into the museum. As I walked in, a woman told me that the museum was closed because there was no electricity. I was feeling quite depressed now after walking so far to get there only to find it closed, and it didn't help that as I walked to the other side of the pine trees I discovered that I could have cut across a path that connected the sports center and the museum that would have cut 30 minutes and a lot of pain out of my arrival here. 

Sports Complex

Eternal flame at Genocide Memorial

I headed back, cutting through the short cut through the sports complex and headed back toward a restaurant I had passed on my way there. They had the barbeque meat which I had been spying around town and I ordered myself barbeque chicken, which I didn’t know was actually to be put on a sandwich of lavash bread (thin traditional Armenian bread), so I ordered one Khajapuri (cheese bread) to go with it and a small bottle of Fanta. When I asked for the check, I thought there had been some mistake. The cheese bread, barbeque chicken wrap and the soda had come to just 900 drams ($3.00 USD). I told them there was some mistake, but apparently the chicken was only 600 drams ($2.00) and the others had been just 150 drams each. I left there in higher spirits and rested feet and jumped on the metro and headed to my next spot to check out. 

 Barbeque Chicken lunch :-)

I headed to __________ a new church built in ______ . It’s quite big and impressive from the outside. Inside it reminds me a lot of a modern Catholic church. It’s unusual to see so many pews in Georgian and Armenian churches. People visit to pray, but there aren’t services held in the same way we might think of a service in a Catholic or Protestant church. I happened to stumble across a wedding going on here, on a Tuesday afternoon, but just as in Georgia, the wedding proceeds amongst the rest of the church traffic without the pomp and ceremony one might expect in the Catholic Church. 

 Candy in the market near the church

 Nuts for sale in the market near the church

The last stop on my itinerary was the Cascades, a large staircase that gives the best view of the city from the top. I headed up at sunset and was startled to see Mt. Ararat in the distance, looking much bigger that I could have possibly imagined. I stayed until after the sun set, taking photos, then moved on to a café with wifi where I spent the next few hours until I could meet my couchsurfer. 

Unmistakable Botero statue at the bottom of the Cascades

Night view from the Cascades. Opera house and Mt. Ararat in the baground. 

 Appreciating the view of Mt. Ararat from atop the Cascades

 Sunset from the Cascades

We went out for my last meal in Armenia to a new chocolate café that had recently opened. We had some delicious salads with hot chocolate which was really just molten chocolate. Then for desert, I had a lovely apple pie swimming in chocolate sauce. A perfect ending to my trip. 

 Apple pie with chocolate sauce

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