Oh Armenia- With a bit of tentativeness and some excitement I decided to venture to this erstwhile Soviet republic . With not a lot of information except bits from the Anthony Bordain show it was intended to be “go with the flow “ kind of trip. When a few guys decide to embark in alien lands with not even a rudimentary awareness of the language or culture, the trip actually becomes exciting; no expectations; just figure out what to do once you get there.
By sheer fortune, we were there when Armenia was celebrating its national day with massive street parties, concerts and the like including local cops in high heels! Yerevan (the “Y” is silent) is a city that hardly sleeps and you could easily get into any café or bar and get a decent drink. The city is ancient , tad older than Rome. Christianity is prevalent and it has that certain old world charm about it.
Besides the constant going out and checking out the eateries and bars, day times were spent visiting the Cascade monument; Nothing spectacular but a must do when you are there. We did a day trip to Lake Sevan- Pretty impressive to a huge lake inside Armenia 0ver 74 miles long and among the high altitude lakes in the Caucasian mountains . Several monasteries over 1,000 years old become part of the route and it’s a discovery worth going on to.
The country’s infrastructure seems quite adequate and we were impressed with the quality of the roads but language? That’s a whole different kettle of fish. The country itself seems to be a little confused. Not sure if they are fully out of the Soviet era yet or they are doing their best to be progressive. Outside the hotels or restaurants, finding a cabbie or a local that speaks half decent English was like having a root canal. Not that I expect every person on the street to speak English but certainly taxis drivers would have been conversant with the basic phrases; the relative rudeness of the taxi drivers is perhaps explained by their frustration caused by their inability to communicate?
Leaving aside the parties, the taxis and the city, the most poignant moment for me was the visit to the Genocide museum. Built on top of a hill overlooking the city, there is just not enough the world could do to remember the 1.5 million Armenians that were systematically exterminated by the Turks between 1895 and 1915 as part of the Hamidian, Adana then the Young Turks massacres. A journey through one of the painful chapters in history and you cannot even begin to comprehend what these folks went through. The pictures are heart wrenching and to walk through the museum without feeling a terrible sadness is just not on. RIP.
So what else? The dollar goes a long way. I was able to get upto 482 Armenian Drams (AMD) for $1 USD. A 10 minute taxi ride costs you upto 1000 AMD ($2)
- Ride to the Republic Square from the airport will set you back 5,000 AMD ($11) tops .
- Sumptuous breakfast for 4- Anywhere between 20,000 to 25,000 AMD ($40- $50)
- Drinks and dinner for upto 4 people- Anywhere between 20,000 AMD to $35,000 AMD ($40- $72); depending on your imbibing and gluttony capacities of course!
Stay- Plenty of options but try to be within a minute or two from the Republic Square. The Marriott which is part of the Republic Square was where we stayed and it was certainly worthwhile. Well worth the $150 USD per night. Just make sure breakfast is included when making the booking. If not, make sure you get a rebated rate. Service is quite good, no hassles.
May not go back there but spending a good part of a week, I’ve come back with some great memories.