Last day in Armenia

Trip Start Sep 19, 2009
Trip End Oct 10, 2009

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Now it was the last day of my fantastic trip to Caucasus, the next day I would fly to Riga early in the morning, spend a day there and fly to Helsinki late in the evening.

There were still a few things I would like to see in Yerevan. Early in the morning I decided to head towards Erebuni, the oldest remains in Yerevan, located some kilometres away from the centre. I decided to walk and check the largest Armenian Catherdal on the way, St. Gregory Cathedral, which was completed in 2001. I didn't go there earlier for the same reason I postponed my visit to the new main church in Tbilisi – new churches just aren’t that appealing to me, they lack the feeling and atmosphere that old churches have. As it turned out, the church was closed, but it was rather impressive outside, magnificently dominating the area surrounding it. It didn’t, however, come even close to the Georgian equivalent, which was one of the most impressive buildings I had ever seen. Yerevan lost this competition! Nevertheless, it was quite nice and I think it was a good decision to built such a big church to Yerevan, where the number of churches is truly inadequate given its population.

I had a coffee somewhere near the church and started to walk towards Erebuni. The journey there was longer than I expected through streets filled with soviet style apartment blocks, restaurants and shops selling everything I do not need. On the way I passed the Yerevan Railway Station, which is a really nice, magnificent soviet-style building, suggesting that train travelling in this country must have been more significant in the days gone by. Or then they tried to make it more significant but failed? Anyway, after about 1,5 hours walk I found myself at the hill of Erebuni, where to my big surprise was a parade of soldiers doing something and blocking the entrance to Erebuni museum. I had no idea what they were doing, and I didn’t know if I dare to go through or pass them to get into the museum. Was the museum open? I asked someone about Erebuni and he just pointed me at the direction of the soldiers. Yes, I know it’s there but I don’t know if I can go. I don’t want to get shot! Finally, I decided to just go carefully, and when I passed the soldiers someone yelled "go quickly go quickly", so I run up to the museum. But I was there! Apparently the soldiers had some kind of training going on. Not a war. What a weird entry to a museum!

Erebuni is a place where Yerevan was first was built (compare the names, Erebuni – Erevan), it is a fortress (or what is left of it) on top of a 65 meters high hill overlooking present day Yerevan. It was built on 8th century BC, making it the oldest historical site in Armenia, and because of these ruins, it is often said than Yerevan is one of the oldest cities in the world. Might be, but I still don’t think its justified to call a city “one of the oldest cities in the world” because of a fortress laying on the outskirts of a city with virtually nothing else that’s old. Anyway, it is clear that the area has been inhabited for a long, long time. Excavations in the area begun in 19th century, but it wasn’t before 1950s when they actually found Erebuni and realised its significance. Erebuni museum just next to the actual fortress in a small but very interesting collection of items found from the fortress. It was amazing to see how well many things had survived the sword of time! They even had wheat and other food stuff that had survived to this day in the ruins of the fortress. In addition, the museum had stones were various texts were carved, for example the announcement of founding the city of Erebuni. I was quite happy the museum was so small, because I didn’t want to spent too much time there but it was so interesting that I didn’t want to miss anything. After checking out the museum, I climbed up to the ruins of Erebuni fortress. It was surprisingly large area and some parts were surprisingly well preserved, given its age. I walked on the ancient walls (ruins of them) and jumped around the open excavations, and suddenly realized how there was complete lack of any control over what visitors do when they visit the site. I could have done anything I wanted! They should be more careful with such an important historical site. It should be protected! I was glad I went to see Erebuni, but one hour is enough in the place. Its not that special.

I took a minibus back to the city centre and went to have lunch in a fancy Chinese restaurant. I missed good Chinese food! Unfortunately that is difficult to get outside China. After lunch I finally went to the most famous museum of Yerevan and whole Armenia, the Matenadaran. It holds one of the world’s richest collections of medieval manuscripts and books in the world, mostly in Armenian but also in other languages. Basically it is a museum filled with ancient (and more recent ones) texts and books. They sure made nicer and more beautiful books hundreds of years ago, where is all the glamour now?:) The building itself is also one of the most significant and magnificent buildings of Yerevan, and worth seeing even if you wouldn’t be interested in ancient manuscripts. Yep, I liked it, especially when I secretly made myself a part of a tourist group where a guide was explaining in English about the manuscripts. However, I got bored soon and decided to leave the museum. A little bit of souvenir shopping and then I went to the number 1 market where I bought a lot of those dried fruit-honey-nut things I told about before, because I wanted to take some back to Finland.

In the evening I went to an Indian restaurant in the city center and it was probably the best restaurant where I had been eating during the trip. The food was absolutely delicious and the service BY FAR the best I had gotten. Here I should say that even though I really LOVED Armenia and Georgia, I couldn’t help wondering about the total absence of the “wonderful hospitality” of these people. Where that reputation comes from? People weren’t especially friendly, not really open, and the service standard was the same with Eastern Europe, which is not good. I don’t mean I had any real bad experiences with the people, but not especially good one either. And guide books are full of praising of the hospitality of Armenians and Georgians. Well, maybe I just had bad luck. Anyway, the service was so excellent in the Indian restaurant that I actually left a good tip – something I usually never do.

After the dinner I went to one of the many outdoor cafes in Opera Square and had a hearty portion of ice-cream. Last night in Yerevan! I sat there for a while, suddenly felt really tired and got back to the hostel to pack my stuff. Early morning, early flight!
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