When talking about Armenia and its history, it is impossible to skip mentioning 1915 Genocide, which has been almost a defining issue for the nation for many decades after. Carried out by the Ottoman Empire on the eve of WW I, almost 1.5 million people were killed. There were many witnesses to the massacre. Even though the international community was outraged, they didn’t take strong actions against the Ottoman Empire and to this date, didn’t acknowledge the Genocide officially. I visited the museum in Yerevan. It is very beautifully done, and it is impossible to leave it without feeling the pain and deep sadness how people can do such horrific acts against each other.
Armenia is also very rich in unique art and culture. Historically, it has been under occupation almost its entire existence, by the Persians, the Romans, the Arabs, the Mongols, the Turks, and the Soviets. It gained its official independence only in 1991 when Soviet Union collapsed. You would think that being under oppression and cultural influence of other countries for centuries would make it impossible to preserve a unique culture. Armenian people are emotional and artists at heart and could not live without a creative outlet to release the pain. Art of pain always comes from the original heart. Maybe that urge for expression, allowed them to stay so unique and true to their origin for all these years. Now in Yerevan, you can find statutes, pottery, paintings, and music everywhere in the city! Even though a big part of Armenian art is deeply and painfully sad, there is a big part of Armenian art that is rich and soulfully colorful and expressive.
One thing I always remember about my life in Armenia that every weekend, from then to now, artists flood the city with their work, displaying them on the central streets and flea markets. To me, it was like a festivity every weekend. Then and now! The city’s famous souvenir store Dalan is also a must visit. From little figures to jewelry to rugs, every item is handmade by local artists. And I was absolutely in love with the store’s design (I could not refrain from my obsession of the store’s floor that is made of pieces of colorful glass!).
When it comes to Armenian food, there are a lot of influence of the Armenian occupant countries, in a really good way. I cannot stress enough how much I loved the food here, especially the delicate and flavorful taste of the fruits and vegetables. Every morning I would make my husband make me a tomato omelette there and was obsessed with the flavor and delicateness of the ingredients. The products are coming straight from the local farms which adds so much freshness to the taste! When in Karabakh, we also had a great fun when stopped by a small village eatery where we tried the local favorite, Jingalov Hats, a lavash bread stuffed with Here’s the Jingalov Hats recipe in case you want to recreate.
The city of Yerevan is also overfilled with restaurants and there are no apps like Yelp that could indicate which one is good or not. The only indication we had there was that some of them were overly full and some were empty. So we would make reservations in the ones we liked because we were traveling with a big group and once the restaurants got filled for the night, people would stay there for quite a long time, and chances of getting a table were quite low.
As to where to stay, my family staid in Airbnb right in the center of Yerevan on Abovyan street (a very happening place). I couldn’t ask for a better location. We had a clean place with a kitchen, and a produce store on the first floor of the building, and every attraction within the walking distance. Living in an apartment certainly gave us a feel of local life. But it is important to note that the buildings in the city are old, and we had to deal with the plumbing issue, which is not unusual, so I do feel that for a short stay I would prefer to be in a hotel where everything would be taken care for us.
When it comes to driving, I would definitely not recommend. Drivers in the city don’t keep distance between cars or pedestrians (I mean it!). The car speeds are low, so it is safe for those in the cars, but as a pedestrian, I needed to remind my boys to not just follow the traffic lights, but also be very alert and careful when crossing the streets. Having said that, all the attractions are clustered in the center of the city, everything is in walking distance (I racked up about 12000 steps daily, was so proud of myself!!). But if you need a car, there are tons of taxis that can transport you for a small fee, and most people speak enough English to explain directions (at least in the places where tourists are). If you decide to travel outside of Yerevan, there are lots of travel agencies that provide a vehicle with a driver with a guide or without, your choice. People are very friendly here, and most speak at least basic English, so finding your ways around is pretty easy.
And finally, the WiFi is available almost in every public park or restaurant, so communicating within and outside the country is easily available.
This is it for now! Make sure to check out the 48 Hour Road Trip Around Armenia to read about churches and breathtaking landscape of Armenia and leave your comments! I would so love to hear your impressions, opinions, and questions! xo