While in Yerevan, one day I went on an organised tour of the main tourist attractions in central Armenia. As I don’t drive, it was by far the easiest way to visit the most places in the shortest time. The first destination was Lake Sevan. The Lake is situated at an altitude of 1900 metres to the East of Yerevan. It is the largest lake in the Caucasus.
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It is unlikely that my route would seem logical to a bystander. Indeed the choice of every following destination takes into account a whole list of factors. Is there a cheap and convenient connection? Have I been there before? Does it lie in the general direction of my movement? Will it be easy to visit it on some other occasion? Will I be able to find a reasonable onward ticket? Do I need a visa? What is the weather there? Is it wise to go there spontaneously without a thorough preparation? Have I been dreaming of going there? Can I see or do something fascinating there? Et cetera.
This “black box” of considerations sometimes produces results that appear surprising. From Poland I took a flight to Armenia. I bought my ticket less than 24 hours before departure. At that time MAU (the Ukrainian national airline) offered a whole list of cheap connections involving a change of planes in Kiev – which I did on my way from Warsaw to Yerevan. Now that MH17 has been blown out of the sky, a change of planes in Kiev sounds somewhat risky and I would probably not have done it now. But on 29 June it was all good.
I had been to Georgia before and my expectations for Armenia were similar. However Yerevan surprised me with an entirely different mood and atmosphere. If Georgia appeared melancholic, sombre, nostalgic for some distant happier times, then Yerevan (which obviously has the right for an even deeper existential sadness) was nothing like it. A confident desire to enjoy the hot summer days. Multitudes of new buildings and construction sites. Crowds of joyful people walking the broad boulevards on magical evenings, sitting in endless cafés, taking pleasure in their food, drinks, company, moments, life.
Yerevan has a very unusual city plan. Although the city is ancient, the plan of the centre was conceived in 1920-es and finalised only after regaining of independence. The centre has the form of a circle (the circular road) inside of which a diamond is inscribed. The diamond is formed by the main avenues. In the top corner of the diamond is the Opera, in the bottom corner is the Republic Square. These are the two main foci of the city space. A steep hill due North from the Opera house is climbed by a very unusual edifice – a staircase, a building, a street – called the Cascade.
The overview of Yerevan from the top of the Cascade. The rounded building in the centre is the Opera. On the right we should be able to see the Mount Ararat, so dear to Armenian heart, which today lies in Turkey, but it is hidden in the haze.
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