Sombre reminders, car running boards, fat bosoms and goats' nipples
17.09.2012 - 17.09.2012 36 °C
One of the world's oldest cities - founded in 782 BC when Carthage was very young and Rome was out of the question, Yerevan was known as the 'Pink City' during Soviet times due to the colour of the stone used in construction. The city lies at the foot of the mount Ararat forming the shape of a Roman amphitheatre.
Yerevan with Mount Ararat in the background
The oval shaped square (!) has a stone pattern in the centre, meant to look like a traditional Armenian rug from above. We could see it last night from the roof-top restaurant. The statue of Lenin used to be located in the southern end of the square, but when Armenia regained its independence, the statue was brought down and now lies in the grounds of the adjacent museum.
==Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Museum==
Jenna decided to start this morning's tour of Yerevan at the Genocide Memorial on a hill overlooking the town, as it would be unbearably hot later. Good call, as it was already unbearably hot before 10:00.
Stark and austere, the memorial pays tribute to the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide that was carried out by Turkey. The 44m stele symbolises national rebirth of Armenians, the circular construction of 12 slabs represent 12 lost provinces with an eternal flame in the centre. A sobering reminder of national tragedy for the Armenian people, Jenna became very aggrieved and emotional when telling us about the atrocities and the impact on her family and the ongoing horrors, even today.
Construction of the memorial began in 1966 (during Soviet times) in response to the 1965 Yerevan demonstrations during which one million people demonstrated in the city for 24 hours to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Genocide.
Along the park at the memorial there is a 100 meter wall with names of towns and villages where massacres are known to have taken place. On the rear side of the commemoration wall, plates have been attached to honour persons who have committed themselves to relieving the distress of the victims during and after the genocide.
There is also a museum on the site, with many pictures and personal stories (including from Jenna's family), and I don't know whether I was disappointed or relieved when we found out the museum was closed today (it's a public holiday today) – I was already pretty choked up...
An enormous white stairwell built into the hillside, replete with flowing water fountains to mimic a natural cascade, and full of museums, it was of course closed today, There is a nice garden at the bottom, full of modern sculptures; all belonging to one man who's baby this complex is. The statues are so valuable, there are security guards all over the place.
Really feeling the heat by now, we stopped for a gelato and an iced tea. I am enjoying the relaxed pace of today after the rushing around we did yesterday. Back in the car, Artijom did not notice I was still trying to get in when he drove off, with me still having one foot on the ground outside. Giant skateboard spring to mind, or maybe the Flintstone car...
Artijom and his coffe gelato
After a four course lunch in a traditional Armenian Restaurant, we visited the food market. If we'd known how friendly the stall holders are, we needn't have had lunch – at every stand we were given bits of fruits and nuts to taste. Mostly dried, but also fresh. The most interesting was probably the dried tomato stuffed with walnuts in honey. There were also some intriguing elongated grapes known as 'goat's nipples', and everyone wanted us to try something, insisting even when we said we were full and weren't going to buy anything. Lots of greens – the Armenians are so keen on greens (we saw parsley, sorrel, chives, coriander, celery, basil and more), there is a saying that if the Armenians stopped eating greens, it would grow to waist height all over the country.
Dried tomato stuffed with walnuts and honey
Four guards at the entrance to the underground stopped me to ensure that I did not take photo in the station or on the train. They checked my camera bag, but appeared not to notice my large rucksack. I'm not terribly keen on steep escalators, and this one was was much faster that any I have been on before, making me feel very unsteady on my feet when I first got on it. It seemed to go on forever before reaching a long, large tunnel. The stations all have artwork at one end, huge vaulted ceiling and are almost deserted, much like the ones in North Korea.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at the very global Cinnabon restaurant, with free wifi for me and lots eye candy on the pedestrianised avenue for David.