Saturday, November 18th was our last full day in Armenia. I had some mixed emotions about it. On one hand, we’d had a really good time in Armenia, and there are still some things I want to show Bill. The weather was surprisingly mild; we had several nice, sunny days, and I had a feeling Germany wouldn’t be quite as temperate.
But, on the other hand, I was really missing our street dog, Noyzi. Yerevan has all these sweet, adorable street dogs, now. Unlike many of the ones I remembered from the 90s, the ones who are now in Yerevan seem gentle and wise. They made me miss our dog from Kosovo, and reminded me that I want another one. I also wanted to do laundry. It’s not that I enjoy doing laundry. I just like wearing clean clothes, and I was running out of clean underwear. 😉
I was still a bit sore and tired from our long walk to Tsitsernakaberd. And Bill was still very worried about the paintings we bought from the guy from Ashtarak. He had done some research and found an art supplies store at the Rossia Mall near the Zorovar Andranik metro station, which was just one stop away from Republic Square. So, after breakfast, we headed that way, first stopping by the art sellers by the Opera House. I was hoping to run into the guy from Ashtarak again, because I wanted to buy his Ararat painting. I might have been inspired by the clear sight of Ararat that morning. It finally came out in full glory on our last day.
Unfortunately, the art guy wasn’t there on Saturday morning, so we headed back toward the Vernissage, cutting through Northern Avenue and Abovian Street, then using the underpass by the Republic Square metro station. I thought maybe we’d shop at the Vernissage again, especially since there were a lot more sellers there. But, as we walked, my body cried out in painful protest. I was hurting!
With every step, I got crankier… and when we were confronted with the traffic on Khandjian Street, I got downright pissy. To get across the street safely, we had to use one of the overpasses, which required us to walk up steps, go across a bridge, and then walk down again. I did not want to walk up or down any more steps.
The overpasses, by the way, didn’t exist when I lived in Yerevan. We’d either use the underpasses, some of which were pretty awful, or we’d take our lives in our hands and dash across the street. But Yerevan now has pedestrian lights and crosswalks at most intersections, and from what I understand, people are expected to use them, or risk getting a ticket. Unfortunately, there was no easy way to cross Khandjian Street directly from the Vernissage, so we used the overpass. My old body complained the whole way, and so did my mouth. 😉
We made our way toward Zorovar Andranik, passing an amusement park and Queen Burger, a notoriously “bad” fast food place that opened in 1996. I actually remember when that place first opened. It had very new and modern looking equipment, to include fountain drink dispensers, and an actual “burger” on the roof (since removed after renovation). But I guess they couldn’t get fountain drinks in Yerevan back then, because I remember I could see through the windows that they had plastic liter bottles of Coca Cola sitting under the dispensers. The restaurant has been expanded and renovated since 1996, but it still gets pretty terrible reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook. I have never eaten there myself, so I can’t confirm or deny the veracity of the terrible reviews. Somehow, they manage to stay in business, anyway.
Near Queen Burger is an underpass I remember well. In the 90s, it was lined with people selling stuff. There are still some people selling things in the underpass– mostly cheap purses, sunglasses, and cell phone cases. But then on the other side is the Rossia Mall, which was built in 2016. If I hadn’t been so exhausted and sore, I might have been more excited. In the 90s, the area where the mall now stands was basically a big lot where people set up stalls and sold food, booze, and various other odds and ends. I remember shopping there occasionally, when I was in that part of the city. Now, there’s a mall.
I was rapidly losing patience with Bill, who was trying to figure out which door to enter. There was a department store that was obviously not what he was looking for, then we had to climb more steps to enter the main part of the mall. It wasn’t a very big mall, and it was crowded with stores. We went up an escalator into a store that was selling a lot of luggage.
A surreal feeling came over me as I took in the scene. I was in an actual shopping mall in Yerevan! But it still wasn’t as strange to me as the sight of the water park. I still have vivid memories of people living in Yerevan who had no running water and had to leave their taps on, in the hopes that they could fill their bathtub and water bottles in the middle of the night. Now, Yerevan has an actual water park! I wonder if that means that kids stay out of the fountains in the summer, now. Probably not, since it doesn’t cost anything to play in the fountains. 😉
Finally, we found the art supply store. It was tucked in a corner, and pretty much overflowing with stuff for sale. The store’s space was small, but they had a lot of inventory. In fact, there was so much inventory that it was kind of hard to walk through there. We had to look for several minutes to find the art portfolios. A couple of women working at the store noticed us and followed, while the male cashier seemed completely disinterested. I’m not sure if they were running security, or if they were just curious about the obvious foreigners.
Bill and I ignored the gawking women, and searched through the portfolios. Bill finally found one that looked large enough to accomodate our paintings. He paid for our item and we walked out of the mall. I looked around some more for any sign of the large market that used to be there. I saw no evidence of it, but the huge apartment building that was there in 1996 was still there in all its ugly, Soviet era glory. I’ve seen that building in a lot of pictures. It really is impressive in its brutal Soviet look. We made our way to the crosswalk and I said, “If we head this way on Tigran Mets, we’ll end up at Republic Square.”
Originally, I had thought maybe we’d go to the Vernissage and look for another painting. But I was just too tired, and too testy… and my body was over all the walking. I didn’t feel like trying to converse in Armenian anymore, or explaining why I know ANY Armenian. I didn’t want to haggle with anyone, either. So we headed back, which gave me the chance to show Bill yet another major Yerevan street I used to know.
We crossed the street from the mall, and I pointed out a building that I remembered from my last weekend in Yerevan in 1997. There was a French charity called Saberatours that was bringing mail to Armenians via France. Up until a few weeks prior, we Peace Corps Volunteers had enjoyed diplomatic pouch privileges. But, as Armenia’s postal system improved, the privileges were taken away. The trouble was, I had plans to go to Europe after my service was finished, and I bought a Eurail ticket. I needed to get the ticket before I got to Europe. So I used the Saberatours service, and my Eurail ticket got to me just in the nick of time. The building where I got my ticket was historic, too. It was the government building where Aram Manukian had declared independence in May 1918.
We reached Republic Square, where I noticed workers were putting up Christmas decorations. I’ve seen the huge Christmas tree they now put up in the middle of the square in photos. When I lived in Yerevan, Christmas wasn’t a big deal. They celebrated it on January 6th, rather than December 25th. New Year’s was the big holiday. Today, I’m not sure what Armenians do for Christmas. I have noticed that, like many European countries, Armenian now has Christmas markets. Those were NOT a thing in the 90s. But it seems that a lot of countries have taken Germany’s lead and offer the festive stalls selling arts, crafts, and food. Google tells me that religious Armenians still celebrate Christmas on January 6th, but maybe some people do it on the 25th, and have Santa come and all that other shit… 😉
We decided to take a short rest before venturing out again. Our room hadn’t been made up yet, even though it was afternoon. I used the time to upload photos and do some writing. Bill used it to pack, and arrange for a cab in the middle of the night. I think we were a bit tired of sightseeing.
At mid afternoon, we decided to try one last restaurant we’d noticed… Dors Craft Beer and Kitchen, which was just around the corner from Paris Hotel Yerevan. Like just about all of the other places we noticed in Yerevan, Dors Craft Beer and Kitchen was selling Dargett craft beers. That was fine with me. On our way out of the room, the housekeeper asked me in Armenian (or Russian–I don’t remember) if we’d like our room cleaned. We said sure. At that point, it didn’t matter. We’d be checking out at about 2:30 AM, anyway.
After we visited Dors Craft Beer and Kitchen, we headed back to the hotel and tried to rest before our super early departure. More on that in the next post!