Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Yerevan - A Nice City

Last night I boarded the overnight train from Tbilisi to Yerevan.  I noticed in my compartment that every seam in the compartment had a seal on it from Georgian customs, so there must be a history of a lot of smuggling on that train.  The sleeping car, inherited from the Soviet Union, had a robust heater.  So, it was quite warm in my compartment, and the compartments on this train do not have windows that open.  The conductor, who also seemed to have been inherited from the Soviet Union, tossed a plastic bag containing sheets and a pillow case into my compartment.  The filthy pillows were on a shelf high up in the compartment.

The corridor of the sleeping car.

My compartment.

Less than two hours after leaving Tbilisi we arrived at the border.  After the Georgian border police came and collected everyone's passport, we sat there for almost two hours.  Once we got moving again, it was not long before we stopped at the Armenian border checkpoint.  That went relatively quickly.  By this time it was almost 1:00 AM.  Fortunately they had turned down the heat, and I managed to sleep fairly well, until the conductor rousted everyone out of bed about 45 minutes before arriving in Yerevan.

I think the taxi driver I used to get to my hotel must have been illegal, because my understanding is that taxis in Yerevan have meters, and his did not.  Still, I was able to get him down to a reasonable price (I asked my hotel beforehand what is reasonable) by telling him to stop the car and getting out of the car when I noticed he did not have a meter.

I like Yerevan a lot more than Tbilisi.  I do not like how Tbilisi is being Disneyfied while its back streets crumble.  Tbilisi's renovated areas are often sterile (like much of the old city) or ugly (like the hideous bridge that somebody called the Glass Slug).  Yerevan, on the other hand, has beautiful parks and wide avenues.  Yerevan has lots of cafes in and around the parks in the middle of the city.  There are lots of statues and sculptures on the streets and in the parks.

The Opera House in Yerevan.

One of the parks, with people selling their bad art.

A trolleybus.

Mother Armenia - replaced a Stalin statue in 1967.

A market near Republic Square.

Carpets in the market.

Samovars in the market.

Some buildings with the pink stone typical of Yerevan.

A rug shop.

In front of one of the many cafes.

In front of a row of cafes.

In Yerevan, the Soviet past is much more visible than in Tbilisi.  The police still wear Soviet-style uniforms, and I was scolded for taking a picture in the train station (although there are "no camera" signs in metro stations and such in Tbilisi, nobody seems to care).   There seems to be a cable or satellite TV station dedicated entirely to showing reruns of Soviet era programming, so I'm guessing that there must be some level of nostalgia for that era.    There are many old Ladas and Volgas still on the road - I guess probably because people cannot afford newer cars.  The Russian language is used a lot more.

The Stalinist wedding cake train station.

The ceiling in the train station - I got yelled at for taking this picture.

Old Ladas and Volgas still running.

Mount Ararat seen from near the train station.

The marshutka area behind the train station.

Getting around on Yerevan's metro system is a bit more challenging than in Tbilisi.  Both cities have the same type of Soviet built metro system, but in Yerevan the station announcements are made in Armenian only - and in both cities reading the station names from the train is next to impossible.  So on underground parts of the system, I have to count stations to know where I am.

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