Yerevan is not for us

Yerevan (Armenia), 09.05.2013

Second day in Armenia, second day in a row with a negative post. This place seems not made for us, and we can’t wait to move on tomorrow.

[Note: this post has been modified from its original version to avoid misunderstandings with readers that don’t know us. See also note at the bottom.]

The 9th of May in Soviet countries was and is known as Victory Day and marks the victory in WWII over Nazi Germany. This morning, when we entered the breakfast room, we were greeted by a military parade on Kremlin square streamed on TV, while the speaker announced all the glorious troops marching to the tune of military music. Not bad, 68 years after the war. Soldiers, tanks, helicopters and warplanes took all the hotel staff’s attention as we tried to make the best out of the breakfast.

DSC_0031 DSC_0034We took off for some sight seeing (video here), the first stop was the Armenian Genocide Memorial. As usual, no road signs, but we’re starting to find our way also without (as long as there are no signs, continue straight on what appears to be the main road). We found the memorial, but it was closed for Victory Day. Hmmm, change of plans, since the other site on the agenda also promised to be closed.

DSC_0043 DSC_0052Back into the car and off to Zvartnots, a UNESCO site and according to LP a fantastic ruin of a cathedral. Well, ruins yes, of a cathedral also seems to be true, but the place… quite disappointing. Past a ramshackle gate and an unfriendly cashier, a Soviet built alley that is falling into pieces leads from the motorway to the ruins. They were impressive though, and the 4 people singing opera tunes open air also.

DSC_0055 DSC_0056Never give up! Next on the agenda was the Geghard Monastery, also a UNESCO site (video from the road here). What a difference to the previous place! This site is situated in a beautiful valley up the mountains, it is well kept and well visited,and it is an interesting combination of building and rock carved cave-church. Impressive to see, it reminded us of the caves we saw in Cappadocia.

DSC_0066 DSC_0084 DSC_0090 DSC_0092 DSC_0094

Back in downtown Yerevan, it was quite a change. Glitzy boutiques, big cars, fancy cafés for the urbanite population. We had our first espresso in weeks. Down at the supermarket we went to buy some basics, like water, milk, chocolate etc. We were followed and screened on every move we made. It’s not easy to shop if you are constantly watched.

Then came the worst episode of our tour so far, and it is definitely taking some idealism, lightness and probably also some naive approach off our enterprise. We drove from the hotel into town for a late dinner. At the Old Yerevan restaurant we ate well, although we would have walked out of any such place back home in Europe due to the overdose in folklore decoration and music. We had parked the car on a parallel street of our restaurant, under several big street lamps and in front of some bars. When we came back we noticed something hanging from the rooftop. Someone had cut open the cover of the rooftop, cut the ropes that hold it, cut one of our bags. Nothing was missing, the car untouched. But it will be a pain to fix the cover, and it will unlikely hold the rest of the trip.

[Addition from the morning after: as our friend André rightly commented on FB, these things happen everywhere. We could have had much less luck, so we move on and make the best of today, sunshine and mountains ahead.]

[Next addition after another comment we received: we’re changing this post to be all sunshine, no critique, everything is good. We are aware that putting the URL of this site on our car advertises its content and therefore also people will read it that don’t know our background, where we come from and what we have seen so far, and therefor don’t understand the ironic twist to so many comments. We want to keep track of the transformation we undergo while we confront ourselves with situations so completely different from our normal lives and mean to be in no way offensive. We just write about what we experience on the road, good and less good. We apologize if anybody’s feelings got hurt.]

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Author: electroboris

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9 thoughts on “Yerevan is not for us”

  1. Hmmmm …a bit naive if you guys thought you gonna get “close to the locals” while travelling away from Europe in a flashy brand new RR, techie gear, looking for internet all the time, and expecting “service”…. I hope this goes well as planned and wish you all the best, but Yerevan is about time you guys start switching Vacation into Trip, and start letting the Trip flow into you. Vacanza è guardare il paesaggio. Viaggio è farne parte. In bocca al lupo!

  2. Well, so far it has gone very well. Re the car: around here, we just have a small Jeep. You should see what drives on the streets in the Balkans, Armenia, Georgia, also Turkey to some extent. Both in terms of size and flashiness, we’re amateurs 😉
    Internet is part of our life, and we’re really surprised to see how even in the most remote areas there is WiFi, and almost everybody has a smartphone in his hands. You drive through remote mountain ranges and see the shepherds messaging. It’s unbelievable! We did a tour to Mount Nemrut, and sitting on top of the mountain, in a “remote area in Anatolia”, there was a business type having a 45 mins cell phone call. So far for the craziness.
    But yes, all this is part of the experience. No hard feelings. Ciao and thanks for the comment!

  3. A lot of contrast in that area of the world. I have done a motorcycle trip down to Iran from Italy, as I have done to Africa and other parts of this world, on two wheels. There always is something that brings you back to reality: rich western man looking at the zoo will never go away, no matter how dirty or faraway you are. But yeah, it is always worth it. Hang on in there guys. You wont regret it.

  4. Sorry that you found it to be so disappointing but you should have known what you were getting into (I cringed at some of the condescending and smugly self-congratulatory remarks in your review–glad you eventually followed it up with a postscript disclaimer).

  5. Hello H., we gave your comment quite some thought to be true and also got feedback from several other people on the matter, after they read the cleaned up post. We did not intend to offend anybody, we just write about what we see and live while we travel. And we do so from our perspective of course. What we saw in Armenia was in part shocking to us. We have never visited the country, so we did not know what we were getting into, and travel guides can give you only so much insight upfront. That’s why we are doing this trip. We have passed several countries where we expected bad things to happen, without incidents. We came to Armenia without prejudice, and were simply disappointed that we had an incident there. Just the day after we met lovely people, that changed our impression, and wrote about it too. So please excuse us if we hurt your feelings.
    Best, Boris

  6. While in Armenia, don’t forget to visit Nagorno-Karabakh! 😛
    As for the bad things happening, I’m so sorry about that. Armenia is one of the safest countries you can be in. You wrote about Keghart, I’m wondering if you saw Karni as well? That one is the only pre-christian temple left standing. Absolutely breathtaking for a history buff like me 😀

    Don’t lose heart though. Armenia has MUCH to offer and Yerevan is full of foreigners now, which can be a major help. Gyumri is definitely worth seeing as well, and the people incomparable.

  7. Hi Tamar, sorry for the delay, we were cut off the Internet for some time. We did go to Karabakh! 😉 and we loved it.

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