Monday, May 17, 2010

Week end in Hayastan...

Visiting Armenia was a plan, I could never manage to implement. Procrastination is definitely a bad thing when it comes to travelling, but I usually love making spontaneous decisions. So, with my wanderer friends I've headed to the Bus Station. Certainly, I had expectations about the possible conditions of the Bus/Minibus, but what I've experienced seemed completely unbearable from the beginning. Although we had no choice in terms of transportation and I had to use that stinky and inconvenient minibus. Thus we bought our tickets and left for Armenia for the week end...

What can I say, when you travel to some place, you always have some pre-arrival thoughts and I have to admit that my expectations were rather low. Apparently, most of the people around me were not really excited about their memories after coming back from Armenia and they were quite cynical about my travel plans. In the beginning when we travelled through mountains, wasn't feeling excited about the cities on the way, but Yerevan is indeed a way more different story. Despite the fact of "Architectural Failure" as my friend called the city after glimpsing the panorama, we all agreed that the city is surpassingly better off in some extents than Tbilisi.

Cleaner Streets: The capital of the country and all the cities we have stopped or passed by were definitely cleaner than Georgian ones. Interestingly, streets are also more convenient for disabled people on wheelchairs. 

Seat belts: As our driver remarked, police is quite strict on using seat belts and I've not noticed any driver violating the law. Certainly Libertarians might claim that fastening seat belt is a personal choice of a citizen, but I do think it still should be regulated by the government.

City traffic: One of the most surprising parts of the whole trip was traffic. Unlike Tbilisi, drivers always stop when pedestrians cross so called "Zebra". One cannot even dream about that in Tbilisi, Georgian drivers are indeed the worst when it comes to the respect of pedestrians.

Open air cafes: The most amazing thing in Yerevan is a quantity of open air cafes. I'm trying to reminisce other cities in Europe, but I've never seen so many open air spots as in Yerevan. Seems like Armenians are fond of hanging out a lot and absolutely loved these sort of fancy bars all around the city. Also the fact that city center was full of people at 3 a.m. (then we went to sleep) was quite astounding. You can barely find anyone in Tbilisi after midnight, which is not a case in there. I should also remark that Armenians tend to be very gender divided... I was observing the chill-out spots all the time and barely saw mixed couples sitting and hanging out together. It is not even balanced in a way to be more or less equally occupied by female and male groups. What I've noticed was a very male dominated society, wherein one can see lots of guys sitting, talking and drinking coffee for a long and very few mixed couples. That was indeed a bit bizarre for me. It is certainly not deriving from the fact that there are too many openly gay men in Armenia, just I blame dogmatic culture in framing the society in such a way.

Gay friendly city? I do not have that much information about the LGBT groups in Armenia, but I was really surprised by seeing gay couple holding hands and walking down the street. One can never find the same in Tbilisi. (at least I've not seen that). As I've heard there is even an official Gay club in Yerevan and in this extent they seem to be more tolerant then Georgians are.

Envoy: Well, I should have probably started with the hostel as it was a first place we've stepped in Yerevan. Youth hostels are not common in this region, but the one, wherein we perfectly accommodated was truly the best I've ever stayed in. As I was told afterwards this hostel "Envoy" got some awards and if there is any international awarding group, it definitely deserves 4/5 stars.

That was more or less positive part of the trip and overall impression was rather good. However, I have to mention that most of the buildings in the city are tasteless, built up with grey materials. That is why my friend called it “A city of architectural failure” and I presume all these gigantic buildings and strong soviet influence clearly describes the mentality of the people. Country seriously lacks infrastructure and it is easy noticeable all over Armenia. Corruption is also a serious problem and first time in my life, I've experienced that on myself when the train conductor directly asked for bribes for changing a place in the train. But generally country is worth visiting and interesting enough to spend a week end in the streets of Yerevan


Bullfinch said...

Much true in this!
for the gay clubs: I do know that there was at least one in Tbilisi also. just I'm not so sure, if it was "officially gay" :)

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