Finally, after having dealt with all the obstacles, I managed to visit Gyumri - the second biggest town in Armenia.
There were several options how to get to the city. But we have chosen to go there by train (ticket price was 950 drams/almost 2 euros). The train was departing at 8 a.m., so me and David (armenian from Tbilisi) departed from our house at 7. David's friend - Sergo, was already wating for us at the station. Being a little late (little Armenian tradition ;) ) we run to be in time. Luckily - we managed to get in. We were almost alone in the waggon of this eleсtric train and also managed to get a little nap until the final destination. What was a little interesting that there were no toilets in the train. Something to keep in mind, if you travel with you liquid friends.
The ride took us 3 hours. While arriving to the city, the train passes through a very big cemetery. When we arrived, we discovered, that it was much colder in Gyumri, then in Yerevan. So having caught the breath of winter and having some little time before the meeting with a friend, we took off exploring the city.
What catches the eyes immediatly - is a lot of signs in Russian (unlike Yerevan, where things are mostly written in Armenian and English). Though it's easy to explain - the city hosts Russian military base, and also lots of Russian citizens reside there. Not to forget that the previous name of the city was Leninakan. Isn't that a perfect place for a true communist?! I also wondered across the city looking for signs of post-soviet rule, unfortunately, I have nothing specific to mention. Maybe those builings were ruined during the earthquake in 1988. To point out, that it was REALLY a terrible one. And Gyumri was basicly the epicentre of it. That's why I mentioned the big cemetery. The biggest church is still under the reconstruction and very few old building servived.
The main square is quite big, with very beautiful ancient church. City hall is also cituated there. Main square is also filled with some restaraunts and cafes. And one, with the very funny to me name - "Ponchik-monchik". Also one curious eye may see a faeton galoping round the square, and which is used mainly for wedding ceremonies.
From the very beginning of our exploration we accidently bummed into interesting street-art. It looked very nice. I have no clue how many such things are in the city, but we managed to find 3 of them.
The city also appears to have several monuments. We didn't manage to find all of them. And some of them weren't signed in Russian nor English, so an interested foreigner may get upset with that fact.
There is a joke - "In Russia, state officials steal money devoted for roads, buy expensive cars instead of repairing them, and later destroy these cars at ruined roads". True story for Gyumri. Roads are awful, but one can enjoy them with quite fancy cars riding around.
Another bad fact for me was also that museums were closed on Sunday. A surprise to me, cause I really wanted to visit some museums.
Generally, I don't have ultimate expectations to anything. Because I believe that even a tiny thing could make a major difference. In Gyumri, I did experienced that, so I liked the city. Also a huge factor is the company you are with. My company was awesome. Even darkest cell could become fun, when you are surrounded by people who's presence you enjoy. Big thanks to David, Sergo and Tamara for the company, history lessons and geography of Georgia and Armenia (especially the city names).
In very near future, I will visit the city once more.
all photos by Sergo Arakelyan
collage by me
collage by me