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Day twenty-four - visiting friends

Thursday 20 September 2019

sunny 30 °C

Planning my route

I’d been invited to lunch by a friend who lives north of Yerevan’s Victory Park. I was going to get a taxi but looking at the map, her apartment looked as if it was within walking distance if taken in stages. It was going to be another hot day so thought I’d take my time. First stop was the Santafe cafe near the Cascade Complex for a coffee and violet lemonade. Although I always carry water it‘s good to keep the fluids up.

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The price of coffee

On the subject of coffee - I have found the prices range widely from 350 to 1,200 drams. The cheapest so far has been at Marilda’s, a locals cafe, with the Marriott being the most expensive. The cafes near the tourist attractions are generally around 800-900 dram.

The Cascades Monument

I chickened out of walking up the Cascades and took the escalators so that I only had to walk a short distance to the top. It was already 26C and I still had quite a lot of walking to do. There is a walkway at the top of the completed cascades that leads to the Charles Aznavour museum,. And from there, you can walk up the road to another viewing platform and monument. Between the Cascades and this viewpoint, unfinished building works can be seen which, I assume, have halted due to lack of funds.

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There is a much better view of the city from the platform - I’m not sure why I’ve never been up to it before. Next to the monument there’s a building which has no signage but Armenian writing on it. Apparently it’s a memorial to those who died during the Stalin years. Close by was a group of strange statues/artwork - not sure how to describe them. They look as if they might be scenes from children’s stories but they are quite random and verging on the bizarre.

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Victory Park

I’d been worried about crossing the road to get to Victory Park but there was an underground pedestrian way right by the gates. Last time I came here was 9 years ago when we went on the Ferris Wheel and rowed round the lake. It’s a sizeable amusement park - lots of children’s rides - too numerous to mention. There are also a lot of minion themed attractions like the bouncy castle and inflatable slides so they must be big here, too.

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Close by the Ferris wheel is the Mother Armenia monument. It’s a pretty impressive statue with a military museum at the bottom and tanks and other military stuff outside - none of which has any interest for me. There are also great views over the city from this vantage point but it was far too hazy to see Ararat.

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To get my bearings, I walked down to the lake as I hoped there would be an exit onto Azatutyan street as I needed to walk up there to meet my friend Hasmik. It was time to rehydrate so stopped at the Venice cafe near the lake to rest in the shade and enjoyed a refreshing mint and thyme tea. I gave myself 20 minutes to walk up the hill. By this time it was over 30C so quite a slog. I’d under-estimated the time needed to get to the meeting place. it was hot and the road on a slight incline. I had to quicken the pace but as I neared our meeting point, I felt a tap on my shoulder a& there was Hasmik.

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Time with friends

I spent a fun afternoon with Hasmik’s family. Her sister, who had organised our last two visits for us, was there with her three children - all of whom are under four. They are quite a handful, bursting with energy. Hasmik had made some great food. She is experimenting with different dishes and her sweet/sour plums with cheese were delicious. Boiled eggs stuffed with walnuts, eggplant salad as well as red pepper and parsley salad together with bread. Needless to say, there was also cake - Armenians like desserts. Fruit, too. We also had a couple of glasses of Armenian muscat wine which made me sleepy as I don’t normally drink in the day.

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The entrance to the apartment is quite shabby, like most Armenian blocks. However, inside it was very spacious and light. Hasmik herself had redesigned the layout and decor. She’s done a good job.

Wending my way back home

As evening came Hasmik had to go to work so she gave me a lift to the top of the Cascades. I don’t know how anyone can drive in the city - it’s like a race track with a dog eat dog mentality. Driving around cities like London feels like a walk in the park in comparison. It was nice strolling back as the air cooled. Although it was a silhouette, Ararat looked particularly close in the fading light. I walked back via Moskovyan then cut down Aram Street, through the park. Lots of families out and about, watching the water fountains and enjoying the cooler air.

Although I wasn’t particularly hungry, I ate a few leftovers, had a beer and carried on reading my historical novel, by C J Samson. I can’t help thinking that UK remainers could take a leaf out of the Kett uprising in Norwich and organise something similar. I’m trying not to get too depressed about what is happening in the UK at the moment, otherwise I just won’t be able to sleep.

Posted by Cath_Greig 07:52 Archived in Armenia Tagged food friends coffee cascades yerevan Comments (0)

Day twenty - heading for the Cascades

Sunday 15 September 2019

26 °C

The Cascade Complex

I started by exploring close to the apartment. It’s within a complex of houses bordered by Mashtots, Zakyan, Khorenatsi and Grigor Lusavorich Streets. It isn’t in the heart of the tourist area so feels more local. Everything I need is within the vicinity including an excellent fruit shop two minutes away. Although I got up a bit later than planned, my first tourist destination was the Cascades, probably my favourite part of the city. On the way I found a group of statues commemorating four Armenian actors who starred in a popular comedy “The Men”. There are lots of statues in Yerevan.

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Lots of public art

I’m not sure how many steps there are in the Cascades but it’s a long way to the top with minimal shade. The views of the city, and if you are lucky, Mount Ararat, are well worth the clamber up. Within the Cascades is the Cafesjian Centre for the Arts that houses art works from a variety of artists, mainly international. For those that can’t make it up the exterior steps to the top, there is an escalator inside that takes you most of the way up. A treasure trove of Contemporary art can be seen as you travel up the escalator and can also been seen in the gardens at the bottom. All of this is completely free but the shop and internal galleries are only open Friday to Sunday.

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Healthy Lunch

Although I’d made myself a coffee in the morning at the apartment, I needed to have another and found the Kaziriok cafe serving good coffee in the cutest cups. Next stop was lunch - I had a list of ‘go to’ places recommended by my niece Elly but today I wanted to try the Eat, Fit cafe on Aram Street. It was so on trend, it even listed the amount of calories on the menu. I had buckwheat noodles with avocado which was totally delicious, together with a cooling mint lemonade.

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Running out of steam

I intended to try and get to the Children’s Railway via the underground tunnel at the end of Aram Street. The whole area looked pretty abandoned and one tunnel was blocked off. I decided to find out a bit more about it first before venturing any further. The nearby park had some public art - objects and statues covered in what looked like AstroTurf.

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As I was still recovering from the train journey and the heat, I went for a siesta and then ventured out later to get some salads from the deli at the SAS supermarket for my evening meal. I realised that it was my third day of no alcohol so promised myself that I would get some beer or have a glass of wine at the local wine bar. But not today - a catch up on my book and more sleep were top of my to do list. As I settled down a storm that had been brewing all day, erupted with rain, thunder and lightening. Didn’t disturb me when I went to bed though.

Posted by Cath_Greig 09:44 Archived in Armenia Tagged food statues coffee cascades yerevan cafesjian Comments (0)

Day five - Tbilisi to Borjomi

Saturday 31 August

rain 23 °C

Basically, our main focus was to get packed, eat breakfast and get out of the apartment. It was raining outside and puddles were beginning to form in the dug up road outside the bedroom window. Not a very inspiring start to the day. Our host Gnn came to pick up the key as we left and we trundled off to Liberty Square metro in the rain. Fast and Furious we’re still filming as we walked by. We will have to go and see the film although we suspect the car chase will probably be about 2 minutes long. Still no sign of Vin Diesel.

Negotiating the barriers and escalators with large cases was a bit of a challenge but we just about managed it. It’s a long ride down. Our destination was Didube where the Marshrutka heading for the north and west, set out from. The rain persisted but wasn’t heavy & the temperature wasn’t cold either. When we got out of the station, the car park was rammed with what seemed like hundreds of buses making it hard to know where to go. Luckily someone pointed us In the right direction and we managed to get onto a bus that was half full. The buses don’t leave until they are full so we had to wait a little while. Once full, the bus was about to set off when a woman got on last minute with no seat available. Once we left the bus station the driver stopped and got a tiny chair from the boot and put it in the space between two seats. We suspect that this isn’t even legal in Georgia, a country where rules seem prett relaxed, especially on the road.

The journey took 2 hours which went quickly. The scenery wasn’t that exciting until we reached the mountainous area - vast flat plains are just not scenic enough. Borjomi at first sight seemed like a nice little town with a river running through and lots of greenery. The bus stop was very close to our new home - Guest House Casa on Saakadze Street. A bit of a trudge up the hill and we arrived to where a group of excited children were playing happily. Our hosts are lovely and made us feel very welcome. We were given a recommendation for lunch and headed off for an explore of the town. Pesvebi restaurant was on the other side of the river on Erekle Street. It had the usual Georgian fare with a nice terrace overlooking the river. I had salad with corn bread and cheese which was pretty good. From there we went to the Inka cafe for coffee and were also tempted by the cake - which maybe wasn’t a good thing for my waist line.

From there it was a straight run to the mineral water park. There is a small entry fee to go into the grounds. We were going to check out the sulphur pools which were about 4k along the track that runs alongside the river. To get there you have to run the gauntlet of the rather rundown amusement park and the general hawkers that can be found at sites like this. There is also a cheesy ‘Love Bridge’ where newly weds can have their photo taken. This seems to be a thing in Georgia - at Gergeti there were couples having their wedding photos taken against a background of dramatic mountain scenery. The worst exhibit seemed to be the wax works which apparently is the ‘best’ in Georgia. I beg to differ after seeing what was outside.

We didn’t make it to the sulphur pools but went up in the cable car instead which was pretty old unlike the modern ones we rode in Tbilisi. Not sure when it was built but it certainly has a touch of the soviets about it. At the top is a Ferris wheel but we declined to go on it and decided to take the cable car back down and make our way back. Apparently, Borjomi is famous for it’s mineral water which is a big part of their export market. None of us have tasted it yet mostly because of previous experiences of spa water.

Just after we got back to the guest house, the heaven’s opened and there was an absolute downpour. We took refuge, had a bit of down time before venturing out again. Nick had found a restaurant that had been highly recommended but when we got there it was closed. We went into the next place we came across - Cafe Tourist. The people just leaving we’re really singing it’s praises so we thought we’d give it a go. Usual fare but my bean stew was very tasty. We also had to sit at a small table with Joseph Stalin looking down at us. We weren’t entirely sure if it was an ironic statement or whether the family were die-hard Stalinists. Despite that, I’d definitely recommend the place - it’s on Nodar Dumbadze Street close to the Borjomi puppet theatre.

Feeling full to the brim after two pretty big meals in one day, we made our way back and rewarded ourselves with a good night’s sleep.

Posted by Cath_Greig 05:55 Archived in Georgia Tagged waterfalls food borjomi Comments (0)

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