I LOVE this place. We arrived in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, around 7pm after taking a marshrutka from Tbilisi for about 30 GEL (Georgian Lari). We were exhausted from being in the car all day but the hostel was really nice and in a great location so we were feeling good about that. After freshening up a bit, we went out in search of a cash exchange and something to eat. We got some Armenian Dram (the exchange rate is ridiculous right now, almost 500 Dram to $1) and then followed the map towards some of the recommended restaurants along Tumanyan Str. (That’s almost my last name! It’s everywhere!)
We ended up at a pretty nice Armenian chain where we could try the local traditional food. We ordered strained yogurt (very strong flavor, almost like sour cream) with lavash, chicken barbecue and potatoes, and a beef kebab. YUM. The spices here are so good. Everything was delicious.
After dinner, we started wandering back towards the hostel, and we noticed there were people everywhere. There is so much life in the city, it’s amazing. We walked by this huge park by the Opera House and it was FULL of people. I mean completely full. It was almost 11pm and there were kids playing with these little electronic cars, bouncy castles and bubbles, and then there were tons of open-air bars and other happenings in the park. They had everything from a somewhat sketchy-looking discotheque to a ridiculously exquisite Imperial Russia-looking open-air lounge.
We kept walking and then as we were nearing the hostel we saw a blockade with a bunch of people behind it and we thought, oh, maybe there’s a festival or something.
Not a festival.
I had a bad gut feeling about it, and I didn’t want to be near the police, but we went to check it out anyways. We got over there and there was music and cool stuff happening and people sitting on the ground chilling out. Then a guy came over to ask us something and he realized we didn’t speak Armenian. Russian? No. English, French or Spanish, dude. Ah, French. Bonjour! Bonjour. Comment ça va? Ça va bien, merci. C’est quoi ça? We tried to ask what was happening. He couldn’t think of the word. Finally I said, “Protest?” He raised his arms as if holding up a sign or standing up against the establishment and said, “Yeah, protest!” FML. For what? He points to the lights. Protest for the energy prices. EXACTLY WHERE WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE. Sigh. We promptly left. SORRY, MOM AND DAD.
Next we ended up at Cascade, a giant fountain staircase thing next to our hostel where, again, there were tons of people milling about. Children on bicycles and rollerblades, children falling asleep in grandfather’s arms, families hanging out, couples and friends relaxing, everybody sitting on benches and walking around in the sculpture garden. It was such a great atmosphere, I loved it. And the park is absolutely beautiful!
Overall, it was an entertaining and relaxing (minus the protest hiccup) first evening in Yerevan and we were excited to explore the rest of the city the next day.