Yerevan Walking Tour

The best way to get acquainted with Yerevan is to do as the locals do and walk. This both saves time (parking is impossible and traffic jams are now par for the course, adding 20-30 minutes to what were once 5 minute jaunts) while allowing you to savor the sights and sounds of the city.

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Map E

Continue up Mashtots, and cross Moskovian St., the next cross street.  Immediately on your left facing Moskovian is the remarkable little Yervand Kochar Studio-Museum (35),  dedicated to one of Armenia’s most important artists (if anyone rivaled Sarian on the world stage, Kochar surely did, a friend and cohort of Pablo Picasso, Jean Miro, Alexander Calder and the Duchamps whose works are displayed at the Louvre and Pompidou museums in Paris). 

Kochar led a terribly difficult life in Armenia, forbidden to see his wife after he emigrated to Soviet Armenia (he was forbidden from even communicating with her), facing harassment and hostility from a cowed artist union that was supposed to look out for his well being.  The museum includes some of his later works plus models and drawing for his famous monumental sculptures in Yerevan (Vartan Mamikonian and Davit Sasuntsi). 

Side Trip: Take a right onto Moskovian and you will reach in a short block the Ballet Dance School (right side of street) and on the left, the Ring Park (36), one of Yerevan’s remaining green belts, with sidewalks, outdoor cafes and restaurants, and some great fountains. 

Backtrack and continue north on Mashtots.  The next cross street is Isahakian.  A left turn takes you past the Yerevan Pantomime Theatre (37) (36 Isahakian St., tel. 56-18-55) and at the end of the block, the Russian Art Museum (38), home of the second largest collection of 19th century Russian Art in the world.  A right turn takes you to Ring Park.  At the northeast corner, Tashir Pizza sits under the popular Kino Nairi (39), which shows first run, independent and off beat films in its halls. 

The next block of Mashtots includes several spots, three of note: the State Marionette Theatre (40) (43 Mashtots Ave., tel. 56-24-50, 56-04-91) which can be very creative in its plays, using found objects along with more traditional puppetry; the next door Ararat Brandy Store, set within a “medieval” store; and just north the Girker Book Store (41), about the most beautiful shop in the city, the walls and elaborate plasterwork covered with exquisitely painted frescoes and Armenian miniature motifs.  May this shop never change!  Buy something just to encourage the owner to keep fighting gentrification. 

The next street is Koriun, at its southeast corner a Yerevan institution, the Ponchikanots (43), bought and renovated by Grand Candy for a new generation.  ‘Ponchikanots’ is a clever Armenian adaptation of the Russian word “Ponchik” for the deep fried sweet-cream filled doughnuts popular throughout the USSR, adding the Armenian suffix “–anots” to indicate a place or spot (hence the new Armenian slang ’doughnut-shack’).  Ponchikanots were popular with people of all strata, from the poorest student to the best-connected party apparatchik, all needing a cheap sugar fix.  The new version respects this tradition while updating the surroundings.  Stop for the adrenaline rush.

Cross over Koriun and continue north to the base of the uphill cobbled street.  The Matenadaran (46) will face you at the top of the hill in front, under the Mair Hayastan (47) (“Mama Armenia”) Statue.  On the lower alley to your right about half way up the block is the popular Chamber Theatre (44) (58 Mashtots, tel. 56-60-70, 58-78-44, email: mailto:erkat@xter.net, URL: www.erkat.am) which performs mainly satires and comedies, some of which comment on current events and are quite funny, if acidic.  Whatever is performing, if you have the time, get a ticket to watch some entertainment with a bite.

Continue up the cobbled street and steps to the Mesrop Mashtots Statue (45) (sculptor G. Chubarian) at the foot of the Matenadaran (46).  The Matenadaran (59 Mashtots Ave., tel. 58-32-92, 56-25-78, www.matenadaran.org, open Tues-Sat 10-4, 500 AMD, with over 25,000 manuscripts and fragments dating back to the Greek era, is literally a world treasure, one of the oldest and richest book-depositories in the world.  The collection contains manuscripts from the pre-Christian era, Armenian manuscripts form the 5th c, and those from foreign countries, some of which survive only in their Armenian translation at the Matenadaran.  Give yourself an hour for this visit, worth every second. 

End Mashtots Avenue Walking Tour.


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