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 A

The park begins just east of Mashtots Ave. between Isahakian St. (one block east of Kino Nairi (1)) and Moskovian St. (one block east of the Conservatory & Choreographic College building (2)).  En route you pass cafes and bistros (5, 6)

Another entry is from the Kochar / Arbat Steps (7), which connect Isahakian and Koriun streets.  The steps are a recent addition to an alley that was once filled with trash and cars.  The passage is now a manicured step-way with trees, flowers and park benches, with, at the opposite corner, the Dramatic Theatre (8) (Dramatikakan Tatron, 28 Isahakian St., tel. 52-47-23, 52-47-33),  which repertoire includes radical interpretations of classics like Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, as well as modern pieces (William Saroyan’s My Hearty is in the Highlands, Tennessee Williams Streetcar named Desire).  Performances often sold out, book early. 

The park begins with a small playground next to the imposing Poplavok/Aragast Café (9), which boats blue sails for its top masts.  The pseudo-ship edging a large pond and fountain once boasted the best live jazz performances in town in the summer and became notorious in the 1990s for the murder of a supporter by presidential bodyguards.

It continues to provide live entertainment on the small platform adjoining the downstairs outdoor café.  Next door is the less pretentious Triumph café (10), with indoor facilities next to a pleasant tree canopied outdoor café.  Triumph faces the massive publishing house building (11).  It also faces the monument to Hakob Meghapart (12) (sculptor Khachatur Iskandarian), an Armenian in Venice who established a printing house and published the first book in Armenian in 1512.  

On the opposite bank of the pond is the less upscale Moskovian café, next to a small statue dedicated to Karo Halabyan (13) (sculptor Romeo Julhakian), a Soviet era architect who died in 1959.  Born 1897 in Elizavetpol, Halabyan was schooled at the Nersissyan School in Tflis (Tbilisi) before training as an architect.  In 1929 he founded the Society of All Russia Proletariat Architects, became editor in chief of Arkitekturra SSR magazine, and quickly rose in communist ranks. 

His work Yerevan includes busts of Karl Marx and Armenian Soviet heroes Shahumian and Kamo, graphic illustrations for poems by Yeghishe Charents, theatrical designs for the Sundukian theatre, the design for the original Russian Stanislavski Theatre on Abovyan St. (done in the constructivism style, now covered over by 1960s era stone plates) and the Yerevan Hydroelectric Workers Residency (a.k.a. the large apartment building behind the Martiros Sarian statue in Artist Vernissage).  From 1929-31 he was director of the State Design Institute (current ArmDesign Institute).

In Moscow he designed the Agriculture Exhibition Armenia pavilion, the Soviet Army Theatre, and the Soviet Pavilion for the 1939 New York World Fair, for which he was given a medal.  In 1936 he was elected member of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Other monuments in the park include a 3000 BCE Vishapkar (14) (dragon stone) in the southwest end of the block, brought from the Geghama Lehr (mountain range) to the spot.  Vishap stones are carved rough pillars that were placed at the headwaters of rivers or at springs.  The dragon in Armenia has a fishlike appearance, some thinking it is a lake Sevan cousin of the Loch Ness monster in Scotland.  Just east of the pond an exact copy of the Carrara Spring Monument (15) (sculptor Ara Harutunian), a large khachkar stone with two ram figures, given to Yerevan’s sister city Carrara in Italy; on the southeast corner a new Memorial to the Armenian-Jewish Genocides (16), and north of that closest to Teryan St., the eloquent Vahan Teryan Statue (17) (sculptor Karlen Karakhanian). 

Vahan Teryan (1885-1920) is a famous poet known for his sorrowful, romantic poems, the most famous of which are still read by misty-eyed girls and sung in their musical versions by people of all ages.  Teryan (also spelled "Derian") began his short life in the Javakh region of Georgia, a mostly Armenian populated area of the country.  Schooled in Tflis (Tbilisi), he then studied at the Lazarian College in Moscow, where he was exposed to symbolism and joined the Russian Social Democrats.  He was jailed by Czarist police for his political activity.  He published his first book of poems, "Dreams at Dusk", in 1908, which made him an immediate sensation, Hovhannes Tumanyan calling him the most original lyric poet of his age. 

He later published "Night Remembrance", "The Golden Legend", "The Return", "The Golden Link", "In the Land of Nairi" (where he substitute the word 'Nairi' for each instance where the word 'Armenia' would have suited), and "The Cat's Paradise".  His poems are filled with images of rain, mist, pallid fields and shapeless shadows, symbols of sorrow, despair and eventually, peace.  In 1913, Teryan left Moscow University for the University of St. Petersburg, where he majored in oriental languages, intensifying his political involvement. 

After the revolution he became representative of Armenians in the Ministry of Nations, personally working with Lenin and Stalin.  He died of Tuberculosis at age 35.  Each year there is a commemoration of his life in Javakh region (Akhaltsikhe & Akhalkalak), at Gandza Village, where he was born.

North of the Teryan Statue is a group of food stalls (cheap eats), and the Isahakian Bus Station, with buses on the street shuttling folks (mostly students) between Yerevan to Dilijan and Sevan.  


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