Walk around Gyumri

Parking for the Night

We went to explore the town of Gyumri, in our memories as the town where the earthquake hit the most in 1988. 80% of the buildings were destroyed, but of course it was more than 30 years ago and the town was rebuilt and life was that of a small town again. Afterwards we found 2 monasteries, both of them impressive. We read, that we should have a great view of Mount Aragats with 4092 metres on this route, but the clouds were hanging low and no mountains were to be seen that day.

By accident we had parked in front of the cinema, so that we had a lot of cars and people around us at night. In the morning it turned out, it was also a bus stop where the police checked people arriving in town. But it was the perfect spot to start a tour of Gyumri.

The big Vartanants Square has a memorial of the Battle of Avarayr (451) in the centre. The group of historic Armenian figures with Vartan Mamikonian on his horse, led the Armenian army’s campaign against Sassanid Persia.

Beautifully rebuilt All Saviours Church of red and black stone, with the monument which commemorates the disastrous earthquake.

The inside of the church is still under construction
Villa Kars
Villa Kars

We visited the Gallery of Mariam and Eranuhi Aslamazyan, 2 sisters, who lived and worked in Gyumri during Soviet time. The gallery in a historic building was opened by the sisters in 1987. After the ruinous earthquake of 1988 it was given to the homeless people and was reopened in 2004. Paintings and pottery are displayed on the second floor of the villa.

Aslamazyans Gallery
Mariam Aslamazyan

Next to the museum, there is a fantastic cafe, called Aregak: “As the first inclusive bakery and café in Gyumri, Aregak proudly employs both youth with disabilities and mothers of youth with disabilities to bring customers excellent European-style bread, pastries, sandwiches, coffees and teas”. We can attest to that! We had delicious treats and also bought some tasty bread, and the service was lovely and excellent!

Aregak cafe and bakery

Outside of town we had noticed huge cemeteries, for sure many of the graves of victims of the earthquake. We also noticed constructions built to house the homeless, many unfinished, others standing lonely outside of town. For sure many things went wrong here after the earthquake.

Close to the border to Turkey, we visited the Marmashen Monastery, where three cross-domed churches from the 11th century have been preserved. The location at the river was lovely, even with the hazy weather we had.

Marmashen Monastery

After this young lady had shown us around and even sung for us in the church, we are now the proud owner of a typical Armenian doll she produces.

Marmashen Monastery

After we just had learned in the car museum of Tbilisi, that Soviet luxury cars produced only for the leaders, were later painted white and available for weddings, we were exited to come across such a wedding car in use!

Mother of Armenia in Gyumri

We saw a couple of these stations, wondering what they are for. As google knows everything, we found out, that they are supposed to prevent hail. Some kind of gas is released into the air in case of the threat of hail.

On the way along the northern side of Mount Aragats, we stopped at Harichavank Monastery near Artik, built in the 7th century.

Harichavank Monastery
Intricately detailed tympanum @ the entrance to the gavit
Muqarnas – vaulting similar to Islamic architecture

A fun peculiarity was the hermitage from the 12th century. It sits adventurously on a rocky peak next to the gorge. An earthquake blasted off the rock so that the small stone building is no longer accessible.

All the houses are built of the red tuff, mostly in a very simple layout
Cow dung is dried and used for heating
Soviet style tractor

We were now on the way to Yerevan. Do you think we made it without visiting a monastery? Not really 🙂 But we also came past a big bakery and an astronomic research sight. More on our next post!

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