The Outsider's Insider

A Guide to Living in Yerevan

The Holidays December 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 8:12 am

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Except, with this balmy October weather, it certainly doesn’t feel quite like the winter holiday season!  Is it just me, or have all the holiday decorations made an exceptionally early entrance this year?  I think SAS put their decorations up on December 1st.  Is the Western tradition of starting Christmas as early as humanly possible creeping in?  This is the time of year that I generally panic about the coming festivities.   If you are Armenian, or, like me, have an Armenian extended family, you know that the New Year’s tradition is basically a minimum of 6 days of eating, drinking and visiting.  Sounds fun, right??  Well, it is….but it can be EXHAUSTING!

A little tip to make things easier on the gift side of things….

If you hate (or, like me, are not so good at ) wrapping gifts, there is a great little place in the Yeridasardakan underground shopping area where you can buy wrapping paper and they will wrap whatever you want for VERY cheap!  They make the gift look really beautiful, and for a small package with ribbons they only charged a total of 500 amd!

I have also been asked by a couple of people where to buy candles.  I know that there is a place that sells candles on Amiryan Street (if you are coming from Republic Square it is on the right side about 1/2 a block before Mashtots).  I don’t know the quality though.  I think that all of the new holiday decoration shops popping up all around the city should carry them soon.

I heard that the tree in Republic Square will be put up soon (I know that the frame has been erected), and I am just hoping that the decorations are little less….well, a little less bright than  last year.  I would love to see more understated decoration this year (I know, I know….I’m dreaming).

If you have any great holiday suggestions from Yerevan, please share with the rest of us!

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Favorites November 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 6:02 am

I have never been the type of person who says ‘Oh, my favorite book is…’ or ‘My favorite movie is….’, maybe I’m just indecisive but I really can’t choose and I feel that it constantly changes.  After doing a survey on Facebook that involved saying how many books you have read in a list of  the top 100 most popular books in Britain, and getting comments on how lacking the list really was, I thought that I could ask YOU to help me compile a list of the best books ever.  In tandem, I thought we could also do a list of movies (for all of those who aren’t big readers).  So, your task is to leave a short list of  ideas (or even just one) in the comments section.  When we have a pretty good list, I’ll post it!

I’ll even get it started….

‘The Power of Myth’ by Joseph Campbell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Master and Margarita’ by Mikhail Bulgakov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and…I’m a sucker for Westerns….. ‘Lonesome Dove’ by Larry McMurtry (and I can add that the movie is fantastic too!)

 

Chocoholics in Yerevan- The Adventures of Lori and Kirstin October 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 6:35 am
Tags: , ,

I wanted to give you a run down of the crazy adventure of attempting to get some of the world’s biggest chocolate bar.  I was joined in my adventure by my dear friend Kirstin…WHAT A DAY!

4:00pm-  Arrive in Republic Square.  No sign of the big bar anywhere,  but we are definitely in the right place.  There’s a huge stage with the pink Grand Candy logo, loud music and children practicing an Armenian folk dance on stage.  We begin trying to figure out where they will set up the candy bar.  Speculation begins.

 

We are in the right place....for sure.

 

4:30pm -Police finally close off the square to traffic.  This is a definite sign of progress.  It poured down rain all morning, but now sun is beating down on us….shade is too far away (we are afraid to miss anything), layers starting to be peeled off.  Still speculating on eventual location of the chocolate bar.

5:00pm – Progress and excitement!  Twenty psychedelic Grand Candy vans pull into square.  Expectations that something will happen soon are high.  Drivers emerge from vans….stand around smoking.  Nothing is happening. Crowd is really starting to gather, we are sweating.  We begin seriously constructing theories of how this all will go down.

 

This seems significant.

 

 

 

Psychedelic Grand Candy Vans

 

I’m waiting….oh, and this jacket is too HOT!

5:30pm- Drivers suddenly gather around someone who seems to be the boss (he’s highly agitated….which is a dead giveaway).  I attempt to translate for Kirstin.  He’s talking so fast that I only catch ‘6:30’, ‘across’, ‘there are 1 million’, ‘people coming’.  Not a successful translation.

 

 

He seems to be the man in charge.

 

5:45pm- Vans begin to move to different places.  They seem to be spreading out around the edge of the square.  Suddenly more police (very young ones, they look like they are barely old enough to drive) come and begin to surround the vans.  Small lines begin to form near the vans.  We finally arrive at the conclusion that there will be no HUGE chocolate bar.  They have broken it up and will be passing out pieces from the vans.  Disappointment sets in.  We will not get the photo-op we were hoping for.  We choose a van with the shortest line and step in about 20 people back.  All seems orderly.

 

 

Hmmmm.....What is going on here?

 

6:00pm- Standing in line.  Everyone seems patient, UNTIL….the line has to break up to allow an ambulance to park.  The line (in pretty typical Armenian style) begins to disintegrate slowly.  At this point , I still  feel that maybe we can keep our place in line.

 

 

This line isn't lookin' so good.

 

6:05pm- Other vans open sliding doors.  Our van seems to have a problem….door is stuck.  They open the back doors of the van….chaos is beginning.  They finally manage to open the side door.  We are suddenly being crushed on all sides.  Some children fall down….this doesn’t seem safe.  They are handing out styrofoam cups over the crowd.  There is no line, no order….people are pushing from all sides. I manage to get my hands on a cup and push my way out the back of the crush of people.  Relieved, but a little shaky.   We can see how panic can start in large crowds.

 

This may not be the best system.

 

 

Being crushed

 

6:10pm- Open cup….not disappointed!  HUGE chunks of dark chocolate inside.  First taste….highly satisfactory.  Delicious.  There was a struggle, but the dream finally came true!

 

I'm impressed.

 

 

 

SUCCESS!!!

 

Ready for the first taste!
YUM!

After trying our chocolate, we looked around and realized that we had chosen the only line that was in chaos.  All of the other vans had long lines, yes, but they were fairly orderly.  It was all because of the ambulance and the stuck door. But, it was worth it.  We had a great time and got some delicious dark chocolate (it was a little part of Guinness Book history).  Thanks Kirstin for providing both good company and most of these great pictures!!!!

 

 

The Biggest Chocolate Bar in the World…My Dream Come True October 14, 2010

Correction:  I originally posted the time as 6:30pm, but have learned that it is at 4!!!  SORRY!

As many of you probably already know, Grand Candy has produced the world’s largest chocolate bar.  I am a self-professed chocolate addict, so just thinking of this amazing amount of chocolate all in one place makes my mouth water!

Here are the record-setting details…

-It is made entirely of dark chocolate (so, it’s healthy…right?)

-25-centimetre-thick (10-inch-thick)

-weighs 4,410 kilograms (9,720 pounds)
-measures 5.60 metres (18.4 feet) by 2.75 metres (nine feet).

 

World's Biggest Chocolate Bar

 

I have been hearing for a while that we would all be able to sample it for ourselves, and today I received the details from the Bari News (US embassy newsletter).

WORLD’S BIGGEST CHOCOLATE BAR FESTIVITIES! Anyone
wanting a piece of the Guinness Book of World Records
biggest chocolate bar made by Armenia’s Grand Candy Factory,
please go to Republic Square on Saturday October 16th starting at 4pm. Grand Candy will be giving out pieces of the
chocolate bar followed by a concert and fireworks. Everyone
is welcome!

 

Happy Birthday Yerevan… October 10, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 5:35 am

Today is the celebration of Erebuni/Yerevan’s 2,792 nd birthday! That’s OLD!!!    There will be performances in Republic Square and in most of the city’s districts.

 

 

Happy Birthday Yerevan!

Update….  Just walked through the city….TONS of people!  All of the streets in the center are closed which makes for easy walking!  Old cars are on display in the French Square.  I’ll post some pics as soon as I can!

 

Getting Around this Crazy Town September 20, 2010

Filed under: Transport — outsidersinsider @ 12:36 pm
Tags: , , ,

So, I am actually back in action!  Sorry about the long delay between posts, lots going on…

Getting around Yerevan can be a mixed experience.  At times it is easy and pleasurable, and at other times can be incredibly frustrating.  Yerevan itself, divided into the Small Center (basically the inside of the circular park seen in the map), the Big Center (the area outside the park)  and, I guess, what could be called the suburbs (everything else), is not really all that large.  Yerevan is a very maneuverable city, the main drawback being the lack of street signs, either at all or, if they exist, in English.  Luckily, the city is filled with easily identifiable landmarks…so it’s very common to be given directions that include things like ‘Turn left near the sculpture that looks like a woman holding a jar.’

'Turn left here.'

So,  my favorite form of transport in the city is what I call the Number 11 bus….MY LEGS!  Since Yerevan is fairly small, and I live in the Big Center, it’s very easy to walk almost everywhere I need to go.   This is, by far, the most pleasurable way to get around the city.  The main consideration is being careful when you are crossing the street.  Pedestrians are rarely given the right of way by drivers, though it is better than it was when I came here four years ago!  Back then crossing the street was an exercise in survival!  To walk from one end of the Small Center to the other should only take about 15-20 minutes, and there are fun things to look at along the way.

Yerevan Map

The next logical way to get around town would be to drive.  Now, my husband and I don’t own a car nor have either of us ever driven in Yerevan, so I may not be the best adviser in this field!  I can tell you what I know, and my readers who have had this experience can add their wisdom in the comments section.   My husband says that in Armenia you drive by the millimeter….meaning everything (other cars, people, etc) is only a millimeter away from your car at all times.  Traffic can be atrocious, and rules of the road generally do not apply.  Parking is hard to find in the center of town, so be prepared.  That being said, I think once you get out of the city it’s not nearly so bad.  Driving yourself is the best way to see the countryside.

Yerevan Traffic (I do have to admit that they have fixed this particular intersection, though some others like still exist

The metro is my preferred form of transport when I don’t walk.  The metro in Yerevan is clean, VERY cheap (1 ride is 50 drams….about 12 cents), and a great place to cool off in the hot days of Yerevan’s summer.  Unfortunately, the Yerevan Metro only has one line but it easily takes you from one end of the city to the other.  I have included a link below to all the important details regarding the route, station names and other important info.   The info is basically up to date.  The only major change I would note is that it is now possible to buy a Metro card.  It allows you to pass more quickly through the turnstiles without needing to buy a token.  The price for rides is the same but with the bonus of being able to win 20 free rides.  They post winning card numbers every month.  Look for this sign at the entrance to Metro stations.

Metro Entrance Sign

http://www.armeniapedia.org/index.php?title=Yerevan_Metro

http://www.urbanrail.net/as/yere/yerevan.htm

Inside of A Metro Car

The Train Arriving

My other main form of transport is taxi.  I don’t usually call a taxi service; I just flag one down on the street.  Some words of advice….Make sure you only flag one that has yellow license plates because these are legit companies and are less likely to overcharge you (notice I said LESS likely).  The minimum fare is generally 600 drams (a little less than $2).  Usually the fare rises by 100 drams per kilometer after the first 4 or 5 km.  My second piece of advice would be to never ask the price if there is no meter.  If you know that you have gone less than 5km, just hand the driver 600 drams (or 700) and get out of the car!  There are several companies that I would recommend if you are planning on calling a taxi service:

Taxi Busy 21-10-00                    Taxi Tour 49-99-94  (they definitely have seat belts)

You can also use a taxi service to take you out of town, but I would call and ask for the prices.

And finally, the WORST way to get around town….BUS or MINIBUS.  Now, I have to say that this system has improved greatly since some routes started using actual full-sized buses.  The problem lies in the ‘marshrutkas’ or minibuses.  If you like to stand in a van with three times the number of people that the van was designed to carry, or possibly have someone sit on your lap….and run the risk of the van catching on fire or running over a pedestrian (by the way, pedestrians….cars may give you the right of way sometimes but minibuses won’t), then the marshrutka is for you!  The full-sized buses are generally fine, if a bit crowded at the expected rush hour times.  Both the minibus and the regular bus will only cost you 100 drams.  The main benefit of the bus system is that you can get virtually anywhere in the city.  I found a helpful route list here:  http://www.armeniainfo.am/travel/?section=yerevan&page=3.

Marshutkas Waiting

I think this one has seen better days, but at least it's not crowded!

I also want to mention that you can also take a trolley bus, but, trust me, you can walk faster than they move!  Of course, if you happen to see this completely amazing trolley bus, ride it just for fun!

The Coolest Bus Trolley Bus EVER!

Thanks for snapping these pics Kirstin!

Pink curtains painted on, flames and Mount Ararat painted on the back….this is just too cool!

That’s all I have in terms of getting around town…anyone with any ideas or suggestions please feel free!!

And as we say in Armenian… Bari Janapar!

 

Back In Town August 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 6:26 am

Well, after a month and a half out of Armenia I am finally back! I hope that I missed out on the worst of the heat…but, it’s only the middle of August, so maybe not!
I am terribly jet-lagged and it isn’t easy to get my head in the right place for posting blog entries, so this is just a hello and I should be back to my (hopefully) creative-minded self in a few days. As usual, if there is anything you want me to write about, let me know!