From Alexandropol to Gyumri. A Walk Through History

Since most of the borders are still closed because of COVID-19, most of us are using opportunities to travel inside our own countries, discover new places or visiting already known but loved areas.
Today I want to take you with me to one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in Armenia, to historical Gyumri.

First, let’s see how can you reach the city by yourself. It is ~120km far from Yerevan, 2h car drive in case you have a car (or rent it or take a taxi). Of course you can take a bus too, but more comfortable (yet not fastest) is to take a train.
There are 2 type of trains operated between those cities every day 🚞:
– Usual trains, ride duration 3.5h, ticket price – 1000amd (~2€) one way (this is how it looks like inside, in the picture);
– Fast trains with more comfort, ride duration 2.5h, ticket price – 2500amd (~5€) one way.
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Here we are, already in Gyumri. First thing that you will see after leaving the train is of course the building of train station. This is a fine example of “brutal” architecture coming from times when the city was under soviet rules and was called Leninakan. You may ask – why “brutal”? Because at that time the main material used was raw concrete or called also béton (French term) – brut.
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Now let’s take a walk in the city. Gyumri is the second biggest city in Armenia, in the northwestern part of the country. The oldest part of the city is called with one of its past names – Kumayri. Here you can see good examples of authentic Armenian architecture, dating back to 18-19th centuries. Here in Kumayri district is located the main square of Gyumri – Vardanants square. And here is when every tourist or traveler (depends how you feel yourself) starts city discoveries.
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The square is surrounded with city hall, different churches (on the below picture you can see the Holy Savior Cathedral behind the trees, which is also one of the symbols of the city), cinema house and some other buildings. In the middle of the square you can see the memorial to the Battle of Avarayr (451 AD), which is also surrounded with fountains and benches to sit and enjoy some ice-cream on a hot sunny day.
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One of the churches on this square is the Seven Wounds Cathedral (aka Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God), built in 19th century. Gyumri was almost destroyed after the 1988 Armenian earthquake. This church felt the result of that earthquake on it as well. The two minor domes fell down and later were replaced with new ones. You can see the fallen domes placed in the church yard today.
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Once we’re here, it’s time to stroll in one of the oldest and most famous streets of Gyumri, which is called Varpetats str. Since the ancient times Gyumri was a birthplace to many artists, poets, composers, sculptors and other famous people, or saying in a word – Masters. On Varpetats street you will have a numerous museums or hous-museums of those Masters. This is why the street is called by their “name”. Also if you pay attention, the building are black here. This is because of used Black Tuf stone (by the way, in Yerevan most used material was Pink Tuf, because of which Yerevan is also called “pink city”).
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One of those museums is the Art gallery of Aslamazyan sisters. If you love paintings, I’d definitely recommend you to visit. This is a 2 floor museum, where you can see the works of 2 sisters (each floor is dedicated to works of exact artist). The entrance ticket is very cheap, just 300 amd, which is around half eur only.
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Here in this bright museum you can see paintings of different styles, such as still life, portraits, creations from clay, etc. Below are shows some of the rooms and works of those talented systers.

Gyumri is also well known for its old doors and balconies. This one is the balcony of above mentioned Art Gallery. Unfortunately it’s in quite bad condition and is closed till the renovation. But even from windows are seen beautifully decorated parts. And you can see such view very often in Gyumri. Here in the garden of this building you can also take a clay art class, just need to agree with administration in advance.
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Another museum that’s very recommended to visit is the Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life, which is said to be one of the best museums in the town. The museum is also known as Dzitoghtsyan house museum, as initially it was built by a rich trader, Petros Dzitoghtsyan. It was in 1872, when 4 brothers migrated to the city of Alexandropol from Western Armenia. Ah yes, forgot to mention that Alexandropol is one of the past, maybe the oldest name of current Gyumri 😉 If you are a history lover, you might have heard/read about Alexandropol in some.. no many of history books.
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During the Soviet rule the building was used for public purposes and long time until 1980 more than 20 families were living there. Starting from 1984 it became the Museum of National Architecture and Urban Life. This beautiful construction built from red tuf stone survived 2 huge earthquakes (in 1926 and 1988) and did not suffer even minor damages while almost all Gyumri was destroyed. In the rooms of this museum you can see the daily life of Gyumri, how people live(d) here, exhibits of local craftsmen works, contemporary artwork, carpets and handicraft and much more. In another words – don’t miss this amazing place!
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Gyumri is not only buildings and churches, but it has also some unexpected places and artifacts to see. For example, in one of its corners you may see this “terra-cotta” statue of warrior, which was presented by Xi’an city, China. That is impressive!
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Gyumri streets are also rich with works of talented artists who add some modern art into the historical city. In different parts of the city you can see numerous street art examples of different styles. Here is just one of those wall paintings. Gyumri is all full of surprises 🙂
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And finally, when you take an evening train back to Yerevan, even if you’re very tired, try not to sleep on the way, but look from the window and admire with a beautiful sunset over Armenian Highlands.
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Usually when people are planning a trip to some new place, they try to check what are the best things to do or top places to visit in. But it is said that once you reach the city and see the sign “Gyumri”, just start walking, as every corner will have something to show or tell you about this unique place.

Stay connected and we will meet soon somewhere else 😉


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