| Shirak, Giumri, Alexandrapol
Printable guides: There are three files for the complete guide: Shirak Region, Giumri and Walking Tours of Alexandrapol. Click on each title to open the pdf file.
Shirak is a land of contrasts. In northwest Armenia, it is as much semi-desert as it is mountain meadow or high alpine. In the south, the high steppes crash into mountain terrain, verdant green in the spring, hues of reddish brown in the summer. Everywhere is the snow capped Aragats and dots of green in the landscape, spring fed villages and farms giving sustenance to the wayward traveler. In the north lies Armenia’s Alpine Region, a mountain meadow covered with wildflowers from April through July, with rolling hills punctuated by rugged peaks and the Georgian frontier. In the East are the foot hills of Aragats and Mt. Urasar leading to Lori’s forest land.
After surviving Yerevan’s rampant growth and swirling dust, you will find welcome respite and warm hospitality in Giumri. The capital of Armenia during the Russian era (1821-1918), Old Kumaiyri, present day Giumri, is a living museum of grand architecture and joie de vie. The city is a place of parks and promenades, its distinct red and black tufa buildings a hallmark of a bygone age, Armenia’s Belle Époque. Giumri was enriched as an important outpost of the Russian Empire, and fortunes were made catering to the Tsars and spent on opulent dwellings and public buildings. Most of these buildings have survived, over 1000 forming the largest collection of intact historic buildings in the Caucasus.
Two walking tours of Old Giumri (Alexandrapol)
Until the Soviet Revolution old Giumri was divided into 7 regions, or “Mailahs”: the center, or Katolikneri Mailah, Geghtsonts or Peasants Mailah, Boshi or Traders Mailah, Slobodka or Russian District, Greek or Urumneri Mailah and Turki Mailah. Rich and poor lived side by side, every building as substantial and elegant as funds allowed. The difference between wealth was in quantity, not quality, as buildings on this tour show: Even the humblest abode boasts a style and attention to detail lacking in modern structures. Focus was on the family home and as substantial a public face a possible. Gates and doors can be exceedingly large in some homes, but never overshadow the overall balance.
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