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Monday, May 27, 2024


Tips for 2006
Random tips for 2006: Take a Dental Tour, The "Dzhovski" on places to stay, eat and drink & the new lingo.
Tour Armenia
Updated 2024

Tips for the new year:

Newest Destination: Giumri, at last recovering enough to become a real place to visit, the last two years have worked miracles. People are in new housing, and the Old Center is reviving itself. Over 1000 intact historic buildings from Armenia’s Belle Époque await you in this friendly city. Clean air, incredible food, B&B’s dripping with antiques and the charm of a golden age. Leave Yerevan to the dust; come to Giumri to see a real Armenian city.

Telephone Card: This season it is Aurora .AM, $3 cards give 30 minutes time, around 0.08 cents per minute to the USA. Very busy during prime calling times, keep dialing the access number and if you get the voice prompt “the number you are dialing is busy, please dial another number or hang up and try again,” keep dialing your number, it eventually goes through. Watch for changing events, Armentel has its guns out for them. Buy at newsstands, post offices and many small shops.

Place to Sleep cheap: The new Envoy Hostel, 54 Pushkin (at Parepetsi) Tel: 53-03-69, www.envoyhostel.com. A real international hostel in Armenia! 5000 AMD for dorm beds, plus one suite with private entrance for 20,000 AMD! Breakfast included, features galore. A REAL HOSTEL!!!

Specialist guides: In Yerevan contact Zara at 54-34-63, who can coordinate a specialist guide from the Association of Museum Workers and Friends of Museums. These are working historians, archeologists, curators who specialize in specific fields of art, history and archeology. Not for the casual tourist, these folks are for those looking to go deeper into Armenia’s world.

Newest cool word: “Dzovski”, combining the Armenian word Dzov (fixed, to be fixed) with the Russian ending “ski”. Most popular way to say “cool” among students. Brezhnev era folks perplexed why this has taken over their old favorite “Mahh” (death, or I die).

Most Dzovski museum: the Near East Museum, at the back of the History Museum (1 Arami p, tel: 56-37-14, Tues-Sat 11-4). Into the mind of the creator: from Rome to Auschwitz to Earth Works to contemporary Gorger and ancient Persian waterworks and American sewing machines. Got to experience it to believe it. Donation.

Best exchange rates: Tigran Mets Street, off of Republic Square. Not the plethora of moneychangers as in years past, but still the street rate to beat in central Yerevan.

Cheapest Yarmaka: Firdusi, between No’s 7 and 9 Tigran Mets. Also he name of an alley, the Firdusi outdoor market offers the best prices for household, cheap electronics, clothes, shoes and other plastic things. Always crowded, keep your money and valuables close to hand.

Best Optika/Glasses: Everyone has their own, my favorite is “Achkit Luis” at the corner of Amirian and Mashtots, the one with the green tile on the side of the shop. Eye exams are 3000 AMD, cheaper frames in front, silly prices in the back. Got a pair of reading glasses for $45, same prescription in the USA would set me back $180.

Best Dentist: Hard to pick, there are so many, but my favorites are still Maro at ArgoDent on Mashtots (next to the Knigi store) and the new “Dental Express” (Lower floor office on Pushkin St, Tel: 53-71-21). Both have new European equipment, Dental Express has the latest computer imaging, x-rays done on computer with high resolution, and a nifty micro camera that shows your teeth in real time on the computer screen in front of you. 5000 AMD teeth cleaning, $25 complete tooth reconstruction (and I mean complete. One of mine was barely a nub above the gum, it is now a perfectly shaped mate for its neighbors), $200 bridges (using German enamel), 300 implants. It’s cheaper to fly here and have your teeth done than to have them done alone in the states.

Best Taxi (Order Taxi): No such thing, they are all equally utilitarian, serviceable, but none are great, no matter how much they tell you. But they are basically reliable (during peak times you may have to wait 15-20 minutes) and still cheap with advertised rates of 500 AMD for up to 5 kilometers, but normal fee is 1000 AMD anywhere in the center. Drivers sucking cigarettes are still a problem.

Nicest Shuka: the old GUM Shuka (‘Supermarket 2’) on Tigran Metz, an amazing transformation from the crowded labyrinth of sidewalk sellers that filled the area before the inception of Tashir Shopping center and its renovation. The area is actually clean compared to other areas of the city, the sidewalk sellers having been moved to a nearby building and the upper floor of the shuka. As a result you can actually see where you are and catch your breath after climbing through the crowds and money sellers on the upper end of the street. The shuka has tasty fruits and vegetables and prices are marginally cheaper than the main Shuka on Mashtots. The surrounding area has dozens of “Persian shops” that sell household goods and trinkets on the cheap.

Most Unlikely Shopping Center: Tashir, also on Tigran Mets, next GUM Shuka. What a difference a few million makes! I remember climbing up worn marble steps to the fabled GUM store, its window cracks taped shut, the fetid air swirling dust as women fanned themselves from behind aging wooden and steel display cases half-empty or stuffed with plastic Lenin pencil holders and Chinese cup holders. Nothing practical was on sale. The new design is decidedly Cecil B. DeMille (but then so is most of modern design), but the stacked glass fountain in the front entry is a nice touch and the overall integrity of the building has been preserved, as has its place set off from the street. Most shops are not worth a tourist’s serious look, but the whole thing shows what semi-careful planning can do for Armenia, unlike the rest of the city.

Best Tea: Toss up between Chainik at 21 Mashtots (just north of Malibu) and Thomas, just up from Art Bridge on Abovian (north of Tumanian, on the right). Thomas has smoking AND non-smoking areas in its basement tea spot and the pseudo Japanese is nice but too dark and noisy. Chainik is in a single cheerful room with stained glass windows and nice cozy atmosphere. It is our favorite for curling up with abook on a cold day. For both, Armenian herbal teas are the freshest, as are the dark Russian varieties. Nice snacks, teas from 250 AMD (400+ for the better varieties), tea cakes from 400 AMD.

Best Burrito: Baron Shaurma place on Mashtots, opposite the Theatre Union (20 Mashtots Blvd, 53-31-10). Eat upstairs, 500 AMD, it’s really a Chimichanga, but we won’t quibble, it’s as good as they make Tex-Mex in the states. Order only the burrito, the “tako bell” is nothing like.

Nicest sidewalk café: Studio on Cascade (top of the boulevard, on the right as you approach Cascade). Small café has lovely sidewalk setting with an arbor of vines to filter the sun. Quiet location, gorgeous autumn sun, intelligentsia crowd. Coffee is so-so, but the view and quiet atmosphere makes up for it.

Interesting indoor hang out: Still Akump (Club), located downstairs at 40, Pushkin St. Unprepossessing exterior opens to a nifty basement hangout where the design is clean and unpretentious (walls have been stripped to their base: cement, stone and iron girders), but the atmosphere is trés coooooool. Like Paris Left bank, like the basement of Saint Martin in the Fields. Bar/coffee house/ books/souvenirs/food/jazz/world music. Very dzovski.

Best Cappuccino: Surprisingly, not Café Paris, but one of the standard cafés, No 15, at the corner of Abovian and Tumanian. It’s Illy, but somehow they know how to make it. Best Espresso/cup of coffee: Café Paris, on left side of Abovian from Tumanian. The French inspired café grounds it themselves. Secret recipe: ask them to grind one part Costa Rican, one part Colombian dark roast and two parts Nicaraguan for an amazingly aromatic treat.

Best Park: Cascade. Bravo Monsieur Cafesjian, for making them take out the cafes! Best step forwards: Tearing down the new outdoor café in front of the Chamber Hall. Guess building a pool hall 40 meters from the front of the chamber hall and Rabiz music jiving to Mozart cantatas wasn’t such a good idea after all. Kudos to the people of Yerevan who turned out in droves and demanded the demolition of the eyesore. Let it be only the first step in dismantling all the cafes that have taken over the public parks and are killing the trees.

Stay Away From: All cafés in Yerevan’s parks & Opera Square, built by the Mafia on stolen property, denying locals right of way and destroying the environment. Rather than protecting the park, they are killing trees and poisoning the ground. Frequent them if you don’t mind supporting dirty money. If you have to be trendy, do it somewhere else, like Akump (40 Tumanian) or Marco Polo (Abovian).

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