The original plan before I got to Georgia was to spend a month in Armenia after the planned two months in Georgia. Once I got to Georgia, I shortened that planned month in Armenia to just a week, thinking that Armenia would pretty much just be the same thing as Georgia. I was wrong.
The first thing I noticed was that Armenia felt, well, poorer than Georgia. There wasn’t as much development, and things were a bit more run down. Apparently 35.8% of the population is in poverty, versus 9.7% in Georgia. Armenia has four international borders (Georgia, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Turkey), but only the borders with Georgia and Iran are open, limiting the amount of trade and stuff that Armenia can benefit from.
I noticed that there was a lot more Russian both spoken and written in Armenia than in Georgia, though I still heard far more people speak Armenian than Russian. I’m guessing that this is due to the close Russia-Armenia economic ties, as Atlas Mundi explains: “Armenia is particularly dependent on Russian commercial and governmental support and most key Armenian infrastructure is Russian-owned and/or managed, especially in the energy sector.” Georgia, on the other hand, had a recent war with Russia, so there’s no love lost there.
I feel like Armenia hasn’t visibly changed too much since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Downtown Yerevan is beautiful and modern (more on that in a minute), but everywhere else I visited seemed like it hasn’t changed a whole lot since 1991. This is sad from an economic perspective but pretty darn interesting as a tourist who is fascinated by the Soviet Union. Overall, Armenia still felt much more Soviet than Georgia did. Georgia felt more polished.
Now to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. I loved Yerevan. I honestly wasn’t expecting much. Most things I read before going there compared it unfavorably to Tbilisi (the capital of Georgia). It’s a much newer city than Tbilisi and doesn’t have that city’s beautiful old architecture. But I really, really, really liked Yerevan. The downtown area, which is where I was staying, was gorgeous. Most of the buildings in the city are made from pink tuff, giving Yerevan its nickname of the Pink City. This made even otherwise uninspiring Soviet-era government and apartment buildings look lovely.
Yerevan is absolutely draped in green parks, fountains, and other public art, making it an extremely pleasant and appealing place to walk around or just sit and people-watch. There are outdoor cafes everywhere. My favorite part of Yerevan was the Cascade. It’s a massive fountain-and-sculpture-lined stairway in the center of the city that goes up one of the hills. I love seeing cities and other places from high up, and the Cascade made it easy. The view of Yerevan from the top of the Cascade is hypnotizing, and you have unobstructed views over to Mt. Ararat in Turkey. It’s amazing, and I walked to the top every day of my stay in Yerevan.
I want to live in Yerevan. I liked it that much. I liked all of Armenia more than I thought I would. It’s a beautiful country with amazingly kind and happy people (not to mention great food), and I’m trying to figure out when and how to go back.