On Saturday, I accomplished two things – one was getting out of hot Yerevan for a while, and the other was visiting Tavush marz for the second time. Actually, I accomplished a third thing too – going somewhere entirely on my own and not seeing a PCV at my destination. Not that that was a goal of mine (in fact, I tried to convince other PCRVs to join me and nearby PCVs to meet me there), but I hadn’t done it in my time here. I’ve had Yerevan days to myself, but no excursions.
Dilijan is the Switzerland of Armenia; during Soviet times it was a retreat for artists, writers and composers. We had passed there on the tour described in the June 6 post, but we didn’t go to the town. In fact, what we did there was have the uninspired group lunch I referred to. So I decided to go back. The town itself is charming, with some buildings in a gingerbread style. There’s an “old town Dilijan” with craftsmen’s workshops, and a pretty good art museum. The town is surrounded by forest – okay, I can now see the Switzerland reference, though it’s still a stretch. And it has an Artbridge! As if I don’t go to Artbridge often enough in Yerevan. But they do have my favorite iced coffee, and nice light meals, so it was a perfect place for lunch.
I then went to the helpful tourist office (there isn’t a tourist office at all in Yerevan…) and asked for a close, short, safe hike in the national forest. It was great (destination: yep, another church, but this one is set in the forest, so you have to hike to it). I’m glad I asked for a short one and took a taxi to the trailhead, because I ended up walking all the way back into town, which Lonely Planet says is 6.7 kilometers. I loved Dilijan – just getting through the tunnel from treeless Gegharkunik marz and seeing the forested mountains lifted my spirits. It’s only an hour and a half from Yerevan; if I were a two-year volunteer I might want this to be my site! Of course, I haven’t seen it in winter. When I got back to Yerevan, I had dinner outdoors at the Jazzve in Opera Square, and then climbed the Cascade – even with a drizzle, there was a nice Ararat view (just after I’d said I hadn’t seen it lately!).
There’s a lot of Armenia I still haven’t seen, but I’ve done pretty well during my time here – I’ve seen most of the main tourist attractions that visitors see, ventured to some unusual and unique places, and gotten a taste of the life and work of the regular PCVs. I don’t know what life will bring, but I can’t say I’ll ever come back to Armenia. I’ve made the most of my six months here – there’s Yerevan and there’s the rest of Armenia, and I have experienced both.
There’s one more museum I plan to return to if I have time this week. One day I was on the way to meet Brian at the Vernissage and I stopped at the Museum of International Children’s Art. It seems I didn’t mention it at the time, but the more I think about it, the more I think it is one of my favorites here. There’s art by the children of Armenia – illustrating folk tales or some other relevant theme – and some of it shows quite a bit of talent. In addition, there’s a large collection of art of the children of the world. I found it fascinating – common things such as houses and animals and people look different in different parts of the world, and that is reflected in the drawings of children. Even the colors used tell a story.