Run 111 : Armenia – Yerevan

Please give generously to Cancer Research :

Date : 17th May, 2017

Time :  56’42”

Total distance run to date : 1110 km

Run map and details :

rtw armenia 5

Sometimes I could almost kill for a McDonald’s.

I know, I know. I’ve written over 100 of these blogs about running in countries all over the world – many of which have fantastic cuisines – and McDonald’s is my first food reference. Truly I am a philistine. A man without culinary culture. Or taste.

My hotel had recommended the restaurant around the corner. Armenian script being wonderfully indecipherable to the western European eye, I had pointed to a picture of a pork dish on the menu. Something bearing a passing resemblance duly arrived and, as I tucked in, I realised that the meat was almost exclusively fat and gristle. Now I appreciate that many people enjoy crackling, and other appropriately cooked cuts of meat fat, but, personally, they nauseate me. I just can’t stomach them. Literally.

One of the things about running is that it makes you hungry and the potatoes that accompanied the porcine lard hadn’t cut it. I needed more food. Rather than trying to find something else on the (to me) incomprehensible and expensive menu, I thought about trying somewhere else. And bang. I suddenly had a craving for a McDonald’s.

It’s not even as if I particularly like McDonald’s. However, the food doesn’t make me ill (even if its nutritional value is questionable), its relatively cheap and, crucially, I know what I’m getting. And sometimes, especially when you’re away from home and having to deal with a new country, culture and language every day, that’s what you want.

I guess that’s why it’s called comfort food.

So I set off into the centre of town on a quest for a McDonald’s and, extraordinarily, I didn’t find one. But I did get to see more of Yerevan including a really quite impressive son et lumiere et fountain display in Republic Square. (Sideways video of fountains dancing to the Star Wars theme below. I really must work out how to rotate my videos.)

I’d run through Republic Square earlier that evening on my way to the Cascades (picture at the top of the blog. While they’re not great for running, the Cascades are not to be missed if you’re ever in Yerevan. They’re both a giant stairway and an outdoor art gallery full of statues and fountains. Underneath the exterior steps are more conventional art galleries and escalators. (Video below – this time no rotation issues.)

And at the top you get great views over Yerevan and the legendary Mount Ararat. (Video below.)

Mount Ararat is Armenia’s national symbol despite being in modern day Turkey. Some Armenians believe it should belong to Armenia and see it as a reminder of the (much disputed) Armenian genocide when the Ottoman empire systematically murdered 1.5 million Armenians during and after WWI.

Mount Ararat is also the place where Noah’s Ark is reputed to have landed as the flood receded. (Numerous searches have yet to find the Ark though Mt Ararat, at over 5000m, is the highest point in the region and therefore arguably the obvious area for the Ark to have landed.)

I liked Yerevan and, while it may not be quite as rich in sights as Tbilisi, it’s certainly worth visiting if you’re in the region. It’s also, based on my wanderings, McDonald’s free – which some may see as a blessing.

But not this tired and a ’few thousand miles from home’ runner. I was becoming increasingly hungry.

Never mind, I told myself, I’ll get something back at my hotel – where I ordered a cheese & ham sandwich. How far wrong can you go with that? Quite far, it turns out, as two pieces of cardboard were served up with ham that contrived to be both artificial and almost entirely composed of white fatty swirls.

Never mind, I told myself again, I’ve got to be at the airport at 4.30 am tomorrow. I’ll get a good breakfast there. Guess what? My hotel didn’t have a monopoly on inedible sandwiches.

So there you have it. Yerevan is a great place to visit. But it might be worth popping into a McDonald’s before you go. ..

Facts & Stats

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.

Armenia is a sovereign state in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located in West Asiaon the Armenian Highlands, it is bordered by Turkey to the west, Georgia to the north, the de facto independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan to the east, and Iran and Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhchivan to the south. The Republic of Armenia constitutes only one-tenth of historical Armenia.

Armenia is a unitary, multi-party, democratic nation-state with an ancient cultural heritage. Urartu was established in 860 BC and by the 6th century BC it was replaced by the Satrapy of Armenia. In the 1st century BC the Kingdom of Armenia reached its height under Tigranes the Great. Armenia became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. In between the late 3rd century to early years of the 4th century, the state became the first Christian nation. The official date of state adoption of Christianity is 301 AD.

Between the 16th century and 19th century, the traditional Armenian homeland composed of Eastern Armenia and Western Armenia came under the rule of the Ottoman and Iranian empires, repeatedly ruled by either of the two over the centuries. By the 19th century, Eastern Armenia had been conquered by the Russian Empire, while most of the western parts of the traditional Armenian homeland remained under Ottoman rule. During World War I, Armenians living in their ancestral lands in the Ottoman Empire were systematically exterminated in the Armenian Genocide. In 1918, following the Russian Revolution, all non-Russian countries declared their independence after the Russian Empire ceased to exist, leading to the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia. By 1920, the state was incorporated into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, and in 1922 became a founding member of the Soviet Union. In 1936, the Transcaucasian state was dissolved, transforming its constituent states, including the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, into full Union republics. The modern Republic of Armenia became independent in 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The Republic of Armenia recognises the Armenian Apostolic Church, the world’s oldest national church, as the country’s primary religious establishment. The unique Armenian alphabet was invented by Mesrop Mashtots in 405 AD.

Yerevan is the capital and largest city of Armenia as well as one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. Situated along the Hrazdan River, Yerevan is the administrative, cultural, and industrial center of the country. It has been the capital since 1918, the thirteenth in the history of Armenia, and the seventh located in or around the Ararat plain.

The history of Yerevan dates back to the 8th century BC, with the founding of the fortress of Erebuni in 782 BC by king Argishti I at the western extreme of the Ararat plain. After World War I, Yerevan became the capital of the First Republic of Armenia as thousands of survivors of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire arrived in the area. The city expanded rapidly during the 20th century as Armenia became part of the Soviet Union. In a few decades, Yerevan was transformed from a provincial town within the Russian Empire, to Armenia’s principal cultural, artistic, and industrial center, as well as becoming the seat of national government.

With the growth of the economy of the country, Yerevan has been undergoing major transformation as many parts of the city have been the recipient of new construction since the early 2000s, and retail outlets as much as restaurants, shops, and street cafés, which were rare during Soviet times, have multiplied. As of 2011, the population of Yerevan was 1,060,138, just over 35% of the Republic of Armenia’s total population. Yerevan was named the 2012 World Book Capital by UNESCO.

Of the notable landmarks of Yerevan, Erebuni Fortress is considered to be the birthplace of the city, the Katoghike Tsiranavor church is the oldest surviving church of Yerevan and Saint Gregory Cathedral is the largest Armenian cathedral in the world, Tsitsernakaberd is the official memorial to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, and several opera houses, theatres, museums, libraries, and other cultural institutions. Yerevan Opera Theatre is the main spectacle hall of the Armenian capital, the National Gallery of Armenia is the largest art museum in the Republic of Armenia and shares a building with the History Museum of Armenia, and the Matenadaran repository contains one of the largest depositories of ancient books and manuscripts in the world. The neoclassical Republic Square is the center of the city and the monumental Cascade steps lead from the city center to Victory Park, home of a Luna Park and the statue Mother Armenia overlooking Yerevan.

Mount Ararat  is a snow-capped and dormant compound volcano in the extreme east of Turkey. It consists of two major volcanic cones: Greater Ararat, the highest peak in Turkey and the Armenian plateau with an elevation of 5,137 m (16,854 ft); and Little Ararat, with an elevation of 3,896 m (12,782 ft). The Ararat massif is about 40 km (25 mi) in diameter.

Despite the scholarly consensus that the “mountains of Ararat” of the Book of Genesis do not refer to specifically Mt. Ararat, it has been widely accepted in Christianity as the resting place of Noah’s Ark. It is the principal national symbol of Armenia and has been considered a sacred mountain by Armenians. It is featured prominently in Armenian literature and art and is an icon for Armenian irredentism. Along with Noah’s Ark, it is depicted on the coat of arms of Armenia.

The first efforts to reach Ararat’s summit were made in the Middle Ages. However, it was not until 1829 when Friedrich Parrot and Khachatur Abovian, accompanied by four others, made the first recorded ascent.

According to the fourth verse of the eighth chapter of the Book of Genesis (Genesis 8:4), following a floodNoah’s Ark landed on the “mountains of Ararat” Most historians and Bible scholars agree that “Ararat” is the Hebrew name of Urartu, the geographic predecessor of Armenia and referred to the wider region at the time and not the mountain today known as Ararat. Nevertheless, Mount Ararat is considered the traditional site of the resting place of Noah’s Ark and most Christians prefer this view “largely because it would have been the first peak to emerge from the receding flood waters.”

Searches for Noah’s Ark have traditionally concentrated on Mount Ararat. Despite numerous reports of ark sightings (e.g. Ararat anomaly) and rumors, “no scientific evidence of the ark has emerged.” Searches for Noah’s Ark are considered by scholars an example of pseudoarchaeologyKenneth Feder writes, “As the flood story itself is unsupported by any archaeological evidence, it is not surprising that there is no archaeological evidence for the existence of an impossibly large boat dating to 5,000 years ago.”

In the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, Ararat came to represent the destruction of the native Armenian population of eastern Turkey (Western Armenia) in the national consciousness of Armenians. Ari L. Goldman noted in 1988, “In most Armenian homes in the modern diaspora, there are pictures of Mount Ararat, a bittersweet reminder of the homeland and national aspirations.”

Ararat has become a symbol of Armenian efforts to reclaim its “lost lands”, i.e. the areas west of Ararat that are now part of Turkey that had significant Armenian population before the genocide. Adriaans noted that Ararat is featured as a sanctified territory for the Armenians in everyday banal irredentism.  Stephanie Platz wrote, “Omnipresent, the vision of Ararat rising above Yerevan and its outskirts constantly reminds Armenians of their putative ethnogenesis … and of their exile from Eastern Anatolia after the Armenian genocide of 1915.”

The Armenian Genocide also known as the Armenian Holocaust, was the Ottoman government‘s systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians, mostly Ottoman citizens within the Ottoman Empire and its successor state, the Republic of Turkey. The starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders from Constantinople to the region of Ankara, the majority of whom were eventually murdered. The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre. Other indigenous and Christian ethnic groups such as the Assyrians and the Ottoman Greeks were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government in the Assyrian genocide and the Greek genocide, and their treatment is considered by some historians to be part of the same genocidal policy. Most Armenian diaspora communities around the world came into being as a direct result of the genocide.

Raphael Lemkin was explicitly moved by the annihilation of Armenians to define systematic and premeditated exterminations within legal parameters and to coin the word genocide in 1943. The Armenian Genocide is acknowledged to have been one of the first modern genocides, because scholars point to the organized manner in which the killings were carried out in order to eliminate the Armenians, and it is the second most-studied case of genocide after the Holocaust.

Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, repudiates the word genocide as an accurate term for the mass killings of Armenians that began under Ottoman rule in 1915. In recent years it has been faced with repeated calls to recognize them as genocide. To date, 29 countries and 46 US states have officially recognized the mass killings as genocide.

The Cascade is a giant stairway in YerevanArmenia. It links the downtown Kentron area of Yerevan with the Monument neighborhood. The construction of the Cascade was launched in 1971 and completed in 1980.

Inside the Cascade, underneath the exterior steps are a couple of escalators going the length of the complex. There are also rooms connected to some of the landings along the escalators which compose the Cafesjian Museum of Art.

The exterior of cascade, in addition to stairs has multiple levels with fountains and sculptures. The stairs afford walkers unobstructed views of central Yerevan and Mount Ararat.

Republic Square  is the central town square in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. It consists of two sections: an oval roundabout and a trapezoid-shaped section which contains a pool with musical fountains. The square is surrounded by five major buildings built in pink and yellow tuff in the neoclassical style with extensive use of Armenian motifs. This architectural ensemble includes the Government House, the History Museum and the National GalleryArmenia Marriott Hoteland the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Transport and Communications. The square was originally designed by Alexander Tamanian in 1924 The construction of most of the buildings was completed by the 1950s; the last building—the National Gallery—was completed in 1977.

During the Soviet period it was called the Lenin Square and a statue of Lenin stood at the square and military parades were held twice (originally thrice) a year. After Armenia’s independence Lenin’s statue was removed and the square was renamed. It has been described as Armenia’s and the city’s “most important civic space”, Yerevan’s “architectural highlight”] and the city’s “most outstanding architectural ensemble”.

World Bank Data

Here’s the latest World Bank data for Armenia – with the year 2000 as a comparison.

GDP                                               $10.5 bn    2016       $1.91 bn    2000

Population                                   2.92 m       2016       3.07  m       2000

Primary school enrolment*     98.5%        2015        98.5%        2000

% below poverty line**            30.0%         2014       48.3%         2001

Life expectancy at birth           74.8 yrs     2015        71.3 yrs      2000

GNI per capita                            $3760         2016        $660           2000

*Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students

**The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While most of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)


Greatest Sporting Nation Data

Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Georgia performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:

Global Cup – 59th

Per Capita Cup – didn’t place

The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce a per capita ranking.



About Run the World

I'm running 10 km in every country in the world - a total of 205 countries - by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. I'm doing the Run the World challenge to promote the benefits of sport and physical activity and to raise money for cancer research following the death of my mother from cancer. If you'd like to donate to Cancer Research - - then I know they'd be very grateful.
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