Saturday 12 June 2010
12.06.2010 - 12.06.2010 88 °F
After breakfast Hasmik arrived at about 10am to meet up with us so that we could walk together to Vernissage, the open air handicraft market just 2 minutes away from our homestay. We were so pleased to have Hasmik with us. We didn't really have to haggle but it helped to have someone with us who could ask the vendors about the stuff we were looking at. There was so much to see it was a bit overwhelming. My head started to spin! Our brother Rod had given us some money to buy things for ourselves in the market - Les wanted some gold earrings but Vernissage wasn't the best place for that. Luckily Hasmik knew a gold market that we could go to which was close by. We would never have known how to find this without having someone with us with local knowledge. Les managed to find some high quality earrings - can't remember how many carots but certainly more than you get in the UK. The other amazing thing is that they let you try them on - something we would never be allowed to do here what with health and safety and all that.
We went back towards Vernissage but stopped for some refreshments first to mull over what we wanted to buy so that we could sweep through, get everything we wanted and get out without too much damage! In the end I bought some 'pomegranate' earrings, a small crotcheted bag and a bracelet. We also bought some dolls in traditional dress and a salt holder for the home. There were so many different ones in the market it was hard to choose but I think we made a good decision.
Hasmik wanted to take us to a special restaurant which sells Karabagh food. I'm not sure what its called but it's a type of bread that looks quite similar to Naan but which contains 15 different types of greens. This is the only food that the restaurant sold and it was totally delicious. We had a bottle of red Karabagh wine to wash it down. Again, this is something we would never have known about without having someone with us who had local knowledge. After eating, we decided to go the Children's Gallery which was close by in Aboyan Street. It was a really lovely place which just exhibited children's work, some of which came from lots of countries around the world.
Next stop was the National Gallery which is next to the fountains on Republic Square. This was a bit of a trudge in the end - it was very hot in there and I found myself getting more and more dehydrated. Probably not helped by the red wine we had had earlier. The gallery was OK - I was more interested in the Armenian painters as their work doesn't really get seen in the UK. Apart from the Arshile Gorky exhibition, of course. We had seen that at Tate modern earlier in the year with Hasmik.
To refresh ourselves we went to have tea in a cafe called the Blackberry. Our waiter was openly gay and Les and I wondered if it was a gay bar. We weren't sure that it would be that easy for gay people n Armenia. We got talking about Mother Armenia and the ferris wheel that we could see at the top of the hill from the Cascades. Hasmik suggested that we took a taxi up to Discovery Park so we could see what was there. She lived close to the park and had been going there ever since she was a child. We made the most of our time up there - getting on the ferris wheel, having an ice-cream and rowing on the lake. Those must have been the heaviest oars ever - Hasmik and I took turns - my arms ached for days afterwards. It was like a strange form of weight lifting whilst in a boat!
It was after our row that we parted with Hasmik - we had a great day with her and really appreciated seeing and doing things that tourists might not normally get to do. We found our way down to the Cascades and into the city. By this time it had really cooled down and it was pleasant to make our way down the steps. We went to the Club to buy the ceramic hanging ball that we had seen on the evening that we had eaten there and decided to eat at the Italian restaurant a few doors up - Ai Leoni. We had been eating so much veg we thought a bit of pasta would be good for a bit of a change.
A pleasant stroll back for our last but one night in our homestay.