"Gyumri - The capital city of humor of Armenia" Gyumri by R-men

Gyumri Travel Guide: 5 reviews and 73 photos

The city of Gyumri (Initially Kumayri, then Gyumri, then Alexandropol, then Leninakan) is the second largest city of The Republic of Armenia. It is also known as the most traditional city of Armenia. With Armenia's largest old town, much of it showing earthquake damage, Gyumri provides the opportunity for very interesting walks.

The city is built on a north-south axis, with the center being very pedestrian friendly. The main square in fact has a couple of pedestrians-only streets leading away from it, two large churches anchoring the two ends, and fountains in the center. This used to be the big partly covered shuka (market) which was levelled by the Soviet goverment.

History

Until the Soviet expansion of Armenia's new capital of Yerevan, it was Gyumri, or Alexandrapol as it was known as at the time that was the largest city of the republic and the third largest city in the Caucasus. The older city architecture therefore is very nice. One of Armenia's more interesting characters was born here, George Gurdjieff He was a spiritual leader who is virtually unknown in Armenia, but has a worldwide following. Gurdjieff's father's grave is preserved in the old cemetery. In 1926, League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Fridtjof Nansen, accompanied by his secretary, fellow Norwegian Vidkun Quisling of later dark repute, visited Gyumri and its huge complex of schools and orphanages sheltering 11,000 Armenian orphans under the auspices of the American Near East Relief.

What to See

The main square has a pair of churches, one standing, one a distinguished ruin awaiting reconstruction. The main church was one of the two churches that worked during the Soviet times (the other one was the Holy See Ejmiatsin). There is a reputable European-style hotel, a well-reputed regional museum plus a city museum, the Russian Alexandropol fortress of 1834 on the W side of town, and probably more for the curious urban explorer, though Gyumri was battered in 1926 by a previous earthquake as well. Inside the city limits are several important archaeological sites. By the fortress is the Sev Ghul Chalcolithic through Iron Age settlement. Near the meat factory (by the train tracks) was excavated an Early Iron Age settlement/cemetery. Near the stadium, another Iron Age site had stone molds and a smelter for metal casting. In the NE part of Gyumri, on a hill in the area known as Vardbagh, excavations revealed a Roman-period cemetery lying over a Bronze Age settlement. There is a medieval settlement with ruined 7th c. church that has been excavated in the Botanical Gardens. The city was site of a major Russian Army garrison and fortress since its conquest in 1804, a role it continues to play even today.

There is a very worthwhile city museum, with a good overview of the towns history, architecture, and cultural treasures. There are some Carzous and Aivazovskis hidden in this museum as well.

"Kumayri" historic district is worth visiting. See my travelogue. But Gyumri is more than just the Kumayri District. It is a city that prides itself on its traditions of hospitality, humor, the arts and business. Gyumri residents have a distinct look and style, their own dialect (very close to Western Armenian), and a boundless pride in their city, which they are now hard at work rebuilding. Visitors to Gyumri never fail to be impressed at the warm welcome they receive at the city’s restaurants and cafes, hotels and museums, not to mention the frequent invitations to have a cup of “soorj” (Armenian coffee) at the home of just about anybody they meet.

  • Intro Updated Apr 8, 2004
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Reviews (2)

Comments (11)

  • jorgejuansanchez's Profile Photo
    Oct 5, 2007 at 4:24 AM

    Hello Armen. I am heading to Gyumri tomorro. I am now in Etchmiadzin. I read Gurdjieff book but he said that he did not know where his father was buried. Can you give me more info about his resting place...? thanks. Jorge

  • call_me_rhia's Profile Photo
    Feb 2, 2006 at 9:43 AM

    precious accommodation tip.. if u had one for yerevan, i would be happy to hear it

  • MJB123's Profile Photo
    Jun 23, 2005 at 5:35 PM

    Awesome Gyumri pages. Did not know Gurdjieff was from there. I read his book "Meetings With Remarkable Men" many years ago.

  • Jun 12, 2004 at 12:56 AM

    Parev R-men This is also my son's name. Planning on coming back to Hayrenick for my third time, and this time I hope to come to Gyumri and hope to meet you . Send me an email at Sadsls@yahoo.com if you get this message. Avo

  • oda83's Profile Photo
    May 18, 2004 at 4:53 PM

    Thanks for your comment! Thailand was my first "real" travel experience so it will always be special. Clever nickname you have! =)

  • aadil's Profile Photo
    May 12, 2004 at 2:29 AM

    Pretty pictures of an interesting place to see!!! Thanks for sharing on VT!!!

  • advantix's Profile Photo
    Dec 28, 2003 at 1:17 PM

    nice story to start

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Dec 23, 2003 at 2:07 AM

    Armen, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  • Oct 15, 2003 at 12:12 PM

    an excellent introduction to your home town, I would love to see some photos!

  • may1273's Profile Photo
    Sep 2, 2003 at 12:23 AM

    Hello... I'd like to see Excellent Armenian Food in a Unique Restaurant . If you have picture please show me. Thank you.

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