Not many of you have probably heard about Gyumri, second biggest city in Armenia. I also didn’t know much about it prior to my visits to this fascinating country. It’s been an important center in Caucasus from 19th century when it was under the Russian rule. Gyumri was also known as the city of trades and arts and it was the culture hub of the area. That’s where the first opera in Armenia was directed or where the first opera theatre in the country was built. Most of the buildings in the city have dark, almost black colour due to the stone that was used – it makes Gyumri’s architecture unique and really beautiful.
When everything has changed in Gyumri, Armenia
On 7th December 1988 at 11:41am the history and life of the city was changed forever. That’s when the tragic earthquake took place, taking life of around 50.000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Most of the buildings in the center of Gyumri were destroyed, including the beautiful Church of the Holy Saviour. 25 years after these tragic events the city is still under construction, trying to rebuild its greatness.
Gyumri, Armenia now
When taking the train to Gyumri I could spot very well when I was about to reach the city. Suddenly outside of the window I could see a big number of ruined houses and abandoned buildings – a clear sign I entered the damaged region. That already put me in the allert of how Gyumri might look like and I had to prepare myself quickly for what I was about to see… Never before I’ve been in the place that was hit by the earthquake and I can say that it was the saddest, most depressing destination I’ve ever visited…
I loved Gyumri, Armenia from the very beginning. At first it doesn’t look like a beautiful place but it really is, with the architecture and all the little details that make it so special! It kind of felt like the time has stopped there, maybe not in 1988 but shortly after. I wandered most of the streets in the center and for a big part of the time I felt like I’m in an abandoned, haunted place. The damages caused by the earthquake were still so huge and so widely seen. Not only the big beautiful church and the most famous landmark of Gyumri was under construction but also random houses all over the city still had wounds… Some buildings were cut in half and all these years after the earthquake I could see what kind of wallpaper was there in the rooms…
Visiting Gyumri, Armenia
It was a heartbreaking experience to visit Gyumri and it made me think a lot about the life and uncertainity of it. It’s incredible that this big tragedy was caused not by the humans but the enormous, angry nature… At least local people were super cheerful and friendly, living their life normally despite all they had to go through! And some street art was located here and there to make the city looks nicer! Sadly I was in Gyumri only for a day but I felt it’s the place I could spend more time in! Definitely recommended if you happen to be in Armenia!!
I visited Gyumri as a day trip from Yerevan – the amazing capital of Armenia. I took an 8 am train – the ticket was around 2€ and the journey took 3 hours but the views were amazing! On the way back I took marshrutka – it was faster, 2 hours, but the ticket was also slightly more expensive – 3€. Marshrutkas run between Yerevan and Gyumri fairly often. If you decide to stay in Gyumri overnight here you can book your accommodation. Otherwise you can book your accommodation in Yerevan here.
Are you planning a trip to Caucasus? Do you like that region as much as I do? I’ve created a Facebook group where you can look for advise or inspiration and share your travel stories and pictures from Caucasus and beyond. Join now!
If you think of visiting Armenia or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- Centennial of the Armenian Genocide in Yerevan
- What you should know about Armenia
- Why Yerevan is my new favourite city
- and more!
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