Yerevan: Hrazdan Gorge

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Yerevan Walking Tour: Hrazdan Gorge

Yerevan Walking Tour: Hrazdan Gorge

The Haghtanak (Victory) Bridge is the beginning point of the tour and of old Astafian Street which was a feature of the 1856 city plan and remains the heart of Yerevan. Astafian was renamed Abovian in 1920 and originally began at the northern gates of the Yerevan fortress (it was then called Krepostnaya meaning 'fortress street') and stretched north-east linking the city center to Nork. A few stone foundations from the 19th century remain, clinging to the cliff walls.

Across the bridge and down on the river floor is Karmir Kamurch (“Red Bridge” ) (1), built in the Middle Ages and rebuilt after the 1679 earthquake. The bridge was once the only link across the river to the Ararat Valley. It was called both “Karmir Kamurch” for its red stone and “Khoja Plav” for a wealthy man from Kanaker district who sponsored 1679 restoration of the bridge. It was again reconstructed in 1851. The double-span bridge was 80 m long, 11 meters high, with openings on both sides for irrigation water channels.

The Hrazdan Canyon has been the life-blood for the city from its beginning, the city lying along the banks of Hrazdan River. On the opposite cliff you can see what the old city looked like. The black and red stone buildings with wooden balconies are part of a 1980s effort to recreate the old city. This area is called "Dzoragiugh" and it includes the tall St. Sarkis Church (2) and the Sergey Parajanov Museum (3) which stands out above the canyon and among the balconies of the restored district.

To your right, the large black building with Noy sign on top is where the Old Yerevan Fortress (4) once lay. The old fortress, built by the Persian Farhad Pasha in 1582-83, was the seat of Persian khans and included a palace, military barracks and a mosque. After its capture by Russian forces in 1827, a Russian church (St. Pokrov) was built to replace the mosque, and the palace was used as the governor's offices and residence.

The fortress is known for another historic event; the famous Russian playwright Alexander Griboyedov saw the premiere and only production in his lifetime of his play, “Woe from Wit”.

By 1864 the fortress compound was in such bad shape it was decided to move the soldiers into newer barracks in the then neighboring village of Kanaker (now a part of the city). In 1865, it was purchased by a merchant of the first guild Nerses Tairyan. St. Pokrov was demolished at the beginning of the 20th century when the grander Nikolaiev church opened in central Yerevan.

In 1877 Tairyan began industrial production of wine (and in 1887 production of brandy) on the territory of the old fortress, helped by his relative, the painter Hovhannes Aivazovsky. In 1899 Nikolai Shustov bought the distillery from Tairyan. Parts of the fortress still exist and the distillery gives tours that include wine & brandy tasting and visits to the underground cellars, vaulted in traditional style.

Yerevan City Museum (5) has displays of Yerevan life from various periods.

Original text edited by the International Council on Monuments and Sites-Armenian National Committee (ICOMOS/Armenia).