We hit the road Monday morning, and made the 2-hour trip to Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city. It’s located in northwestern Armenia, sitauted close to the Turkish border. Gyumri is known for its artists, actors, poets, and sportsmen. It is Armenia’s cultural capital. It is also known as the site of a devastating earthquake. In 1988, a quake destroyed 80 percent of the city, and took 25,000 lives. Our first stop was a local restaurant that farms fish. Lunch was fresh, and barbecued straight out of a pond. Some ASP-ers even got to ride horses. Next, we visited FAR’s Gyumri office. The Fund for Armenian Relief is the organization that has planned our itinerary here in Gyumri. It includes sight-seeing and mingling with local organizations, in addition to a service component. ASP-ers will prepare meals for the elderly at a Soup Kitchen, and assisst in renovating the local Ounjian School. FAR’s Gyumri staff is working to ensure that our stay is smooth and comfortable. A small city like Gyumri is refeshing after the hustle and bustle of Yerevan. Grandfahers huddle around tables, playing nardi on sidewalks. Young people take evening strolls with their friends. We stopped to watch a group of young dancers commemorating Armenia’s Constitution with folk dances in front of the city’s theatre. The pace is slower, the people are friendlier, and the drivers are more relaxed. They’ll actually stop and allow pedestrians to cross...unlike Yerevan.
Gyumri is already charming us with its resilient spirit and artistic atmosphere. ASP-ers are particularly excited about the service portion of this trip. Touring and sight-seeing is an important part of the experience, but so is mingling with the people and getting a taste of both the pleasures and difficulties of life in this country. We are scheduled to stay in Gyumri for one week. Each day, members of the group will be blogging about our experiences and impressions. Stay tuned.