It's been almost a decade since I was backpacking through here. Admittedly, I've soldout and traded the youth hostel for a hotel room. The view from my room can't be beat, though. Hurray for Starwood Points (thanks, Scott Kidder!).
The city was rocked by a devastating earthquake in 1988. It still bears the scars. I met with the energetic Sister Arousiag, who's opening a state-of-the-art youth center in Gyumri along side the orphanage she runs. We toured the complex, which has a variety of classrooms for learning a slew of trades that will serve her orphans well once they reach 18 and look for work. She's doing inspiring work in a city that certainly needs her.
My dad and I got stuck with a dreary day in Yerevan, so we made the most of it by visiting the massive Mother Armenia (Mayr Hayastan) statute -- there's museum in her pedestal! -- and the surrounding grounds of an amusement park in the process of setting up for the summer season. The statue used to be of Stalin, looming over Yerevan, so you can imagine how thrilled locals were to topple that menacing Georgian and replace him with Lady Armenia in 1967. Sadly continuing his legacy of murder, the process of taking down the Man of Steel killed a pair of men.
We visited a few days before the 24th so we could take our time through the museum. It's not an easy collection of records, photos, and eye-witness accounts to absorb, but I was happy we did it.
This particular UNESCO World Heritage site is a monastery carved out of a mountain side. It's quite the sight. The Wikipedia page for it does it a better job than I ever could describing its history and facets - take a gander.
I must've walked by this a dozen times before I looked up and noticed it.