Italian blogger about his trip to Yerevan: Even Africa would not shock us as much as Yerevan did

Mon 05 March 2018 07:52 GMT | 11:52 Local Time

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A blogger living in Italy was stricken by the disastrous state in Yerevan. He believes that Armenia is still stuck in the 90's.
Blogger Sergey Dobrovolsky of Moldovan descent currently living in Italy’s Turin told Sputin Azerbaijan about his visit to the South Caucasus and impressions of his trip to Yerevan.
 
- Did you visit Azerbaijan as part of your trip to the South Caucasus?
 
- We with my wife would visit Azerbaijan with a great pleasure. But the matter is that though me as a Moldova citizen do not need a visa to your country, my wife needs to get it. But this is a complex and expensive process. 
As for the familiarization with the South Caucasus, it started with Georgia. I watched videos online and I liked the country very much. We, with my wife, found favorable ticket prices to get from Italy to Georgia and left for there. At that moment we did not have any plans on Armenia.
 
- Then how did you find yourself in Yerevan?
 
- Some time after arriving in Tbilisi, we learned that there is a train to Yerevan, which operates only one night. Then we had the idea to see the capital of Armenia.
 
But our adventures began aboard the train. It was an Armenian train with an Armenian conductor. The first thing he asked me was where we are from. I replied that we are tourists from Italy, but I myself come from Moldova, and my wife is from Lithuania. There were only three carriages in the train with seven or eight passengers.
There were two men and two women from China travelling to Armenia with us.
 
We were all given bed linen, because of which there was a big scandal. The conductor accused the Chinese of stealing towels from linen sets. He asked me to explain to the Chinese in English that if they did not give him 20 euros for these towels, he would have to call the police.
 
One of the Chinese women explained to me that they were not given the towels, so she cannot return them in any way. As a result, she did not give them 20 euros. Then the conductor asked me to translate to her to give him at least ten euros. I was indignant, because he put me in an awkward position with his requests, it seemed that I was asking for this money for myself. This is not normal.
 
I refused to translate anything further. It is clear that this was not my problem, but the point is what impression about Armenia the Chinese will take to their country?
 
- What was your first impression of the city?
 
When we finally got there and got off the train, it was dark at the station. In addition, we needed to leave our things somewhere, not to carry them around with us all day. I asked the station's head about the storage room, they said they had no such things. We had to leave our things in his office. Before that a taxi driver  approached us and offered to look after our things until the evening, but we refused.
 
We left the station early in the morning, and it was not yet dawn. And the first thing we saw when we left the station building were people who sell vegetables using flashlights.
 
For me that was a shock. The railway station is the central place! And here there is no light, and people with lanterns sit and sell vegetables. The station, the airport is the face of any country, this is the first impression that a tourist has on arrival. I understand that Armenia does not have money and they save on everything, but is it really difficult to turn on the light for at least half an hour, while visitors come off the train or get on it? At least for the sake of tourists, so they do not see it all.
 
Then we got to the city center. And the only thing we wanted at that moment was to have coffee. But this too was a problem in Yerevan. It turns out that cafes in Yerevan do not open before 11 am. Yes, many told us that here you live in Europe, you have everything there is different. I do not know. Maybe. But I do not understand how this is possible. 11 hours is already the middle of the day. A person, a tourist who got into the city at eight in the morning, would like to have breakfast, drink coffee or tea.
 
- What is Yerevan in terms of architecture?
 
- I once asked my wife: "How would you describe Yerevan in one word?". She tells me: "This is a big village." And she's right, there's absolutely nothing to watch.
 
In search of coffee, we went to the square, which we were presented as a tourist attraction of Yerevan - the Grand Cascade. We climbed this Cascade, and saw that it was not even completed. Armature sticks out the ground there. We had to watch out not to get hurt. Why is this necessary? Why present it as an attraction - it's just a shame!
 
Being there, it seemed to me that I was in a place like Chernobyl. Everything is abandoned, nobody is there. The impression is also aggravated by the fact that there is a lifting crane on this Cascade, which turned into scrap metal and was left there forgotten since the times when it was used in construction. It is especially striking that no one wants to be responsible for anything.
 
When we went down from the viewing platform, we saw two guards in the park near the Cascade. We asked them what they were protecting. It turned out that they are guarding sculptures standing in this park. I ask them - from whom? They were shocked by my question, and answered that they were doing this ‘for people not to sit or jump on them’. But it seemed to me that they protect them so that someone just did not steal these sculptures.
 
Apparently, they did not like my words, they did not want to continue the conversation with us and just left.
 
Then we found a bar, still closed, but its owner was inside. We asked him for two coffee. But he answered us in the rudest way. He said he did not intend to open his bar before 11:00 because of us. In the end, we had to go to the supermarket. There, to our happiness, they were selling coffee. And only there we were able to buy it and finally drink it.
 
In addition to the Cascade, we also visited another central street, about three hundred meters in length. Apparently, new or restored. I did not see anything interesting anymore there.
 
- Were there any funny situations?
 
- Yes, the funny thing happened when we went to the Yerevan Cognac Factory. This plant is not in the center, and you need to get to it on the shuttle bus. During the trip there I asked the driver how much a penalty for the free riders is. In Tbilisi, I also talked to the controllers, and they called me the exact amount of the fine. The Yerevan driver told me: "I'm your god, I'm your ticket." Then I asked him: "Will you give me a ticket?", To which he asked the counter question: "Why?".
 
This means that they do not have control over the transport drivers. Everyone can take from the passenger as much as he wants. After all, if I do not get a ticket, how can I know how much this trip would cost me? And how do they pay taxes then?
 
- How do you find the residents of the Armenian capital city?
 
- During our promenades we tried to communicate with the local population to understand what this city, this country is about. First we met a woman who worked as a cleaner at the hotel. I asked her: "Do you have a pension, how much do you get, are you satisfied with your life?". She decided that I was mocking at her and told us that she works here only because she is a pensioner, and she cannot live on pension in this country.
 
Later we got acquainted with a Russian-speaking teacher. She showed us some places, the theater building, for example. And this woman also told us that it's impossible to live in Yerevan on retirement. Her son lives abroad, and only due to the fact that he sends her money, she manages to somehow survive. According to her, the prices for everything, including utilities, are very high in Yerevan.
 
As for the youth, when we turned to them for help, the young people did not answer us at all, turned away and passed by. They simply ignored us.
 
- Did you meet tourists in the streets of Yerevan?
 
- By the way, that's another thing. I was very surprised by the fact that there were absolutely no tourists in Yerevan. Being in Tbilisi during walks around the city, we heard English, German, even Italian, saw foreigners. There is nothing like that in Yerevan.
 
- In a word, impressions are not the rosiest...
 
- Yes, I'm just shocked by Yerevan. The country actually remained in the 90's. If I had come to Africa, I would have expected something like this. But when you come to a former USSR country that declared its independence 30 years ago, it is odd to see such things. Within those 30 years they could at least screw the bulbs at the station.
 
- Was there any reaction to your video about Armenia from the Armenian side? Have you been reproached for criticizing their country?
 
- Of course. There was a lot of negativity. I really did not like the attitude that was shown towards us after that. I never offended Armenians in my comments on the Internet, I always addressed them politely. But they, when they do not know how to answer the question, immediately start insulting a person
 
At first my wife was upset because they insulted her by her appearance and so on. As if this has something to do with our view of their country. I do not react to such things, but my wife took these insults painfully. She is Lithuanian, and she is not used to such a relation to herself.
 
I was even told: "Why did not you go to your Moldova?". I wanted just to see a new city.
 
- Videos from different countries – are they your hobby or are you doing them professionally?
 
- It’s more of a hobby. My wife and I have our own youtube channel, where we share video impressions from our travels.
 
- What does Italy think about the South Caucasus, how do Italians perceive this region?
 
- Italians know little about the South Caucasus. And when you tell them about Armenia or Azerbaijan, 80% of Italians simply do not know where it is. They know the Soviet Union and Russia. When you show them these countries, they think that these are all parts of Russia. And then you have to explain them that this is not so.
 
- Where do you plan to visit now?
 
- Our next trip will be to Iran. We want to get a closer view of Tehran and Iranian culture.
 
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