Gyumri, the arts and artisans city of Armenia

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Gyumri, the second-largest city in Armenia, holds a special place in the hearts of Armenians. Known for its vibrant arts scene, rich history, and resilient spirit, Gyumri has emerged from the ashes of the 1988 earthquake to become a symbol of hope and renewal. Locals affectionately refer to themselves as “Lennakantsi,” a nod to the city’s Soviet-era name, Leninakan.

The city’s history is as diverse as its people. In ancient times, the area was known as Kumayri, part of the Urartu kingdom in the 8th century BC. In 1837, it was renamed Alexandropol in honor of the Russian emperor Nicholas I’s wife, Alexandra. During the Soviet era, it was known as Leninakan before reverting to its current name, Gyumri, after the fall of the USSR. The Old Town, Kumayri, is a national reserve-museum, preserving the city’s architectural heritage.

Gyumri Airport, also known as Shirak International Airport (LWN), is located 5 km (3 mi) from the city center. It offers low-cost flights to and from Russia, with Moscow being a popular destination. Pobeda Airlines provides a two-way transfer service called Fly&Bus, connecting Gyumri and Yerevan.

One of Gyumri’s most iconic landmarks is the Black Fortress, or Sev Berd. Originally a Russian military base, it was built in the 19th century to protect the city from Turkish invasions. The fortress, made of black stone, has a circular shape and was recently opened to the public. It features a museum, a deep well that served as a water supply source during sieges, and an interior hall with excellent acoustics for events and concerts.

Despite its tumultuous history, Gyumri has retained its unique architectural style and traditions from the late 19th century. The city’s bustling streets, pedestrian areas, and vibrant cultural scene are a testament to its resilience and creativity. Gyumri is also the birthplace of several notable figures, including the beloved Soviet-Armenian actor Mher ‘Frunzik’ Mkrtchyan, lyrical poet and writer Avetik Isahakyan, internationally renowned jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan, and Olympic champion wrestler Arthur Aleksanyan.

In addition to its cultural heritage, Gyumri is known for its beer breweries, including the city’s namesake, Gyumri Beer Factory. Visitors can take tours of the factory and sample its products, adding a unique flavor to their experience of this dynamic city.

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