What to Do on a Hot Summer Day in Yerevan, Erebuni District
Are you planning to visit Armenia this year? Are going to spend your summer vacation in Yerevan? Is it your first visit or have you have already visited all the monuments and tourist sites before? Would you just like to spend some time enjoying the green nature in Armenia, with the family and children? Have you heard of Lyon Park?
Almost every neighborhood in Yerevan has a small playground where kids can play and adults can enjoy a relaxing time, but if you are looking for a big, forest-like park in Yerevan, especially one that also includes a lake, then you don’t have many choices.
Lyon Park: Where It Is and How to Get There
Lyon Park is one of these parks. Surprisingly, I have discovered Lyon Park only recently, even though I have lived in Yerevan all my life. The reason, probably, is that it is one of the few parks located away from downtown, in Erebuni administrative district, to be more precise.
The easiest way to get there is by metro, but you will have to walk for about 15-20 minutes to get to the park from Sasuntsi Davit station – just go along Sasuntsi Davit Street until you reach a big gas station. Some parts of the park gates can be seen on the left. To those who are not familiar with the area, however, it will stay unnoticed.
Occupying an area of 17 hectares, Lyon Park is the symbol of Yerevan-Lyon(France) friendship, and its foundation was implemented within the frames of the 2008-2011 cooperation program signed between the former mayors of Yerevan and Lyon, Karen Karapetyan and Gerard Collomb respectively.
According to the park reconstruction program, many trees have been planted here, lawns have been formed, public bowers and restrooms have been built. Moreover, the old pavements have been replaced with new ones, and a new external lighting system and irrigation network have been installed in the park.
The sunrise and sunset are glorious from the park, especially with Ararat Mountain in the background.
Vardavar Lake: Interesting Facts
It is a well-known fact that people are attracted to places where there are traces of water. This is one reason that parks are usually installed with fountains, small pools, or even artificial lakes. The beauty of Lyon Park is its lake. It turned out that the lake had existed there long before the park did. In fact, the park appeared around the lake over time.
Vardavar Lake was artificially made by king Argishti the 1st of Urartu during the 8th century BC. It was renovated in 1578 by the Turkic ruler of Yerevan Mehmet khan Tokhmakh, and that is the reason the lake is also called Tokhmakh Lake by the locals. It has had its current name Vardavar since 2000.
There is a stone monument in the lake with a text in Armenian saying that King Argishti the 1st, having founded the city of Erebuni, built the lake to supply the city with water, naming it Arhishti Sea.
The water was taken from the Hrazdan River, which is mentioned with the name Ildaruni on the monument. The bottom and edges of the lake were reconstructed with concrete and stone from 1975 to 1985. The remains of Erebuni fortress can be seen on a hill in the background of the monument.
Vardavar Lake has a water surface of 8 hectares and is often used for windsurfing and kayaking. It is one of the oldest and the second largest artificial lake in Yerevan. Visitors of Lyon Park are not only people who come here to jog, do yoga, ride their bikes, have a picnic, or just relax but also birds, dogs, and other creatures.
The lake is also full of fish that like to taste the mulberries falling down from a stunningly beautiful giant mulberry tree standing proudly by the lake.
In fact, we managed to feed the fish with some mulberries during our last visit there, and while we were throwing the mulberries into the water, a dog named Archie (in our video above) took them for his ball and jumped into the lake in search of it. Poor thing!
Vardavar: the Most Favorite Feast of the Armenians
Besides being a lake, Vardavar is also a feast celebrated in Armenia. Nowadays it is one of the major festivals of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Nevertheless, it is of pagan origin. Vardavar is associated with the worship of Astghik, the Goddess of water, love, fertility, and beauty whose symbol was the rose.
According to one of the theories, the name Vardavar originated from the word վարդ (/vard/ – rose in Armenian). Many believe, however, that it consists of two Indo-European words – var, meaning water, and arr, meaning pouring. Many other authors, however, have their own theories and interpretations.
Nowadays, the festival symbolizes the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, and pouring water on each other symbolizes the cleansing from sins. Vardavar, also called “jrotsi” (watering) is celebrated 14 weeks or 98 days after Easter, on a Sunday. In 2020 it will be celebrated on July 19th.
In all parts of Armenia Vardavar turns into a real celebration from early morning. On this day, people usually wake up to the joyous and excited shouts of kids watering everyone on their way, sparing no one. The most popular place to gather for playing jrotsi is Swan Lake in the neighborhood of the Theater of Opera and Ballet.
Everybody takes part in this cheerful event. You can even see grown-ups armed with water-guns, searching for their next victim. And if you think you might need some more water, the fire trucks “come to the rescue” with their unusually beautiful water shows. Now, there is no risk of running out of water.
The Salt Lake: the “Dead Sea” of Armenia
Not very far from Lyon Park, there is another lake – Salt Lake.
Yerevan residents jokingly call it the Dead Sea of Armenia. In the 1980s as a result of construction works near the textile factory in the neighborhood, a lake formed filling the space with natural salty water. However, at the beginning of the 1990s the lake was dried up with soil for an attached building of the textile factory.
In 2003, hearing the pleas of the former visitors of the lake, the owner of the factory ordered to dig up a funnel-shaped hole with a depth of 4-5 meters, which again was naturally filled with salty water and became the Big Salt Lake. The saltiness of the lake is 13%, which makes swimming easier there. The elements in the water are believed to have healing powers.
The Small Salt Lake is just a few steps away. Its depth does not exceed 1.5 meters. Nevertheless, its saltiness is over 25%. It is said that in the past old women who could not swim would sit around the Small Lake soaking their legs in the water for joint pain relief, hence the name the Old Women’s Lake given to it.
Yerevan is indeed beautiful, we just need to be more attentive not to miss anything, but, above all, we need to take care of it instead of littering it. As it says Lyon Park is built for our family, let’s keep it clean.