I wouldn't believe you if you told me it was already December. It doesn't feel as if another year has passed, and that years ago the world shut itself inside over fears of a somewhat more threatening version of the flu. The chaotic world grows faster, more insane with each passing month. It's easy to get caught up in it all and forget where you are in the present. Somehow, in the present, I have managed to end up in the country of Armenia, in its capital, Yerevan. It is here that the reminder of that time of year is starting to show its presence. Shops are throwing up Christmas decorations like it's the last one they'll ever see. A tree is being built in the financial district that towers over the buildings. Everyone roams the streets wrapped up in multiple layers of clothing as the temperature drops; and the ice skating rings are starting to open.
One thing that seems a bit early still, however, are the Christmas markets. There are to be many, I've been told. But thus far I have only managed to stumble across one. In a small park, where the city seems to generally be a little more quiet. It is here that the city has decided to initiate Christmas, so to speak. Starting with huge lights and displays, and a few events. Not to forget the above little train. I'm not sure if it's operating in any capacity, I suspect it isn't and that it's more for show. There were many people with children boarding it and taking photographs.
This particular market is located at Seasons Park Station, Yerevan.
The Christmas lights were found all over, towering above the trees. My camera up to a certain shutter speed hated them, producing an odd line in the image that I had to counter by changing the settings a little more. But it was a nice display, very warming colours under a very cold evening. It was around 8PM at this time, the city is small and generally has a slower pace to it, and even here it felt like the density of people was tolerable. A rarity as I'm used to the sheer chaos of Christmas markets back in England, where lines going anywhere would form, and it seemed like a breeding ground for winter illnesses as you're weaving between people with a few centimetres between you.
Another nice addition to this market was that the Christmas decorations were the main source of lighting in the area, the warm tones of the streetlights matched the lights in a way that made everything form together nicely. A little bit of music could be heard, but not too loud. You could barely make out its location. At this time, a stage was also being prepared for something a bit louder: live music performances. I didn't capture it due to it being prepared still.
Just on the outskirts of this market, an idle flower stall sits, coating itself in a neon sort of lighting. Strangely empty, ignored by everyone. It seems flowers are the least of their concerns going into Christmas, and the coffee and various treats were of more interest.
Funnily, websites market this market (English is an odd language) as something that may remind you of New York or London. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. I felt the oddity of Yerevan and Armenian culture here. The Christian values and that sense of strong family ties in the faces of those that lurked this short park. I felt like the odd one out walking through it, given I wasn't part of some large crowd.
Here and there were stalls on either side of the pathway. Each one was trying to sell something different. Some selling hot beverages, some selling various snacks, others would try to sell general items catering to children. Notebooks, puzzles, little items. But not all of them were seeing much interest. In fact, some seemed rather empty compared to others. Little stalls setup contained games for people; burst some balloons with darts if that's fun to you. Though from what I could see, most of it catered to getting warm with the drinks and snacks. Speaking of which, it brings me to my next image!
Around the middle of this environment was a standing area for people to talk and eat or drink whatever they purchased. There was a small stone fireplace in the middle that was yet to be used. It offered some warmth at a future date, where it would be lit and assuming under some sort of supervision, to allow people to stay warm in this little social area. It was a nice and unique sight to see, but also reminded me a lot of the stereotype of homelessness due to the barrels being used. Finger-less gloves, anyone? How about some rat tail to heat up over the barrel fire? Jokes aside, I'm sure it was a nice atmosphere for those there. If I had friends, I'm sure I too would've enjoyed it.
This was one of the many strange kiosks that I just have no idea what purpose it served. I couldn't see anyone inside (perhaps they were just very small) and I couldn't really make out what it was they were trying to advertise. There were a few here and there like this one, and I came to the conclusion that this was just a little too early for some of them to be prepared. I believe this was the first night of this market. And in some ways, it did show. Not in a negative way, but clear that things were still being prepared; such as the aforementioned stage for live music.
I'll definitely be revisting this Christmas market in attempt to see the live music and whatever additional events they have planned. It seems worth it.
This was probably the loudest aspect of the market. I neon-lit room dedicated to virtual reality, in case actual reality was too depressing as Christmas came up and reminded you of your poverty and gift purchasing to burn through whatever savings you had left. There were some huge games that went beyond just slapping some VR goggles over your eyes: some had motorbikes and chairs
you'd sit into and they'd move around with the experience. Racing games, experiences like roller-coasters, and had a screen in the background for people to view what the person was also viewing. This area was booming with music, but it was a really fun thing to see, given I have never seen something like this in England before.
Here in Yerevan it seems there's a really fun blend between old and new. And it's really interesting to see that contrast. Especially when it comes to lighting where huge tubes of LEDs are thrown around the outside of buildings and roadsides. Sometimes against old Soviet era architecture or decayed parts of the roadside. I love it for this. And this market was another reminder of that.
And unrelated was the topiary. Some had relation to Christmas, like a huge green cart, though there were also elephants, a piano, and more. Very cool to see, though it's clear underneath is a frame to hold it all, not fully carved out of a bush, of course. And, well, that's the first Christmas market of Yerevan! A short, but fun experience and I'm sure with much more to come at a later date. I'll definitely be hunting for the other Christmas markets as that date comes closer. And I hope that I'll be better prepared for the colder weather and won't have to join everyone in the homeless circle with the barrels!
Hopefully by then I'll have my gimbal, and be capable of taking some really cool videos of these locations, creating fun short films around them.