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Located on the Hrazdan river and older than Rome itself, the first recorded settlement of Yerevan dates back to 782BC at the site of Erebuni, to the South East of the modern city. When the Russians first entered the city in 1828 it consisted of some 1800 mud brick houses, 7 churches, 7 caravanserais and 8 mosques – the only one to survive being the fine Blue Mosque built in 1765 and today functioning again. Today Yerevan contains some of the grandest buildings of the early Soviet period to survive and Independence Square (formerly Lenin Square) is regarded as one of the finest to be created in the 20th century. The Matenadaran, or Manuscript Museum, contains some 14,000 Armenian manuscripts the earliest of which dates to 989AD. Though today barely 1% of this vast collection is on display it still fascinates and rewards the visitor. One of Yerevan’s more moving sights is the Genocide Memorial and Museum, the centre piece of which is 44m tall stelae next to 12 inward leaning basalt slabs surrounding an eternal flame. At the weekend a trip to the Vernissage, Yerevan’s outdoor art market and the best place to buy souvenirs is a must. Just outside Yerevan lies Armenia’s spiritual home, Echmiadzin – centre of Armenian Christianity since shortly after the country’s conversion in the 4th century. The focus of the complex today is the Cathedral extensively renovated in the 17th century but the oldest parts of which date to the 5th century. The best day to visit is a Sunday when the Catholicos, or head of the Armenian church conducts a ceremony during which he descends into the congregation handing out blessings. One of Armenia’s most famous products is brandy and no stay in Yerevan would be complete without visiting one of the distilleries, the most renowned of which is the Ararat Distillery – said to have produced Winston Churchill’s favourite tipple. Today all visiting world leaders are gifted a barrel held in perpetuity until they claim it – apparently the only leader to ever have done so is Boris Yeltsin!