On Wednesday afternoon we were kindly driven about 40 kilometers out of Kars to visit the ancient city of Ani. It was an important city along the Silk Road during the Middle Age with the first human marks going back to the Neolithic Period. It was once the capital of a medieval Armenian kingdom that covered much of present day Armenia and eastern Turkey. The city is located on a triangular site, protected on it’s eastern side by the ravine of the Akhurian River, on it’s western side by the Bostanlar valley and on it’s Northern side by the Arakas River which also forms the border between Turkey and Armenia.
It was interesting, and a bit disconcerting, that we were looking directly into Armenia, including the observation towers where watchers were keeping tabs on the border!!
If you notice the tall, snow covered mountain in the background….as we were driving I asked if anyone knew the name of the mountain. There was a 5 minute conversation that started in English and then morphed into Turkish. After a lull, Dogan said “We dont know!!”
We first walked thru the thick stone walls of the fort that protected the city……
We followed along the wall for a while……
….and then turned to look back to the rest of the city ruins (click on the photo to enlarge……
I was attracted by this arch…..
This is the Church of Redeemer and was built in 1034, but according to the sign, was “struck by thunder” (we think they mean lightning) in 1957 and was split in half.
…and then a little further down the hill…..
….and beautiful paintings on the interior walls. Although they were not in great shape, it was still amazing that they had survived in the open air of the crumbled church…. I particularly liked the “dome” at the top of the church…..
The next building that we visited started out as a Cathedral but was later turned into a Mosque…..
They graciously waited for us as we took copious photos…..
There were lots of photo ops during the afternoon….. We were greatly interested in the caves along the cliffs. Since they are so carefully shaped, we are sure that they were man-made but who knows how long ago….
As we were walking along, I spied a small piece of pottery laying on the ground…..
The final structure was Monument built to St. Gregory.…..
Although it was very much in ruins, it still alluded to the grandeur that had once been the city of Ani…..
As we were walking back to the car, two little girls came up holding postcards and a couple of crocheted pieces for sale. Michael bought one of the pieces for me and then asked if he could take their photo…..
We had an easy trip back to Kars but had one contra tempt when an old gentleman was hitchhiking along the road and walked all the way out in front of us to try to make us stop. With that type of behavior, we were all surprised that he had reached such a ripe old age.
We also passed large herds of cattle, horses and sheep on the hills beside the road. Each had one or more “shepherds” who were looking after the stock. There are few fences so it was important for the stock-keeper to stay vigilant to keep them off of the road.
Our hosts tried desperately to feed us another meal, but we cradled our swollen stomachs and asked for a reprieve for the evening.
All in all, it was a good, good day!!!