Sunday, June 10, 2012

Walking in the paths of ancient Armenians

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!!

_6076419 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……

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We followed along the wall for a while……_6076417

….and then turned to look back to the rest of the city ruins (click on the photo to enlarge……

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I was attracted by this arch…..

_6076434 ….but even more enamored after I saw what was on the other side….

_6076437 The ravine and caves were amazing….but little did we know that there were even more amazing ones to  be seen!!!

This was the first out-lying structure that we approached…..DSC03237

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…..

_6076459  This church was built in 1215 and dedicated to St. Gregory

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There were wonderful  patterns carved in the stone on the outside…..DSC03264

….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….DSC03269 I particularly liked the “dome” at the top of the church…..

DSC03257 We now had a choice of going down and back up or staying on the same level as our next sight.  Michael chose the path of MORE resistance, while I stayed on the upper level…..

DSC03281 It was at this point that we really started looking at how rugged the country was…..

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The next building that we visited started out as a Cathedral but was later turned into a Mosque…..

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The interior had huge columns made of two-toned marble….DSC03305

These were our gracious hosts…..Dogan, Ilhame and Muhammet…._6076515

They graciously waited for us as we took copious photos…..

_6076499 One of the last  structures that we visited was the Mosque of Ebel Menucehr, the first mosque built in Anatolia in 1072, and the only structure that had a Minaret….

DSC03311 It was perched on the edge of a gorge which meant that the views from the arched windows were beautiful……

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Michael took this beautiful photo of a plant surviving in a very arid land….._6076560

There were lots of photo ops during the afternoon…..DSC03342 DSC03340 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….

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As we were walking along, I spied a small piece of pottery laying on the ground…..

DSC03354 The question is how long it has been there….maybe just dropped last week, but I would love to think that it was extremely old!!!

The final structure was Monument built to St. Gregory.…..

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We loved our time in Ani….._6076567

Although it was very much in ruins, it still alluded to the grandeur that had once been the city of Ani…..

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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…..

_6076615 Those two could have probably sold him a bottle of water straight from the dirty river!!!!

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!!!

1 comment:

Maggi said...

You are certainly getting to see so much of some beautiful parts of Turkey. I am surprised that the Church of the Redeemer is still standing.

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