Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Ruined City of Ani

One of the attractions of Eastern Turkey, for those who venture there, is Ani, a ruined city-site that sits on a dramatic landscape of steppes, ravines and valleys. But be it the landscape or the ruins, the whole area exudes a sense of eerie sadness that makes you wonder about its past, and is really what I would exemplify as a 'ghost city'!

Cathedral of Ani bathed in golden sunlight
Ani was actually an Armenian city, and its current status on Turkish soil, on the border to Armenia, had been disputed and challenged between the two countries. During its peak in its eventful history, Ani had been the capital of the Armenian empire, but tragically, on its route of decline, it had seen through a long list of empires. While previously known as the 'City of 1001 Churches' or 'City of 40 Gates', what is left behind are faded facades and crumbling stones.

Archaeological excavations was started in 1892 under the Russians, and thankfully, some artifacts were preserved even after going through its turbulent history. Today, some news and reports indicate that some excavations and restorations are underway by the Turkish government, though when I visited, there were little indications :| ... The area is still within the Turkish military zone, and Armenia is just across from the river at the site, but I did not see any particular restrictions when I was there.

Crumbling structures

Most visitors to Ani start off in the city of Kars. In 2011, there is supposedly a public dolmus (shared vans) from Kars to the village just outside Ani twice a day. Otherwise, the best bet is to hire a taxi for the day. The site is well worth exploring and I would recommend spending at least half a day there. I spent the whole day there, till the closing time, and there wasn't any dolmus going back to Kars in the evening! Luckily, I managed to hitch a ride back from a group of Georgian tourists. Do bring along snacks/food and water, as when you enter the site, there isn't any tourist facilities except at the gate.

In the past, there were supposedly restrictions on photography, but apparently, it had been removed. For ruins, the image of the Church of the Redeemer would be particularly impactful, as half of its structure had collapsed. Check out also the Cathedral of Ani. The frescoes within some buildings are also quite beautiful. And if you stay till closing time, the late afternoon light on the ruins are also wonderful!

One of the highlights of Eastern Turkey!

Faded and damaged frescoes inside one of the cathedrals
Church of the Redeemer

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