30.05.2019 | #GeziRehberi
Okuma Süresi: 10 dakika
30.05.2019 | #TravelGuide | Reading Time: 10 Minutes
We’ve were in Kars at the start of May and we’ve traveled to the Ruins of Ani, which is a place that can easily be called cradle of civilizations and was a home to many cultures. We found it so beautiful, but we couldn’t help but criticize at some points. Since there are so little guidance signs inside the site and there aren’t many useful travel guides online, we’ve decided to write an article for our commentary that can also be used as a travel guide.
If you ever pass through Kars, make sure to definitely see the Ruins of Ani. You can reach there by the bus that’s arranged daily by Kars Municipality, by taxis that you can settle on a two way trip or by your own vehicle. We chose to use the municipality’s bus, which leaves once a day (on 11.00 şn front of Gazi Ahmet Muhtar Pasa Cultural House) and it’s a much more economical option than the taxis if you’re traveling on a budget. The trip between Kars and the Ruins of Ani is about 40 minutes. If you go with the bus or the taxis, you get about 2,5 hours there. If you’re interested in history and architecture it will be enough time and if you just like seeing new places, you might even have spare time left.
When to go, how to go in?
When we arrived in Ani it was a chilly day. We learned later on that April and May are the worst times to see Kars because if you go there in winter it’s really nice to see everywhere covered up in snow and to see the frozen lake Çıldır, and if you go there in summer (July and August) the beautiful weather lets you discover the area comfortably. When we were there in May, it rained all the time as customary to the climate.
At the entrance area, there’s a small cabin and you can go in if you have a Turkish Museum Pass. If you don’t, you can pay 10 liras for a ticket. What caught our attention was that there weren’t any written or audio guides at the entrance, nor any pamphlets or maps to take with you. Naturally, we walked towards to giant map on the wall near the entrance but it’s no longer readable because of all the sunlight it got through the years. Although next to the map, there’s a timeline infographic showing the history of Ani that starts with the Neolithic age and continues until its archaeological discovery, and it was really informing. Thankfully, we’ve found an internet guide on our way so we entered the site having a general idea of the building we were going to see but we were without a map and we couldn’t make sure of the exact locations of those buildings.
The Structures Located in the Historical Site
We enter the Ruins of Ani like we enter most historical sites, through its giant city walls. When you enter you see two rows of walls, the outer rampart and the inner rampart. The doors of the ramparts aren’t facing each other and it’s relatively narrow between. The aim here was, if the enemy passes the outer rampart, they wouldn’t have enough space to maneuver or use a battering ram and they would get trapped. We found this very interesting.
We enter the city through its most magnificent gate that’s on the inner rampart, the Lion Gate and we’re greeted by an amazing acoustic. Birds had nested on the wall and were chirping , which became magical and kept us from observing the city for a few minutes.
Our first critic about the Ruins of Ani is there are no route signs telling you where to go, no displays and no identification signs anywhere on the site. If you hadn’t read any guides before reaching Ani, you would have very little way of knowing where to go and what you’re seeing. Most of the structures don’t have identification signs in front and the one or two structures that have them have faded out ones. This is being followed by having no surveillance inside the site. We were very sad to see this problem here again after we were at the Aspendos Historical City last summer because there’s no way of preventing the guests from harming the structures and taking small memoires with them. And sadly, this is apparent on almost every structure. The Ruins of Ani is on Unesco’s Cultural Heritage List since 2016 and we hope that immediate action will be taken and route signs, identification plates and some guides to borrow at the entrance (or even a VR Guide, would be amazing here) will be added. Some litter boxes and water fountains to be used by guests all over the site are a must.
Old City Walls and Doors
When you take a look at the old city of Ani, the first thing to catch your attention is how big it is. Panoramically viewed, you can find traces of every civilization that’s been here at the entrance area. This part, the part that we’ve went in, was the center of the Seljuks City. If you follow the road in front spanning from the walls, you can see the old road clearly. If you observe what looks like fallen stones of random structures around more closely, you can see the foundation lines and where the walls of the old buildings stood.
If you continue by having the walls on your back, you see the distant Abughamrents (Poladoglu) Church on your right. When you go forward, you follow the old Market Road and it takes you to the valley that will turn into Arpacay River ahead, which divides the area between the Turkish Republic and the Armenian Republic. You see a fallen part of a city wall and continue right. A bit ahead, you see the part of a fallen arched entryway named Mıgmıg River Entrance. We think that this structure was used to go out of the city and reach the caves that are located near the Bostanlar River below.
Across the arched entryway, the Halaskar (Keçel) Church is located. When we visited, this church was in restoration and can teach Junior Architecture Students what sections are in great detail. It looks like it was cut in half and we’re looking forward to see it after the finished restoration work and without the metal structure holding it. Because of the work, there wasn’t any way to go inside.
When you continue with the valley on your left, the first big structure you’ll come across is the Tigran Honents Church and it’s located on hill on a lower ground. You reach there by some steps down. This church was built in 1215 and was commissioned by a wealthy businessman named Tigran Honents when Georgians ruled Ani. When you walk down beside it, the first thing you notice is the beautifully kept façade and the animal reliefs. When you go in, you see that the interior frescos that weren’t as lucky as the exterior façade. We can’t see them in their original condition but these frescos are different than the mostly-gold ones we’re used to seeing more and have blue-white coloring in them. Much like we’re used to seeing, they present scenes of Jesus’s life from the bible and additionally there are scenes from St. Gregory’s life and how he had introduced Christianity to the Georgians. It’s a structure to definitely see for its dome, frescos, geometric ornaments and the angel portrayal above the door when going out.
Normally when the weather is better, you can ascend down the vale from here and see the Sisters Monastery that’s located down there, but since the weather was too rainy we couldn’t reach it.
Fethiye (Conquest) Mosque
When you follow the steps going back up from the Tigran Church and follow the road going straight, you’ll see the Fethiye Mosque up ahead. Behind this structure, you can see the magnificent Mount Ararat (Ağrı). Since this historical site has housed so many civilizations, most buildings have multiple names. Fethiye Mosque is also called the Big Cathedral and the Mother Mary Church, and it’s one of the best-kept structures in Ani. When we visited, the façade was being restored so there was a metals structure surrounding the exterior.
The construction of the church has started on 950 A.D. by Bargatian King Sembat the 2nd and finished in 1010 by his wife Katranide. After Sultan Aparslan conquered Ani in 1064, it was turned into a Mosque and the first conquest prayer was performed here. When we went inside, the rain falling in from its ruined dome was hypnotizing and beautiful. The elephant-foot columns that are under the arches that supported the fallen dome were kept nicely. Since Ani was the development center for Armenian art and architecture, we can see the characteristically high sacred apsis here. When you go outside, we can see the additional parts of the church which is now uncovered. There’s a checkered ornament on the wall and the fallen star near shows that this place had some very interesting wall decoration.
EBU’L MANUCEHR MOSQUE AND THE SILKROAD BRIDGE
When you leave the Fethiye Mosque and follow the road out, the first structure you’ll come across is Ebu’l Manuçehr Mosque. This mosque was built before Sivas Divrigi Ulu Camii and it’s the first Turkish Mosque in Anatolia, and that makes it a very important structure. In 1064 after the Seljuks conquered Ani, they gave the controls to a Kurdish principality, Shaddadids. Shaddadi ruler Ebu’l Manucehr instructed for this Mosque to be built in 1072. It’s minaret is built in the traditional Middle Asian Turkish style and has an octagon shape. When you go inside, you see small rooms below the floor you’re on and they were used as a theological school. The main space were built as a few vault ceilings. On the center of each vault, there was a different beautiful ornament. From the windows, you can watch the amazing view of the Arpacay River, the valley and the Silkroad Bridge. Nowadays these windows are a popular spot for instagram photos so you might wait for each group for at least 15 minutes to be done having a photoshoot (☺) to see the beautiful view or take some photos yourself.
The Silkroad Bridge is located on the Arpaçay River, which is the point where one comes into Anatolia. Today the body of the bridge has fallen down and you can only see the feet on each side. Again, in nice weather you can go down to see the bridge up close but due to the weather conditions, we only observed from the windows.
When we went out from here, our stop was Polatoglu Church, also known as St. Krikor and Abughamrents.
Polatoglu (Abughamrents) – St. Krikor Church
The church has a cylindrical body and a octagonal dome and looks really beautiful from the outside. Sadly when you go in, you can see that the very small interior has been badly distorted by tourists. We couldn’t figure out how they reached almost the top of the dome but nonetheless, this is evil. These structures are all world cultural heritance and were left to us by humanity’s history. To be able to learn from their mistakes and surpass them in civilization, each of these structures are very important and places like Ani should be protected against harm.
Historically, the church was built in 980 A.D. by Bagratunian Armenian Prince Grigor Pahlavuni and has no apsis. The thousand year-old structure was kept nicely until the last 20 years and we hope that it will be a reminder for the visitors to see how older, bigger and respect-worthy these heritages are.
When we left the St. Krikor Church, we were close to finishing a full circle. When we walked towards the main gate that we came in through, we came across two structures that weren’t kept very well. We think one of these was the Great Caravansary, and the other one was the Church of the Apostles, but we couldn’t be sure because there weren’t any signs around. The Seljuk style ornaments on the Caravansary’s entrance were definitely worth to see.