You are driving through the plains of Eastern Anatolia. Suddenly a deserted city dooms up. The first thing you notice are the twelve towers of the city wall. Coming closer, you see that you have reached the ancient Armenian city of Ani. It looks like it could be a setting of a phantasy movie. Feeling like a true Indiana Jones, you just have to take a look! What’s behind these towers?
“Ani, Ani!” Yelled the taxidriver when we arrived at the train station in Kars. We had no idea what he was talking about and because we wanted to stay for just one night, we kind of ignored it. When we settled in to the hotel, we wondered what he was talking about and looked this place up. It actually looked very interesting, so we decided to stay one more night so we could take a tour to Ani.
The next morning we could tag along with a tour that was already organised by a befriended tour guide of the hotel we stayed at. Unfortunately I can’t remember his name anymore, but he told some interesting information about the area during the drive to Ani. Not only about the history and the culture, but about the landscape and plate tectonics as well! Arriving at this place, it happened to be truly amazing!
A short history
Ani started out as an ancient Armenian city founded more than thousand years ago. It was once a big city and due to its location it was conquered lots of times by Russian and Turks among others. When the Ottoman emperium fell, Turkey and Armenia fought over Ani, with the result that Turkey conquered the ruins in the end.
For a long time it was very difficult to acces Ani, due to the current tensions between Armenia and Turkey. It is only since a couple of years that visitors are allowed, although not all parts were accesible.
The first thing you see is the big wall with all the towers standing firm in the landscape. When entering the city, you look over tons of small ruins of churches, caravanserais, and castles and most of them can be visited. Especially the churches are beautifully decorated with wall paintings. Unfortunately soem of them are grafitti or poorly restored.
At the end of the city you reach a ravine and a river. Cross it and you find yourself in Armenia, so the border is very close. Looking out you could see quite a couple of military bases at the border as well. Except for the other people in the bus and us, there was no one. You can truly feel alone in this place, which made the experience extra special.
Interesting in more information?
The Atlantic has posted some beautiful pictures of the city and the surroundings where you can see how desolate the location of Ani is.
The World Monuments Fund is currently doing a project at one of the Ani churches. Read more about it here.