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An incredible old ruined city

Ani Travel Blog

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City walls at Ani

People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip:

I didn't even have time to put my bags in a hotel when i arrived into Kars, as i was pounced on by taxi drivers trying to take me to the ancient ruined City of Ani, located some 45kms to the East. Now Lousy Planet claimed that a taxi out here would be at least 39 Euros ($50/78YTL), so i wasn't surprised when the offers began to come in for 100YTL and then 80YTL. I didn't want to rush into a decision so kept saying it was too expensive and i wasn't interested. When it comes to bargaining, walking away almost always sends the prices tumbling and soon i was been quoted 70YTL, 65YTL, 60YTL, 55YTL and finally 50YTL (25Euros/$32).

The defensive City Walls at Ani
This was just too good to pass up on, so we agreed on the price and that i would have two and a half hours to walk around the site. With my bags thrown into the taxi, we were speeding off along a deserted four line highway towards the Armenian border.

Ani used to be an Armenian stronghold and even served as the Capital of the Bagratid Kingdom from 961 until 1045, at which time the City was captured by the Byzantines. A succession of rulers then governed Ani, including the Seljuks, Georgians and Kurds, but it was to be the marauding Mongols and then the sweet hearted Tamerlane who put the final nail in the coffin. As was Tamerlane's subtle way, he entered Ani and raped, pillaged and destroyed what was left of a once great metropolis.

Nowadays the City lies inside the Turkish border, which causes great upset amongst the Armenians, who also have grievances regarding the genocide that Turkey perpetrated against them in the early 20thCentury.
Christian cross
Now the Turks will claim no such thing ever happened, but its kind of hard to deny the whereabouts of a staggering 1,000,000 Armenians, who mysteriously disappeared at this time. Back in 1993 all links between the two countries were severed once and for all, and as a result getting from Gyumri in Armenia, where i had been three days ago, to Ani had turned from a 50km hop into a marathon 72 hour journey.

Cab driver Zekir got me to the site within 40 minutes and i was soon in for a real Historical treat, something i just can't get enough of! A large fortress wall stood between myself and a mystical City that lay in ruins and my head was awash with thoughts. What had these walls witnessed? Cries of death and fear, bustling streets of 100,000 people, Church bells ringing and muezzins making the call for prayer.
Painting in the Church of St Gregory
The smell of fresh bread, inadequate sewerage systems and rotting corpses, this place had surely seen and smelt it all. I was immediately captivated by my own imagination, as much as what i was viewing.

It cost 5YTL ($3.20) to gain admission to the site and i entered through the imposing Aslan Kapisi (Lion Gate), which had a carved lion above the entrance. Once inside the thick City walls, the scene took on an intriguing appearance, with crumbling relics enticing you towards them wherever you turned your head. As i didn't have unlimited time, i opted to work my way around the ruins in a clockwise direction, even though i was keen to head for the biggest buildings first.

Whilst i knew that the ruins were located near the border, i hadn't initially realised just how close they really were.
Painting in the Church of St Gregory
Thick barbed wire fence skirted the walls and watch towers loomed ominously on the horizon, this wasn't a day for wandering astray. With such an ancient place, there is almost always some hidden little treasures and as i made my way to the Church of the Redeemer, i kept a close eye out for anything of interest. It wasn't too long before i caught sight of some ancient Armenian writing etched into one of the walls and whilst i had seen plenty of this writing over the last few weeks, i always find pleasure in spotting things not listed in guidebooks, and thus no doubt hardly ever looked at.

The Church of the Redeemer is quite a startling sight, mainly because half of it has weathered the test of time and the other half was blasted away by a bolt of lightning! It certainly isn't something you see everyday and it makes you wonder what had ruffled Gods feathers on a stormy 1957 night to make him do this! The Church had been built between 1034 and 1036 and is covered with Armenian script on the outer walls, which claim that a piece of the true cross was to be kept here.
Convent of the Virgins
Now I'm always curious about these tales of articles relating to Christ, i mean surely the cross would have decomposed and who the hell carted it off in the first place? I'm not sold on these stories, lets put it that way.

To see the Church of the Redeemer it only took half the time it normally takes to look around a Church, so i was soon on my way to the Church of St Gregory. This was located only a hundred metres away, but it wasn't visible until i descended into a gorge, which served as a natural defensive barrier for the City. The Church was undergoing heavy restoration, but its setting was stunning, as were the colourful frescoes that adorned both the inside and outside walls. The Church was built in 1215 by a chap called Tigran Honentz and dedicated to the memory of St Gregory the Illuminator, who helped convert Armenia into a Christian nation.
The Arpa Cayi Gorge, dividing Turkey from Armenia


Now i know that i said today shouldn't be a day for wandering off the beaten path, but i just couldn't resist it. Lousy Planet advised that the Convent of the Virgins (Kusanatz) was off limits, but there wasn't a fence, so i figured i could play dumb if anyone approached me and asked me what i was doing. In honesty i didn't expect anyone else would come near me, as there wasn't another soul at the place, but i did have a slightly nervous inclination that the sniper in the watchtower might fancy some target practice. I therefore made every effort to look at my book, hold my camera out and generally show that i was no danger of any sort. As the first bullet came whistling past my ear i decided i should make a move... luckily this didn't happen, and my slightly foolhardy gamble to see the Church paid off with no repercussions.
Ani Cathedral


The Convent of the Virgins was situated in the Arpa Cayi Gorge and it really made for a stunning location. The river ran far below, whilst the decrepit remains of a bridge could also be seen. The ancient citadel (still occupied today) loomed in the background, so i decided to stay just long enough to admire the picturesque remains of the chapel, with its serrated roof, before getting the hell out of there.

Climbing back onto the plateau from the gorge was sweaty work, as the weather was unseasonably hot, so i sat on a rock and ate some food, admiring my surrounds in solitude. Having basked in the sun for a short time, i went to take a close up look at the imposing Cathedral, which is arguably the finest structure in Ani. Begun in 987 by King Smbat II, it took 13 years to finish and was cherished by both the Christians and conquering Muslims, who converted the Cathedral into a Mosque when they captured the City.
Menucer Camii and Ani Cathedral
The edifice is in fine shape with the exception of the dome, which collapsed long ago. The exterior of the walls had some nice Armenian writing and the carved windows also added charm to the building.

From here i went to see Menucer Camii, a 1072 Seljuk Mosque, with a towering minaret that dominated the Ani skyline. Along with its splendid location on the lip of the canyon, the striking red and black patterned tiles made this edifice stand out. Situated around the Mosque were numerous partially excavated buildings, believed to have been a row of shops, and also one ruin that was possibly a palace.

From here i walked as close to Ic Cale citadel as i dare, but i wasn't going to push my luck too far, as i knew that the Turkish army still used it.
Church of the Holy Apostles
It was also possible to see Kiz Kalesi (Maidens Castle) from here, which was in fact a Church, but again it was impossible to go near it without running the risk of a bullet in the back. Instead i scrambled over a jumble of ruins, randomly cutting my own path to the next Church on the horizon.

The Church of St Gregory (Abughamrentz) was in very good shape saying that it dated from the late 900's, and still had its conical roof in tact. I took a quick gander around this and then went on to some other ruined buildings, but i am not too sure what these were. Next up was the Church of the Holy Apostles, which dates from 1031, but was turned into a Caravanserai by the Seljuk's. The colourful tiling was particularly splendid here and i would love to have seen what it had looked like 900 years earlier.
Church of St Gregory, with Ic Kale in the background


Heading North through the complex i came upon the ruins of a Zoroastrian fire Temple, which dated back to the 1stCentury AD, making it by far the oldest building on display. Just a few metres further on was one surviving wall of a Georgian Church that was constructed at some point in the 11thCentury AD. Carved into one wall were two bas reliefs, one of the Annunciation and the other of the Visitation.

Turning West i reached the Church of St Gregory (Gagik I), which was in a ruinous state, but nevertheless impressed me with its sheer size. Close to this was the barely visible Kaya Kilise which had been cut from the rock face and in contrast to this was the Seljuk Palace, which has been a little too vigorously restored. I don't know why, but this last building really gave me the creeps and i was keen to get away from it, i have no explanation why this was, but i really didn't like it!

My two and a half hours were nearly up, so i followed the City walls back around to the main gate.
Crumbling City Walls at Ani
I had to pause briefly to take it all in for one last time, it really was such an incredible site. I was left wondering how many Cities would be left like this in a thousand years time, maybe tourists will be shown around New York and London, looking at the Statue of Liberty and Big Ben and asking “How did it all come to this?”.

Deats says:
Kars is the nearest town. I was traveling South from Posof towards Dogubayazit and made a stop for a night, and thoroughly enjoyed it :)
Posted on: Sep 08, 2010
denisetan says:
Impressive album! Did you arrive Kars via Igdir/Doggie Biscuit?
Posted on: Sep 07, 2010
Deats says:
All the good bits are now on Turkish territory. There are a few buildings in no-mans land, but theres no way you walk there or you get shot!Its really sad, as this was the former Armenian capital, i think they should give it back.
Posted on: Sep 03, 2009
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City walls at Ani
City walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
Christian cross
Christian cross
Painting in the Church of St Grego…
Painting in the Church of St Greg…
Painting in the Church of St Grego…
Painting in the Church of St Greg…
Convent of the Virgins
Convent of the Virgins
The Arpa Cayi Gorge, dividing Turk…
The Arpa Cayi Gorge, dividing Tur…
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Menucer Camii and Ani Cathedral
Menucer Camii and Ani Cathedral
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of St Gregory, with Ic Kale…
Church of St Gregory, with Ic Kal…
Crumbling City Walls at Ani
Crumbling City Walls at Ani
City walls at Ani
City walls at Ani
City walls at Ani
City walls at Ani
Aslan Kapisi - Lion Gate
Aslan Kapisi - Lion Gate
Entrance to Ani
Entrance to Ani
City Walls
City Walls
Anis defensive City Walls stretch…
Ani's defensive City Walls stretc…
Defensive tower in Anis City Walls
Defensive tower in Ani's City Walls
Ani City Walls
Ani City Walls
Ani City Walls
Ani City Walls
Ani City Walls
Ani City Walls
Ani City Walls
Ani City Walls
Ani City Walls
Ani City Walls
The City walls at Ani
The City walls at Ani
Barbed wire fence dividing Turkey …
Barbed wire fence dividing Turkey…
The City wall at Ani
The City wall at Ani
Church of the Redeemer
Church of the Redeemer
Church of the Redeemer, covered in…
Church of the Redeemer, covered i…
Church of the Redeemer, with Armen…
Church of the Redeemer, with Arme…
Church of the Redeemer
Church of the Redeemer
Church of the Redeemer
Church of the Redeemer
Church of the Redeemer in the back…
Church of the Redeemer in the bac…
The Arpa Cayi Gorge
The Arpa Cayi Gorge
Church of St Gregory
Church of St Gregory
Church of St Gregory
Church of St Gregory
Church of St Gregory
Church of St Gregory
Church of St Gregory
Church of St Gregory
Painting in the Church of St Grego…
Painting in the Church of St Greg…
Church of St Gregory
Church of St Gregory
Painting in the Church of St Grego…
Painting in the Church of St Greg…
Painting in the Church of St Grego…
Painting in the Church of St Greg…
Painting in the Church of St Grego…
Painting in the Church of St Greg…
Painting in the Church of St Grego…
Painting in the Church of St Greg…
Painting in the Church of St Grego…
Painting in the Church of St Greg…
Painting in the Church of St Grego…
Painting in the Church of St Greg…
Painting in the Church of St Grego…
Painting in the Church of St Greg…
Church of St Gregory
Church of St Gregory
Menucer Camii (left) and Ani Cathe…
Menucer Camii (left) and Ani Cath…
Convent of the Virgins located in …
Convent of the Virgins located in…
Convent of the Virgins located in …
Convent of the Virgins located in…
Menucer Camii, the Arpa Cayi Gorge…
Menucer Camii, the Arpa Cayi Gorg…
Church of the Redeemer
Church of the Redeemer
Menucer Camii
Menucer Camii
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Armenian writing on Ani Cathedral
Armenian writing on Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
Ani Cathedral
The Arpa Cayi Gorge
The Arpa Cayi Gorge
The Arpa Cayi Gorge
The Arpa Cayi Gorge
Menucer Camii
Menucer Camii
View from a window in Menucer Camii
View from a window in Menucer Camii
Menucer Camii
Menucer Camii
Menucer Camii an Ani Cathedral in …
Menucer Camii an Ani Cathedral in…
Ani
Ani
A view of Ani
A view of Ani
The base of a shopping street, wit…
The base of a shopping street, wi…
Caves in the hillside next to Ani
Caves in the hillside next to Ani
Canyon besides Ani City Walls
Canyon besides Ani City Walls
Church Of St Gregory
Church Of St Gregory
Writing on the Church Of St Gregory
Writing on the Church Of St Gregory
Church Of St Gregory
Church Of St Gregory
Writing on the Church Of St Gregory
Writing on the Church Of St Gregory
Church Of St Gregory
Church Of St Gregory
Carved stone
Carved stone
Ruined building at Ani
Ruined building at Ani
Ruined building at Ani
Ruined building at Ani
Old road running through Ani
Old road running through Ani
Ruined building at Ani
Ruined building at Ani
Crumbled building, with Ani Cathed…
Crumbled building, with Ani Cathe…
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles
Zoroastrian Temple
Zoroastrian Temple
Zoroastrian Temple
Zoroastrian Temple
Georgian Church
Georgian Church
Georgian Church - with the carving…
Georgian Church - with the carvin…
Georgian Church - with the carving…
Georgian Church - with the carvin…
Church of St Gregory
Church of St Gregory
Church of St Gregory
Church of St Gregory
Piece of stone with the remnants o…
Piece of stone with the remnants …
Dried up river bed running around …
Dried up river bed running around…
Valley skirting Ani, with Ic Kale …
Valley skirting Ani, with Ic Kale…
Valley skirting Ani, with the Chur…
Valley skirting Ani, with the Chu…
Kaya Kilise
Kaya Kilise
Seljuk Palace
Seljuk Palace
Caves in the valley at the bottom …
Caves in the valley at the bottom…
Seljuk Palace
Seljuk Palace
Seljuk Palace
Seljuk Palace
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
A view across the crumbling ruins …
A view across the crumbling ruins…
A view across the crumbling ruins …
A view across the crumbling ruins…
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
The defensive City Walls at Ani
Ani
photo by: Deats