Ani & Kars trip report
Replies: 4 - Last Post: Apr 13, 2013 3:41 PM Last Post By: goldrup
Feb 15, 2013 5:20 AM
Ani & Kars trip reportI usually don't do trip reports but given that this trip has been a long time in the planning (13 years to be precise) and given the excellent advice I received here I thought I’d post a few words.
In June 2012, I flew into and out of Kars. Sacrilegious, I know, but I only had 2 days so I couldn’t afford to take the chicken bus. Sun Express, Turkish Airlines, and Anadolu Jet all fly between Istanbul and Kars (and some of them to Ankara as well)
I stayed at the Gungoren hotel- paid TL 60 for a single. It did what it said on the box- clean, friendly English-speaking staff, decent breakfast, absolutely fine. In spite of what the latest LP says, there is even a lift. The Kar’s Otel looked lovely but at €99 was beyond my budget (although it looks like a fair price for what you get)
Kars has a few attractions, but after a day or so I had seen it all. Most travel literature makes much of the Russian/Armenian houses (as does Orhan Pamuk in ‘Snow’) but they are scattered around town- it’s not really a coherent architectural ensemble. Nevertheless there is a decent collection of them west of Attaturk caddesi, on Ordu Cad and beyond, all the way up to the Fethiye Mosque.
It’s also worth checking out the area past the stone bridge- there are some interesting Ottoman houses and hammams there that aren’t mentioned in the LP (they are badly in need of repair though).
The first two times I checked, the former Armenian church of the Apostles was locked. I was only able to access the third time because it was prayer time and the muezzin was inside getting ready for the mid-day call to prayer. Nobody else was there.
I arranged my trip to Ani with Celil Ersozoglu who is mentioned in the LP, as well as a few websites. The Gungoren staff can also bring you in touch with him, or contact him on celilani AT hotmail.com.
A private car will cost TL 140, but Celil will do his best to find others to share the cost, in which case it could come down to TL 40.
Celil was eager to help, always willing to stop for pictures, and knowledgeable. Like many Turks, he has some views on the Armenian genocide and the current closing of the border that may differ from what you have heard at home. In these kind of situations it is always best to nod politely and not start any arguments.
Ani did not disappoint. I spent 3 hours at the site and had to rush the last bit- but I moved slowly and did lots of serious picture-taking. I was there on a Sunday, and it was still relatively quiet, but it may be best to come early (there were more tourists around noon but the site is huge so it wasn’t a problem- Pompeii it ain’t, crowd-wise). The solitude, with just the birds and the wind is one of the things that makes Ani special. Do bring sunscreen! (or a hat) And water! You’re at a high altitude and you burn quickly, and there is no shade, except for in the churches.
I saw people walking around the Kusanatz convent (but didn’t go down myself- no time) although LP claims it is off-limits.
I found it worthwhile to read up on www.virtualani.com- a treasure trove of information about Ani and other Armenian historical places.
After Ani I paid Celil TL 40 to take us to the Bagnair monastery at Kozluca. This was well worth the detour and the extra money. Two Armenian churches that are currently being used as barns…makes you wonder how seriously the preservation of these 10th century monuments is being taken… but it provided a unique perspective as well as a sad reminder that there aren’t a lot of Armenians left to look after their churches.
The next day I had a few hours to kill before my flight and chartered Celil to take me for a brief spin through the steppe and some villages- I found that a much more worthwhile way to spend my last few hours rather than roaming the streets of Kars again. If you arrived by bus you may have seen enough of the steppe but I found it beautiful- bright green with speckled with yellow and white flowers.
Feb 15, 2013 5:21 AM
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Apr 13, 2013 3:41 PM
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