Ani was once the huge capital city of the Armenian kingdom, which covered much of what today is Armenia and Eastern Turkey, and anyone visiting this part of Turkey really should make sure they see this historic site. This vast medieval ruin is full of reminders of the glories of Armenian Christianity and much else besides. But first we had another scenic coach journey.
The first hint of more fertile and workable soil on this volcanic plateau was the enormous black mole hills dotted over the fields soon after we had left Kars. There had also been attempts at tree planting along both sides of the road – perhaps to break the winds that must blast across this flat landscape? Anyway the trees looked decidedly sickly and I’m not sure the planting program, for whatever purpose, had been a success.
Again we saw huge herds of cows; and for the first time on this trip I noticed that they were being confined by long stretches of brand new barbed wire fencing along the edge of the road – perhaps to keep cars, lorries and cattle safely apart rather than because of any need for boundary marking? There were army sentries positioned at high points along the route, again in towers protected all around by sandbags; signs of the time and the tensions still in this area. There was plenty of fly tipping at Kars and indeed everywhere in this region: it's so very sad to see beautiful countryside despoiled in this way. Domestic rubbish just seems to get dumped anywhere as long as it is away from the houses themselves.
Neither guide, guide book nor the rather dull albeit imposing entrance to the site could prepare us for the wow factor when we walked through the portal and surveyed beyond us and into the distance the ruins of this amazing Armenian capital city that is Ani.
|outside the walls of the ruined city of Ani|
The area covered is simply vast and the snow dusting the distant peaks added to the mystique, wonder and indeed the photogenics of this fabulous site. The whole site is protected on its western side by the Bostanlar valley and on its eastern side by the ravine of the Akhurian river, a branch of the Araks or Aras river which forms part of the current frontier with
it all makes for a very dramatic setting.
|Ani, from the entrance portal|
It was sometimes difficult to remember on this trip that we were pilgrims first, not tourists. We were urged regularly by our long-suffering leaders that the first thing we should do at each place visited was to be quiet, reflective and prayerful. Photos could follow later. It has to be said that we didn’t always remember this advice.
Tomorrow I'll share much more about this amazing place...