Kars

Now we go from Erzurum to Kars. It takes 211 kms and if we are not in the middle of winter, it is no problem. We are in the coldest region of Turkey.

Sarıkamış

Another important winter sports resort of the East is Sarıkamış. Investments for the new facilities needed in the area for winter tourism are continuing with large incentives. The present one has been renovated and now is in service.

The snow quality is acceptable by the skiers. We proceed from here to Kars following the Allahuekber Mountains. The most important historical place to see is the Kars Fortress in Kars where it was the focus of interest upon the book of Orhan Pamuk named Kar, which was translated into English. The fortress was run down and rebuilt again and again for several times and this was was built by the Seljuks in 1152.

Ottomans have repaired it in 1548 but the Safawis pulled it down in 1554. In 1579 it has been repaired by a hundred thousand soldiers but alas, the Persians pulled it down again in 1606. Ottomans repaired it once again in 1616. The fortress witnessed great battles during the repeated Russian attacks. It is surrounded by five rows of walls, in two sections, as outer and inner walls. It houses 220 towers and three gates. The Museum of Kars is one of the richest archaeological and ethnographical museums. On the out skirts of the fortress; the Beylerbeyi Palace (1579) which was used as Government House for a long time, the Taşköprü (Stone Bridge) that was built in 1579 and rebuilt in 1719 after some demolition, the llbeyoğlu and Mazlumağa Baths on either sides of the bridge. Evliya, Yusuf Paşa, the Havariler Kilisesi (Kümbet Camii – Church of Apostles now Kümbet Mosque) in the Kaleiçi part on the southern skirts of the fortress that has been converted into a mosque later, are the noted ones from amongst the historical buildings in the town. Kars remained under the Russian occupation for some time, quite a few buildings were erected then and they are in quite good condition today and they help to give the city its identity. The Fethiye Mosque of today is actually an old cathedral still showing off its Russian religious architecture. Two minarets were added to this magnificent building but all the exterior and interior architectural characteristics were maintained.

Ani

A 45 km road from Kars to the east towards the border leads to Ani. Ani is a surprising place. All of a sudden we find ourselves 1000 years back. The Seljuk works are side by side with churches, one inside the other. When Bagrats have established their own kingdom after getting free from the Arab rule, King Ashot made Ani the capital city. In 972 the inner walls were made. After Ashot during the reign of his son Simpat II. The city was surrounded by walls all around. They are still visible today. Most of the churches were built during his period. During the period of King Gagik after him, the city has been developed considerably. In 1064 it was taken over by the Seljuks. Afterwards, the Georgians, Mongolians, Akkoyunlular had sovereignty for some time. It was later taken over into the Ottoman Empire in 1538. The Cathedral of Ani in the centre of the city is one of the greatest works. First built in 1001 in Greek Cross plan, the cathedral was converted into Fethiye Mosque by Alparslan in 1064. On the skirts of the rocks coming down to Arpaçay river in the east is the Saint Gregory Church (Surp Kirkor Kilisesi) erected by Prince Dikran Honents. The church is in quite a good condition with its fresco decorated inside. The Surp Pirgiç (Halaskar) Church, built in 1036, is known as the Keçeli Church in the area. The much-decorated church is partly on its feet today. Not much reached to our time from Surp Hovannes (Apostol) Church, built in 1038. There are three more churches on the north-west direction; Surp Kirkor Abugamrents Church (994) is believed to have been devoted to Surp Kirkor (Saint Gregory) Lusarowich. The Menücehr Mosque (1110) named by the public as Boz Minare, is a very good looking building ornamented with mosaic like colourful stones, is the first mosque believed to have been erected by the Seljuks in Anatolia. One another Seljuk mosque is Ebul Muammeran (1195). And of the caravanserai in the centre of the town we have only some relics today. On a steep slope in the north-east direction is the Sultan Saray. The upper storeys of the five storey building are demolished. We can still see some of the mosaic works on the front face. Ani is one of the holy places for the Gregorian.

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