October 2010
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Ani: The ghost town of Turkey

Ani is the site of the remains of a city, in the Turkish province of Kars, near the Armenian border. The city, also known as the “City of the 1001 Churches”, was at its peak in the medieval period, when it was the capital of the great Armenian Empire, ruled by the Bagratids, covering most of Armenia and eastern Turkey. It’s now a ghost town; abandoned and uninhabited with the ruins of what was once a flourishing city. The city was named after the ancient Urartian fertility goddess Anahid. King Ashot III decided to make Ani his capital in 961. Other kings came in succession and constructed churches, monasteries and a citadel. Less than a century later it was conquered by the Byzantines in 1045, in 1064 by the Seljuk’s and then by the King of Georgia, followed by some Kurdish Emirs. In 1239, the Mongols took over it, and in 1319 a mighty earthquake wiped out the mighty Mongols. Since then the city has been in ruins. One can see the remains of the churches and the walls of the city standing above the collapsed rubble of the city, now covered under vegetation.
Ani had been a source of dispute between the Armenians and Turkish authorities for a long time and visiting Ani was not easy, as there were a lot of restrictions and formalities involved. Being near the border, made it even more difficult. But in 2004, these restrictions have been removed. Now anybody can visit Ani without facing any problems. Turkish authorities too, are now keen on its conservation and development as a tourist destination. Ani, is a tourist destination of its own kind and definitely a must see in Eastern Turkey.

Best time to visit /Climate:

Ani can get very hot and arid during summers, with temperatures reaching 38 degrees, and very chilly in winters. Best time to visit is June to September.

Location on Google maps:

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Driving directions from Istanbul to Ani:

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How to get there:

You can get a taxi to Ani from Kars. You can get it arranged by your hotel or look around for one, or maybe hitch a ride. You can also drive your own car; there is a direct road from Kars to Ani.

Places to stay (Hotels / Restaurants along with website / contact numbers):

There are no hotels or restaurants in Ani. Bring your own picnic basket and water. The only hotels anywhere near Ani are in Kars.

Blogs / sites about Ani (with small excerpts from these blogs):

1. A brief history: (http://wikitravel.org/en/Ani)
Ani first rose to prominence in the 5th century A.D., as a hilltop fortress belonging to the Armenian Kamsarakan Dynasty. By the ninth century, the Kamsarakan possessions in Eastern Anatolia had merged with the Bagratid Dynasty, and in 956, King Ashot III moved the Armenian capital to Ani. Shortly thereafter, the Armenian Catholicos moved here as well, establishing the city as the undisputed center of Armenia. The city grew rapidly, and by the eleventh century, the city boasted more than 100,000 citizens. At its height of power and wealth, it became known as the City of Forty Gates and the City of a Thousand Churches.
Ani’s golden age ended with the death of King Gagik in 1020, when Armenian power was split between his two sons. In a series of political events that define the word Byzantine, the son who controlled Ani named the Byzantine Emperor his heir, in an attempt to prevent an invasion. Upon his death, the Byzantine Emperor stated his claim upon the city, but the new King of Ani reneged on the deal and repulsed the Emperor’s armies. But a mere three years later, following a series of Armenian military defeats and a pro-Byzantine uprising in Ani, the city surrendered itself to Byzantine control.

2. Things to do, sightseeing and attractions:
The church of St Gregory of Tigran Honents:
This church, finished in 1215, is the best-preserved monument at Ani. It was built during the rule of the Zackary’s and was commissioned by the wealthy Armenian merchant Tigran Honents. Its plan is of a type called a domed hall. In front of its entrance are the ruins of a narthex and a small chapel that are from a slightly later period. The exterior of the church is spectacularly decorated. Ornate carvings of real and imaginary animals fill the spandrels between blind arcade that runs around all four sides of the church. The interior contains an important and unique series of frescoes cycles that depict two main themes. In the eastern third of the church is depicted the Life of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, in the middle third of the church is depicted the Life of Christ. In the narthex and its chapel survive fragmentary frescoes that are more Byzantine in style.[21]

The Church of the Redeemer:
This church was completed shortly after the year 1035. It had a unique design: 19-sided externally, 8-apsed internally, with a huge central dome set upon a tall drum. It was built by Prince Ablgharib Pahlavid to house a fragment of the True Cross. The church was largely intact until 1955, when the entire eastern half collapsed during a storm.

3. Map of Ani: http://iguide.travel/illustrations/Ani-5.png

4. Photo Gallery:
1. Photos of Ani by a traveler with descriptions: http://www.galenfrysinger.com/ani_turkey.htm

2. Collection of photos of Ani:

5. Videos on You Tube:
1. A tour of Ani:

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