Before there was Ani, there was Kars.
Visually, this place reminds me of a smaller town or city outside of Calgary or Edmonton in the Prairies. As you approach, you see lots of open land, some of it being farmed, some of it not, with big rolling hills and giant blue skies. Tractors trundle about, the older locals all dress like my grandfather, wearing jackets and long pants regardless of the weather. Whereas Trabzon was mostly a bland coastal city, this place has a certain charm to it that invites a bit of exploration.
After having seen the Russian influence on the city yesterday, I figured morning would be a good time to tackle Kars’ landmark building, the Kars Castle.
The way up is actually more interesting than the castle itself, as you get to see another stylish Armenian church, now a mosque, the Apostles’ Church. Made of some amazing basalt stones, the building actually went from being a church to a mosque to a Russian Orthodox church to a mosque again. Far different than most other mosques, which just end up staying mosques.
A sixteenth century basalt bridge takes you past a few old hamams, all out of use, with the exception of one which has been turned into a gallery space. As you climb up, you get some nice views of Kars, and of the structures that I just mentioned. It wasn’t the most blow away moment of the trip and, if you stop in Kars and decide to see the city instead of go to Ani, you’re a fool, but there’s enough here to last you the better part of the day.
Well, the “discovery” portion of the trip is drawing to a close. Tonight, I will be in Istanbul for the last night of Ramadan, which has me more curious than anything. Not sure if it’s going to be markedly different than that weekend Daina and I spent there before he flew home, but we’ll see. Then one more day in Turkey.
I will definitely miss this country.