A millenium ago, 100,000 residents lived side by side in this plateau, relishing as the capitol of Armenia and the heartbeat of trade for the highlands.
An unassuming road leads eastward from Kars, Turkey through sparsely populated villages, cultivated fields and golden grasslands, commencing at a tiny ruined site at the border of Armenia. At a plateau 4,800 feet in elevation, these crumbling ruins used to stand tall for a thousand years as the once thriving and highly prized capitol city of Armenia - Ani. Ani was once known as the city of “a thousand and one churches,” where 100,000 residents lived side by side in this plateau, relishing as the capitol of Armenia and frequented by Silk Road merchants. Ani was so well known in the middle-ages, travelers travelled near and far to glimpse its beautiful walls, streets and churches. However, as recently as the 19th century, this area had been forgotten and neglected and was seldom, if ever visited, by those other than local villagers or Kurdish bandits. Currently, the few thousand annual visitors setting foot and imagining life in this ancient city is a far cry from both its splendor in the 11th century and its demise not too long ago.
The city is entered through the Lion Gate, a partly restored wall that also served as Ani’s ancient entrance. Through the gate, a wanderer will see domed ruins, vast grasslands and hand-carved caves across the canyon. Several beautiful remains of churches still exist, with their amazing multi colored stones of the local volcanic rock shining in the midday sun. When entering some of the churches, beautiful frescoes are appear under the dome. The location of these churches are equally impressive at dramatic edges of cliffs where a river lies to the south and rolling canyons to the east. The cathedral of Ani, or formally the Church of the Holy Mother of God, completed in 1001 A.D. is the most important building in Ani and represented a pinnacle of Armenian architecture. Although it’s top of the iconic Armenian dome is crumbled away, the size of the church is still marvelous. Inside, a bright blue sky shined brilliantly into the apse, illuminating the stone walls. This church, and Ani in general, is a stark reminder to the powers of war and time. And like the country of Armenia, a reminiscence of old days that seem so far away.
THE SILK ROAD JOURNAL
How We Got Here
Ani is located in a remote corner of eastern Turkey, on the border of Armenia. We arrived by hitchhiking into the city of Kars, then a 2-hour minivan ride to Ani.
Exploring beyond the circular path but stepping off and exploring every nook and cranny, viewpoint and cave, blade of grass and fallen stone.
Every minute spent here has been seared in our memories. Just sitting in the vast plateau and remembering the lost importance of this place.
➨ A Journey to Ani ~ Read the Story
S N A P S H O T S O N T H E R O A D
W H E R E W I L L Y O U R J O U R N E Y T A K E Y O U N E X T ?
Strolling the ancient streets of the City of 1,001 churches was rejuvenating, but the journey continues.
Either continue into Yerevan, continuing along the traditional route to China, or take a slight detour north into Georgia.