LOST CITY OF ANI

LOST CITY OF ANI

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 12:37

Ruins of mediaeval Armenian capital feel like edge of the world

ani turkey.jpg

The church of St Gregory of the Abughamrents amid the rubbles of a city that once teemed with life

Burdened with the robotic directions of Satnav devices, we have lost the ability to feel like explorers. Yet, there are places that, though identifiable on Satnav, still convey the feeling that they are at the edge of the known world.
Ani on the Turkish-Armenian frontier is one such place.

Scattered on the steep bank of the border-defining Arpa Chai river, Ani is what remains of the once populous capital of Armenia. Domed churches of dark grey and red stones sprout from heaps of debris among a barren landscape: otherworldly, surreal, dreamlike.

From a distance, the churches appear minuscule, like doll houses. Just like doll houses, their walls are missing, exposing halls, narthexes and passageways often covered with old, vandalised murals of saints. Once you enter inside the abandoned churches and crane your head to see the tops of the massive ribbed pillars, you realise how big these buildings actually are.

In the 9th-11th centuries Ani used to be a city of 100,000 inhabitants, flourishing because of its location on one of the routes on the Silk Road.

Ani, Turkey

The fortification walls of Ani encircled the entire city. Today a fraction remains

 

The Armenians settled on the plateau where Ani is in the 5th century BC. Large-scale construction here began when the Bagratuni dynasty took the region from the Arabs in the 10th century and King Ashot III made Ani his capital, in 961. Most of the buildings that now stand were built prior to 1045.

The following centuries were more than tumultuous. Ani was hotly disputed by all the players of the day: the Byzantines, the Seljuks, the Georgians, the Armenians. The destruction that the Mongols brought about in the 12th century was so severe that the city barely recovered. A devastating earthquake in 1319 dealt the final blow.

The people of Ani left. The city began to disintegrate, a victim of looters, the elements and the occasional lightning hitting a roof here and there.

Marco Polo probably passed through Ani on his way to Kublai Khan's China. Westerners, however, rediscovered Ani as late as the 19th century. Archaeological excavations began at the end of the century, when the region was within the Russian Empire. When the Ottoman army advanced towards Ani in 1918, during the First World War, the local museum's collection was sent to Yerevan, the capital of modern Armenia. It is still there.

Ani became a part of modern Turkey in 1921 following the Treaty of Kars. The Armenian sentiment for this piece of their mediaeval history – one of the brightest moments in their nation's long past – remains strong.

The uneasy relationship between Turkey and Armenia has reflected on the fate of Ani. For decades the site was abandoned and forgotten on the border between the two countries. Until the early 2000s, an outsider needed a special permit to visit it. Taking photographs was forbidden.

Ani, Turkey

The narrow gorge of the Arpa Chai river defines the border between Armenia, to the left, and Turkey

 

Things changed in the 2010s, when archaeological digs and restorations  resumed, and a ticket-booth was installed at the gates of the Ani fortress. The site appeared on TripAdvisor. Organised tourists started coming in. Ani is now again lively, although some of the restorations works appear to damage the ancient city's otherworldly atmosphere.

From the Armenian side of the Arpa Chai, however, nothing has changed. The only way to see the ruins of Ani from there is to convince the Russian border guards to let you through. If you are successful, you will be pointed to a certain bend in the river. From there domes of Ani's churches are barely visible: tiny, toy-house structures on the barren hills, a vision of a city on the edge of the known world. 

Ani, Turkey

Fading and vandalised frescoes from St Gregory of the Abughamrents

 

Ani, Turkey

St Gregory of the Abughamrents before the 2010s restorations

Issue 142 Turkey
0 comments

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
14 + 3 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Discover More

Barbayanni is one of the best known brands of Lesvos ouzo
DISCOVERING OUZO
The pines cast a dappled shade on our table and the cool sea is lapping at our feet, the rumble of pebbles drowned by the ecstatic chirping of the cicadas.

table with a view_i523856186_560.jpg
ТОП 10 ХРАНИ И НАПИТКИ, КОИТО ОПРЕДЕЛЯТ ВКУСА НА ГЪРЦИЯ
За нас е станало всекидневие да използваме гръцки зехтин у дома или да си поръчваме панирани калмари в ресторанта, но истината е, че гръцката кухня е несравнимо по-вкусна, когато сме в Гърция.

open_0.jpg
ТОП 10 СКРИТИ СЪКРОВИЩА НА ГЪРЦИЯ
Всеки интелигентен човек е способен да изброи поне пет места и забележителности в Гърция със световна слава (особено, ако следва популярните инфлуенсъри в социалните мрежи). Но страната предлага много повече от Акропола, Санторини, Корфу, Делфи и Миконос.

open.jpg
10 ГРЪЦКИ ОСТРОВА, КОИТО ДА ПОСЕТИМ ПРЕЗ 2020
Гърция нямаше да бъде Гърция, ако ги нямаше островите.

thessaloniki train cemetery 2_0.jpg
GREECE: WHERE TRAINS GO TO DIE
We have written extensively, with justification, about the many charms of Thessaloniki. A short drive from Bulgaria, the second largest city in Greece abounds with pleasures for both body and the soul.

Glyfa.JPG
FTHIOTIDA, GREECE: A SAFE, ACCESSIBLE AND HIGH-QUALITY DESTINATION FOR SUMMER VACATION IN 2020
Domestic scientific and healthcare human capital’s efficiency in tackling the virus’s spread has made Greece as one of the safer destinations, in which everybody can spend their holidays, a vacation time that will not be deployed under usual norms.

tbilisi2018.jpg
GEORGIA: A SAFE DESTINATION IN COVID-19 STRICKEN WORLD
2020 is particularly bad year for people who love to travel the world, to discover new landscapes, cultures, food and experiences. In a time of closed borders and fear of contagion, a country stands out. 

edessa-greece-waterfall.jpg
GREECE: EDESSA
Many cities are situated on famous rivers or seas, but Edessa, in northern Greece, was founded on waterfalls.

lesbos greece.jpg
LESBOS: GREEK ISLAND OF DISCOVERY PROFFERS POETRY, OUZO AND MUCH TO EXPLORE
In popular imagination, Lesbos is associated with Sappho, the ancient Greek poetess who composed enchanting love poems inspired by and dedicated to other women.

sigri petrified forest.pg_.jpg
WALKING THROUGH FOREST OF STONE
T-Rexes and diplodocs, pterodactyls and megalodons.

constanta.jpg
CITY OVER COLD WATERS
As a rule, Bulgarians are not interested in Romania. They would rather go south, with Greece and Turkey being their favourites especially in summer time.