Kars and Ani

Trip Start May 24, 2008
Trip End Jul 26, 2008

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

We used Kars as a base to visit Ani.  Next to the border with Armenia, Ani was once the capital of a medieval Armenian kingdom that covered much of present day Armenia and eastern Turkey.  It stood on various trade routes and its many religious buildings, palaces, and fortifications were once amongst the most technically and artistically advanced structures in the world.  At its height, Ani had a population of between 100,000 - 200,000 people and rivaled Constantinople, Baghdad, and Cairo.

Ani was first mentioned in history during the 5th century AD.  In 961 king Ashot III transferred the Armenian capital from Kars to Ani and in 992 the Armenian Catholicosate moved its seat to Ani.  By the start of the 11th century the population of Ani was well over 100,000 and it became known as "The city of a thousand and one churches."

Ani saw great struggles throughout its history with the Byzantines, Seljuks, Georgians, and local Kurdish peoples all vying for its control.  The Mongols captured and sacked the city in 1239, massacring large numbers of its population. Ani started its terminal decline.  A great earthquake in 1319 toppled much of the city.  Trade routes shifted.  While local dynasties continued to inhabit the city until it became part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1579 and a small town remained within its walls until the middle of the 17th century, Ani was far from the great city it once was.  The site was entirely abandoned by the middle of the 18th century.

Ani has been one of the highlights of our trip.  The setting is magnificent and the ruins are magical in their own way.  Hopefully the pictures can help share some of this feeling with you.


Jon and Liz
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