Ani: The City of a Thousand and One Churches

2009/08/20: Ani by Taxi

The first view of Ani, after entering its gates, is stunning: wrecks of great stone buildings adrift on a sea of undulating grass, landmarks in a ghost city that was once home to nearly 100,000 people, rivaling Constantinople in power and glory.

Ani was a major city on the Silk Road from when it was founded in 961, and it was once the capital of a medieval Armenian kingdom that covered much of present day Armenia and eastern Turkey. It was a significant city until the great earthquake of 1319 toppled it. At that time, the Mongols – no lovers of city life – ruled, and the city was left in ruins from which it has slowly decayed until today. What is left is an amazing site on the Armenian-Turkish border, where one is free to roam over several square kilometre of ruins. It was initially explored by Russian archaeologists around 1900, with more recent work done later by Turkish experts.

We took the day off cycling and took a pleasant taxi ride to the site set on the river at the Armenian-Turkish border. We spent 3 hours roaming around the site and having our lunch in the remains of a 10th century church. Describing Ani is well beyond my abilities, so we offer some pictures to give you a flavour.

The Virgins’ Fortress with the river winding around it. Armenia is on the far bank.
Margo was carefully watching her step in case of snakes, and found this colourful locust as big as a cell phone.


3 responses to “Ani: The City of a Thousand and One Churches

  1. Terrific pix. My guidebook said that pictures of Ani were not allowed because of its proximity to the Russian border. Aside from dating my book, it seems that things have relaxed some despite the border with Armenia being closed for a decade.

  2. Yes and you can even take pictures of the watchtowers on the Armenian (or should that be Russian?) side.

    During the trip out of Georgia and into Turkey we saw remains of the USSR border era. We learnt, from the road maintenance boss at the top of the Ilgar Gecedi pass, that the corner of Turkey we entered can only be accessed in the winter through Georgia(was USSR) as the 2450m pass is under 4m of snow. But Turkey sold food to the USSR so supplying the area was not an issue! The fact that the USSR imported ~30% of its food seems to be a recurring issue affecting its international relations.

  3. Hi again guys,
    Haven't visited in a while and have greatly enjoyed seeing Georgia & Eastern Turkey, which I rode not too many years back. Ani is absolutely one of my favourite places ever (it grew on me after I'd left), and Georgia a wonderful surprise (I'd expected a tough go). And bakalava …. All the best,

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