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    Kars

    The gateway to Anatolia from the Caucasus, Kars is an ancient city that has witnessed numerous civilizations in its millennia of history.  

    Within the boundaries of Kars, the city’s historical wealth encompasses castles, baths, mosques, churches, bastions, bridges, and martyrdoms and monuments. There are structures that reflect Baltic architecture, and the ruins and rock paintings of the Ancient City of Ani.

    Ani Ruins

    The Ani Ruins (Ani Ören Yeri) are 42 kilometres from the city Kars and west of the Arpaçay River, which separates the Türkiye-Armenia border. Ani is the largest archaeological site in Eastern Anatolia. The city attained its peak during the Bagrat period, and its population exceeded 100 thousand by the end of the 10th century. Later coming under Byzantine and Seljuk rule, Ani declined in prominence as trade routes changed during the 14th century; it was completely abandoned towards the end of the 17th century.

    As an ancient trading city on the Silk Road, Ani draws attention with structures that carry religious, administrative, military and civil architectural examples of the period to the present day. The most important ruins in Ani are the walls surrounding the ancient city and the intact cathedral, mosque, caravanserai and bridge. The remains of a Zoroastrian “ateşgede” (fire temple) can also be seen in Ani.

    The Archaeological Site of Ani was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2016.

    Ebu’l Menuçehr Mosque

    The Ebu’l Menuçehr Mosque (Ebu’l Menuçehr Cami), set south of the road leading to the inner castle in Ani Ruins (Ani Harabeleri), is one of the oldest works of the Seljuk period. The mosque’s inscription indicates that it was erected during the rule of Melikshah (1072-1092). It is constructed from tuff stone and has survived to this day. It is considered to be the first Turkish mosque in Anatolia.

    The Grand Cathedral

    The foundations of this church were laid in CE 990 by Sembat II, the King of Bagrat, and completed in 1010. The architect was Master Tiridat, who also conducted repairs on the Hagia Sophia in İstanbul during the same period. .

    The church features a cruciform plan; the area in the middle is bounded by sturdy columns bearing arches. The figures and reliefs on the exterior of the church are typical examples of 11th century church architecture.

    The cathedral was converted into a mosque after Sultan Alparslan’s conquest of Ani in 1064 and the first conquest prayer was performed here. For this reason, the Grand Cathedral (Büyük Katedral) is also known as the Fethiye Mosque (Fethiye Cami).

    St. Prkich (Halaskar) Church

    Built by King Sembat III in CE 1036, the church was restored in 1291 and 1342, in the Atabeks period. The church has a circular-sectioned floor plan and a cupola plan, with domed architecture consisting of two parts. The church was destroyed by a lightning strike in the 1930s.

    Silk Road Bridge

    Set at the entry point of the historical Silk Road to Anatolia, the two-level bridge was erected in the 9th century. It spans the Arpaçay River (Arpaçay Nehri), which separates the Türkiye-Armenia border. The bottom level of the bridge was for the use of caravans, while the upper level was used by pedestrians and soldiers. While most of the bridge has been destroyed, its pedestals remain intact.

    Seljuk Caravanserai

    Set in the centre of the Ani ruins on what was the ancient city’s high road, the caravanserai is believed to have been erected at the beginning of the 12th century. Its entrance gate has characteristics typical of Seljuk architecture. The caravanserai was built on the grounds of the 10th-century Church of Arakelots.

    Tigran Honents Church (Resimli Kilise)

    The church was built in CE 1215 by Tigran Honents, a merchant from Ani. It lies in the northeast of the Ani Ruins (Ani Harabeleri), at the spot where the Mığmığ Stream (Mığmığ Çayı) joins the Arpaçay River (Arpaçay Nehri). The church attracts attention especially due to the frescoes covering its interior walls and dome, which depict events from the life of Jesus.

    Seljuk Palace

    Dating from the 12th century, this majestic structure was built after the Seljuk conquest of Ani. Originally two levels, the ground floor and basement survive to the present day. The portal door – the entrance to the palace – features star motifs and is considered among the finest examples of Seljuk architecture. The beautiful fountain in the Selçuklu Palace (Selçuklu Sarayı) points to the magnificence of the original structure.

    Bakireler Monastery

    Set on the steep cliffs of the western side of the Arpaçay River Valley (Arpaçay Deresi Vadisi), which separates the Turkish-Armenian border, this secluded monastery was built at the starting point of the caravan road to ancient Ani. Dedicated to the nuns of Saint Hripseme, the building was called the Surp Hripsime Monastery (Surp Hripsimyants Ermeni Kilisesi). It is also known as “Nuns Monastery” and “Young Girls Monastery”.

    Beylerbeyi Palace

    Set at the foot of Kars Castle (Kars Kalesi), this palace was erected by Lala Mustafa Paşa in 1579. It has two floors and was constructed of smooth-cut basalt stone. The main entrance door of the palace faces west; a wooden ceiling separating the ground and first floors was destroyed. The palace was used as the Sancak Mansion (Sancak Konağı) until 1878.

    Abughamrents (Polatoğlu) Church

    Located in the northwest area of the Ani Ruins (Ani Harabeleri), the church was built by Prince Pahlavuni in CE 980.

    Kümbet Mosque (Church of the 12 Apostles)

    South of Kars Castle, in Kale İçi Mahallesi, the mosque was built in CE 932-937. Originally it served as one of the Armenian (Bagratlı) churches in the city. It was converted into a mosque in the 11th century.

    The Castle of Kars

    Kars Castle (Kars Kalesi) was built in CE 1153 by order of a Saltuqid sultan, Melik Izzeddin, who was connected to the Seljuks. Although much of the castle was destroyed during various wars, it has a magnificent appearance when viewed from the city. The basalt stone castle featured 3.5-kilometre-long city walls; seven of the bastions on those walls survive to the present day. There are four entrances: the Water Gate (Su Kapısı / Çeribaşı Kapısı), the Kağızman Gate (Kağızman Kapısı /Orta Kapı), the Behram Paşa Gate (Behram Paşa Kapısı and the Main Gate (Ana Kapı) which opens to the cliff. The castle also contains the Tomb of Celal Baba (Celal Baba Türbesi), who died in the 13th century, along with military lodgings, an ammunition depot, and a masjid. 

    Stone Bridge

    Spanning a narrow strait over the Kars Stream, the Stone Bridge (Taşköprü) was erected in CE 1579 by order of Murat III, the Ottoman Sultan. The bridge was constructed with smooth-cut basalt stone and features three vaulted arches. It was destroyed by a flood but rebuilt around 1725.

    Sarıkamış Martyrs Monument

    This monument was erected in the Allahuekber Mountains (Allahuekber Dağları) near Sarıkamış, in memory of the 60 thousand soldiers who perished during the battle to retake Kars from the Russians. The battle took place from December 15 to 22, 1914.

    Kars Museum

    Founded in 1959, the museum today has indoor exhibition areas with Archaeology and Ethnography halls. The museum’s garden features statues of Aries, as well as sheep and horses from the Akkoyunlu and Karakoyunlu periods. Other exhibits at the museum are a 65-million-year-old dinosaur fossil, as well as many historical artefacts, including coins minted by the Lydians, and pottery from the Bronze Age.

    The Caucasian Front War History Museum and Bastions

    The bastions were crucial in defending the city against incursions by the Russian armies; including a Russian attack in 1828, the Kars victory in 1855, and during the Ottoman-Russian War in 1877-1878.

    The Bloody Bastion (Kanlı Burç) building was built to protect the city of Kars from the south; it is still intact, with its architectural features preserved. After the 1855 Victory of Kars, also known as the Battle of the Bastion, Sultan Abdülmecid had three thousand Kars Medals made and sent to the city of Kars.

    The Bloody Bastion building was transformed into the Türkiye Caucasian Front War History Museum. It is one of Türkiye’s interactive museums.

    Sarıkamış Ski Resort

    This ski resort is on Çamurlu Mountain, southeast of Sarıkamış district centre. Set amid the famous Scotch pine forests of the area, Sarıkamış Ski Centre (Sarıkamış Kayak Merkezi) is among the top five centres. Its Bayraktepe Ski Area is one of the most advanced ski facilities in Türkiye, with a capacity of 2,400 people per hour and four computer-equipped chairlifts (1,437 metres, 1,807 metres,1,650 metres and 1,450 metres).

    The ski centre’s distinguishing feature is its ‘crystal snow’. Typically found in the Alps, ‘crystal snow’ is a significant attraction for skiers. The ski centre also offers safe skiing, with avalanche risks considerably reduced due to the pine forests. Under normal winter conditions, the snow is around 100 to 120 centimetres deep for an average of four months a year. Sarıkamış is particularly suitable for Alpine and Northern Discipline skiing, as well as ski safaris and sledding, along with slalom, large slalom, and super-C runs.

    Azat Village Rock Paintings

    Dating from the prehistoric era, various hunting scenes are depicted in rock paintings. They are located in the Borluk Valley (Borluk Vadisi), five kilometres from the Kars city centre.

    Camuşlu Village Rock Paintings

    Camuşlu, one of humanity’s first known settlements, is 37 km from the Kars city centre and 24 km from the Kağızman district centre. Of interest in the region are rock paintings dating from the Lower Palaeolithic Period.

    Baltic Architecture

    Kars was under Russian rule for 40 years, between 1878-1918. The Baltic architecture-style structures erected during this period are distinctive from others in the region. As well, the settlements established by the Russians and covering the present-day Yusufpaşa, Ortakapı and Cumhuriyet districts attract attention due to their grid plan.

    Some of the notable examples of Baltic architectural style include the German House (Alman Evi), the Sarıkamış Katerina Hunting Lodge (Sarıkamış Katerina Av Köşkü), Fethiye Mosque (Fethiye Camisi), the Finance Guest House, the Tax Office, the Faculty of Fine Arts, the Customs Office, the Health Directorate, the Governor’s Mansion, the Old Physician’s House, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, City Hall, and the SERKA Building.

    Sarıkamış Katerina Hunting Lodge (Sarıkamış Katerina Av Köşkü)

    This lodge was erected by Nicholas II, the Tsar of Russia, at the end of the 19th century. It is built in the Baltic architectural style.

    The Winter Hunting Lodge is among the surviving registered properties in the Sarıkamış forests that still preserves its original architecture. 

    Fethiye Mosque

    Fethiye Mosque (Fethiye Cami), in the Ortakapı District, was built by the Russians in at the end of the 19th century. Originally used as a church, the Baltic-style building served as an indoor sports hall in the first years of the Republic. It was converted into a mosque in 1985.