Posted December 2, 2009 by David McGuinness

After a rather dull day yesterday (the humour of the idea of a bus from Van to Kars wore off pretty quick but the journey lasted about 7 hours), today’s schedule was significantly more rewarding. After breakfast my taxi driver arrived as agreed and we drove out through the surrounding flat landscape with snow-peaked mountains in the distance, including Mount Ararat, Turkey’s highest mountain.

After about a 40 minute drive we arrived at the historic Armenian site of Ani. This former Armenian capital that once rivaled Constantinople is hugely atmospheric and set in a stunning location with snowy peaks and green river valleys for decoration.

The site was chosen in 961 as the new capital of the Bagratid king, Ashot III. Since then it has been home to the Byzantines, Seljuks, the Kingdom of Georgia, Persians and even the Mongols! The buildings are in various states of repair but there are some true stunners here including the 11th century Church of the Redeemer, the 13th century Church of St. Gregory, a late 10th century cathedral and Menucer Camii, believed to be the first mosque built by the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia, some time around 1072.

I spent about 3 hours wandering around the sights and soaking up the atmosphere, and practically had the place to myself. There were only 4 other visitors the whole time I was there; difficult to imagine for such a stunning and important historical site.

Tomorrow I will go to Dogubayazit to visit the fortress palace of Ishak Pasa. And from there back to Van and a flight back to Istanbul.

This blog is part of an Off-The-Beaten-Track Travel Diary. Click on the links below to navigate through this journey.

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