Near the Armenian border

Trip Start Jul 25, 2011
Trip End Aug 14, 2011

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Where I stayed
Sim-er Hotel

Flag of Turkey  , Kars,
Sunday, July 31, 2011

Today we headed north, alongside the Iranian and Armenian borders, to Kars (meaning snow).  Along the way we stopped at the Muradiye Waterfalls to observe the frothing falls from a wooden bridge.  Then we visited the Ishak Pasha Palace.  Rising from a dusty plain along the Silk Route, close to the Iranian border, the palace is a magnificent blend of 18th-century Ottoman, Anatolian, Iranian and North Mesopotamian architectural tradition. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

We stopped for lunch in the frontier town of Dogubayazit, which is often used as a base for ascents of Ararat.  This is the foothills region of Mount Ararat, legendary resting place of Noah's Ark.  The sacred mountain is an extinct volcano whose snow-clad summit is often hidden by clouds. We didn't think we were going to be able to see it as it was shrouded by low hanging clouds.  Slowly the clouds began to lift, and though it was still not against a bright background, we were able to see snow-covered Mt. Ararat.  It was a thrill.    Then we headed off to Tuzluca (meaning salt) to explore one of the salt mines that have existed at the Turkish and Armenian border since medieval times.  What a surprise!  The size of the mine is huge.  Our guide surprised us by having our driver take our bus deep into the mines to see the operation.  It was huge and a small mosque was located within for the workers.

Kars boasts a fortress on the hill overlooking the city.  If you have a chance, visit a tearoom at the base of the hill where you will get a great picture of the fortress lit up at night. Since Kar is located so close to the Russian border, there is a lot of Russian influence in the architecture of many of the buildings in the city.

The following morning we visited Ani, the ancient walled Armenian capital, that, in the tenth century, rivaled Constantinople and Baghdad for magnificence.  Known as the City of 1,001 Churches, Ani's palatial splendor was devastated by an earthquake in 1319, and the city has been abandoned for centuries.  The Cathedral of Ani, also known as the Holy Virgin Cathedral, is the largest structure to be found there and is currently a hollowed out ruin. From one of the beautiful Armenian churches we viewed the river below which forms the border between Turkey and Armenia. After hiking among the ruins of this ghost city, we returned to Kars for a lunch in the home of a Kurdish family and the famous Kasar cheese and honey at a local market.
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