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Kars Tours Travel Guide Turkey

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Eastern Anatolia


The town of Kars is situated on a level, far-reaening plateau at an altitude of 1750 meters, extending out from the base of an an­cient citadel. It was an important city during the Armenian period of power in Anatolia, in the 8th to the 11th century. It served as the capital of the area during the period of the Bagratid dynasty. An important stronghold by the Turco-Russian border, it was many times besieged by the Russians during the 19th century, to be finally annexed to Turkey in 1920. The town is dominated by a powerful citadel founded by the Armenians. At the foot of the citadel, you can visit the most remarkable building of Kars, the Church of the Apostles or the Kümbet Cami, an ancient Armenian church that was erected in the 10th century by a Byzantine king and today has been converted into a museum.

Because of the nearness of the frontier, it is necessary to request authorization from the security service to visit the remains of the town of Ani. You reach Ani by a fairly good track of some fifty kilometers, and, at the end of an hour and a half of travelling, the silhouette of the city walls of the ancient Armenian capital rises into view.


This region belonged to Urartu from the years 1000 to 600 B.C. invaded by the Scythians in 665 B.C., Kars became a part of the Pontus Kingdom at one period, subsequently coming under the rule of the Roman Empire. It passed into the ha^ids of the Sassanids in the 5th century A.D., after which it was taken by the Byzantines. In 1068, the town was captured by Sultan Alparslan of the Seljuk Turks. Kars subsequently became part of the Sallukoğulları Emirate, and later was ruled by the İlhanlı, Karakoyuııltı and by the Akkoyun­lu. In the 16th century, Sultan Selim the (irim made Kars and its surroundings part of Ottoman territory. The name Kars dates back to 130 B.C., and was given by the Turco-Bulgarian tribe called the Karsaks. There is no other place in Turkey that carries a Turkish name more ancient than Kars. Townspeople witnessing the heroism of Turkish troops, it is said, when they beseiged the city, decided to call it Kars.


The old and new sections of Kars stretch out on both sides of the river; these from the upper and lower levels of the town. There is an old bridge between these two points, connecting lliem, lliat dates to tlie Seljuk period of Turkish occupation. Armenian relics can be seen lining the roadway, including ihe Argina Basilica Ihal is from the 10th century. The Tiknia Castle is also nearby.

Ani Ruins: Some fifty kilometers out of Kars is found the site of Ani, the former capital of the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia. The town was founded at the start of the 9th century, during the reign of Ashot Msaker, who was of the Bagratid dynasty. In 98'J A.D., the Armenian King Sembat II started the construction of a cathedral, which was finished after his death, as well as many fine buildings. At the site, the walls of the ancient city can be seen; ihese date from the 10th century. Among the several churches in the town, the most important is the Cathedral. It was built lt> a rectangular plan in the form of a cross. The walls are decorated with tall blind arcades with pointed arches, picked out by fine mouldings, and originally, there was a cupola that rested at the top of the circular drum. This is now missing. The Church of Saint Gregory is on the eastern edge of the plateau, overlooking the gorge. This church is similar to the cathedral with is flat exterior walls and tall blind arcades. These are separated by slender double pillasters and topped with carving in the stone of a most intricate design. Near die church are I he remains of a Seljuk mosque that dates to the 12th century. An unusual feature of the mosque is its polygonal minaret. The mosque was built by the first Seljuk ruler of Am Manuchar.