After leaving Istanbul we flew across Turkey to start travling in the east and head west. So our first destination was Kars (after flying into Erzurum) which is a ver nice little town in the Northeast corner of Turkey, close to teh Armenia and Georgia boarder. We arrived in the town just as the sun was getting ready to set and our first mission was to find a hotel, something that turned out to be much more difficult than we imagined.
If a nice Turkish guy on the bus who spoke a little English didn’t help us we probably would have walked around for hours as very few people spoke any English; but thanks to this one guy we found a fairly decent hotel pretty quickly (although at the time we didn’t really know what he was negotiating). After settling in for the night we proceeded to explore downtown Kars, which took only a few minutes, and book a tour out to Ani for the next day.
The next morning we woke up with a plan of checking out the Kars castle in the morning as our tour to Ani didn’t leave until 1pm. The short walk up to the castle was fairly nice although it was located right at the edge of downtown Kars almost so we didn’t see anything new. Up at the castle we proceeded to wander around the ruins and checked out the stables, mosque and a few other rooms as the highest part was closed to visiters. While up at the castle we also gazed around at the nearby landscape which is usually referred to as something similar to the Russian Stepes so it was a very nice location. After visiting the castle we proceeded back down to the town to grab some food to make a picnic out at Ani.
In the afternoon we headed out to Ani which is sight of ruins of an old Armenian capital. The site itself contains about 12 buildings (mostly churches and mosques that were converted from churches) in various states of ruin spread out over a large and very beautiful area. The location is absolutely stunning as it’s set on a beautifully green plateau overlooking a river gorge and the Turkish-Armenian boarder. The ruins are gorgeous to look at and most of them date back to around the 10th-13th century as the city was used as the capital from 961 until 1239 AD. The afternoon was spent wandering around the stunning landscape and gazing up at the few ruins that still existed although the city was clearly much larger before.
After our tour of Ani we returned back to Kars where we spent another evening wandering around downtown and using the internet. Today was AtatÃ¼rk day and as a result we saw a fairly large parade walking through the streets (only a small marching band in it though, the rest was just people walking with the parade) and we also heard some fireworks but were unable to see them.
The next day we got up and tried to get the 9am bus to I?dir which we were told existed the previous evening, but when we turned up at the minibus station we were informed the next bus wasn’t until 10am. So we spent an hour relaxing in a Turkish tea shop sipping some boiling hot tea (the national drink) while we waited for our bus. Once we caught the bus we made our way to I?dir and there we enjoyed a quick lunch before boarding another minibus to Do?ubayaz?t. So after several hours of traveling we made it to our next destination of Do?ubayaz?t. Since we arrived late in the afternoon we just spent the remainder of the day wandering around downtown Do?ubayaz?t which was probably just as small as downtown Kars, but there were much more people.
The following day we headed up to Ishak Pa?a Palace (after mom spent some time trying to buy a carpet). The palace is situated on a small plateau that is surrounded by towering cliffs and overlooking the plains where Do?ubayaz?t lies. The palace itself was a bit of a letdown I thought though because so much restoration work has been done to it that there are metal and wooden beams everywhere. In addition to the repairs that had already been done they had closed off half of the palace for more restoration work. In other words a complete disappointment. The trip up to the palace wasn’t all that bad though as we did get to walk the 6km back down to Do?ubayaz?t and got to see Mt. Ararat in the distance, Turkey’s tallest mountain at over 5000 meters.
After getting back to Do?ubayaz?t from the palace we grabbed our bags from the hotel room and went to catch a minibus to Van, our next destination.
Originally written for Devin’s Travels