with Rod Oram


B to B 2024

B to B 2023

Tour of NZ 2023


Tour Aotearoa

Once a great city

Sep 13, 2023

Day 45. Tuesday, September 12. Rest day – Kars.

Visiting the ruined medieval city of Ani was the highlight of our rest day in Kars, a town of some 100,000 people on Turkey’s high north-eastern plateau.

Ani is 45km outside Kars and at its height in the 11th century some 100,000 people might have lived there, on a dramatic triangular site protected by walls on its northern side and a deep river gorge on the other two. If that optimistic estimate was correct, Ani would have been one of world’s biggest cities of that era.

Then it was part of the Armenian kingdom, one of the first to embrace Christianity in the east. But in subsequent centuries it was conquered by the Mongols and others, notably the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. It was devastated by an earthquake in 1319 from which it never fully recovered and then from subsequent shifts in Silk Road trade routes. It was abandoned in the 17th century.

The republic of Armenia gained possession of the Kars area and Ani for two brief years at the end of World War One but in 1920 lost control of the territory to Turkey. But the Turkish genocide of Armenians in its own territory during the war put an end to Armenian civilisation in eastern Anatolia – this north-eastern part of Turkey.

When Lynn and I moved into our Cleveland Gardens flat in London in 1983, our elderly downstairs neighbour was Mrs Petro. Her family had fled from eastern Anatolia to London during the massacre. Only today at Ani did I finally gain a greater understanding of her family’s plight.

Armenia still disputes the current border with Turkey; and just beyond the ruins of Ani it flies a large Armenian flag on its side of the border. At a tall border watchtower nearby the Armenians have a large sign which has their flag and the Russian’s and an expression of mutual solidarity, harking back to when Armenia was part of the Russian Empire from 1878 until 1918.

During that period of Russian rule, it was Russian archaeologists who began exploring the site and bringing Ani’s glories to light. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2016. Among the criteria it met was: “Ani bears exceptional testimony to Armenian cultural, artistic, architectural, and urban design development and it is an extremely extraordinary representation of Armenian religious architecture known as the ‘Ani school’, reflecting its techniques, style, and material characteristics.”

Here is just a small selection of the photos I took this morning of Ani’s walls, the Christian Cathedral; one of Ani’s main mosques; the river gorge; and other relics.


  1. Janet Crawford

    A fascinating account of your intrepid journey. I’m following the route as well as I can, learning a lot of grography and history and enjoying your descriptions and photos of places and people as well as some glimpses of how it is to cycle in such conditions.

  2. Chris OHara

    I have been avidly following your journey and am so enjoying your posts, both the writing and photos. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Geoff

    Stunning photos / thanks Rod for taking the time to share your stories and history