We rocked up in Kars around mid afternoon. Our first task was to find somewhere to stay and according to the reviews online, there were not many options. We could either stay in the hotel which smelt like a toilet or stay in the one where the owners steal your stuff and then harass you until you buy a tour from them. We decided we should walk around until we found another option. There are bound to be hotels which are not listed online we thought.
Streetlife – Kars in the far east of Turkey
The first one we came across was like walking into a horror movie. We followed the smelly man down a long dark corridor with flickering lights, whilst he continued smoking. Up a stair case which had a few steps missing (wtf?!) and into a small room where several generations of flies had made themselves at home. On the way up we passed open rooms and saw occupants who reminded me of 28 Days Later. “What you think? You like?” asked the man, genuinely interested to know. “Really nice, one of the best. I just need to pop out to get some cash…”. Before Alexei had finished lying, I was already at the end of the street! Luckily a few minutes later we found a nice four star hotel perfectly within our backpacker budget. Or we told ourselves it was. What’s an extra 20 dollars here or there when it comes to safety?!
No comment, just straight up impressive
There is only one reason people come to Kars (reader be aware that Alexei attempted to add in a really lame dad joke about cars here – I managed to stop him) and like a couple of sheep we were here for the same reason – to visit the ancient town of Ani. I am not a history buff and will try not to bore you but here’s a quick summary on the place…
Ani or the city of 1001 churches is an ancient city on the Turkey/ Armenia border. It was once the capital of an Armenian Kingdom which at its peak had 100,000 inhabitants. it was well known on the silk trade route and had some of the best architecture of its time. Then the cheeky Mongols invaded and massacred half the city. Later an earthquake devastated what was remaining. It was then pretty much forgotten about and all that remains are a few ruins, which the Turks don’t really look after because they don’t like Armenia.
It was blistering hot when we arrived at the ruins. Apart from a few moody cows (Alexei gave them wide berth this time) we had the whole ruined city completely to ourselves. We started off keen, exploring every brick and rock we could find. Then we came across the border between Armenia and Turkey, gave up looking at rocks and focused on being a child by hopping back and forth from each country whilst trying to hide from the border guards so they didn’t shoot us down.
Walking around the ruins can feel quite spooky, it’s hard to believe that a city once so full of life is now abandoned and destroyed. Alexei was off taking photographs so I wondered into one of the abandoned churches, it was dark and eerily silent. There seemed to be a lot of modern art on the walls, my personal favourite was ‘Sam and jo woz ere 2010’. It winds me up when people do this, totally not necessary and it just ruins the whole feel of the place. but then, in front of me I spotted a piece of chalk on the ground. ‘Hmm it is lame but go on then’ I thought, I will add my own bit of name art to the walls myself. I scanned the walls looking for a spot. I picked up a piece of chalk (clearly the Turks WANTED me to do this) and walked towards a dark corner.
“Hissssss! Hissss!” Wtf was that?! Sounded like a serpent. I looked around but couldn’t see anything. Never mind, mind playing tricks, I’ll just continue with my amateur graffiti. “Hissssss!” this time the scary sound was ten times louder, so not wanting to soil my pants in a church I ran for my life!
Panting and sweating in the safety of the open field, I saw Alexei approaching me. “What have you been doing? Was that you screaming?” he asked. Played it casual. “Oh just checking out the church. I think you should go in, it’s really cool inside” and off he trotted in like a lamb to slaughter…
And that was the end of Alexei, I never saw him again!
Unfortunately it wasn’t that exciting an end. All that happened was that Alexei came out of the serpent house and told me off for writing my name on the wall! Oh hello Mr Mature!
Another brucey bonus for you, the reader: Mr Mature himself, taking over the streets of Kars!