The Ani Ruins

I started my October holiday with an independent visit to Trabzon, Turkey. After my much too rainy stay, I returned to Istanbul for a day. Kyndall and I had planned to go to Bulgaria or Romania for the remainder of the week, but we weren’t sure she could leave and return to Turkey while in between work permits, so we decided to stay within our borders.

Kyndall told me she wanted to rent a car and drive to Kars. I didn’t look at a map, but I agreed with the understanding that I can’t drive stick so wherever we go, she had to be behind the wheel. It wasn’t until we were on the road that I looked up where we were going.

We were driving completely across the country, all the way to the Armenian border!

We spent our first night in Samsun on the Black Sea. In the morning, we walked around the city a bit and then visited the Modern Türk Hamamı. We didn’t get the impression that the ladies liked us much, but it was the best scrub I’ve ever gotten. They even scrubbed my face! My only complaint with hamams is that they never scrub my feet. I otherwise always leave feeling magically clean.

When we left the hamam, we drove along the sea road towards Trabzon before turning in towards the mountains. It was, unfortunately, fairly dark and rainy at that point, so I was a bit of a tense passenger. I bet that drive would have been lovely in the daylight.

We stopped for some soup in Gümüşhane. As we were both feeling a bit under the weather, stopping for soup and tea became a pattern. This little village was absolutely charming. Had we had more time, we agreed that we wouldn’t mind spending a night there, but we needed to continue in order to make it to Kars and back to Istanbul before school on Monday. Note made for future travel in the region, though!

That night, we drove all the way to Kars. We stayed at the Bizim Konak Hotel. The hotel itself was fine (except what’s up with the black lights in the halls?), but we felt anxious as we drove into Kars. All the roads were ripped up. Everywhere. We didn’t experience anything in the daylight hours to justify our nerves, but as we tucked ourselves into bed that night, we said, “What a strange place…”

The next morning, we drove to the Ani Ruins.

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Our first glimpse of the mountain over the Armenian border.

The view of the Turkish-Armenian border was breathtaking. Truly outstanding. I could have admired the valleys all day. Be sure to explore all the buildings still standing.

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That afternoon, we started to drive back to Istanbul, after a brief stop in Kars to pick up cough drops. As we drove, we lamented that we didn’t have time to stop in other cities along the way. While renting the car was cheap, gas had cost us much more than we had anticipated. If you’re going to spend the money to drive across a country, make sure you have flexibility in your schedule to stop and appreciate the journey.

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A mosque in Kars that we loved.

We spent the night in Sivas at the Buruciye Hotel, which was beautiful. We reserved the hotel on our way, so they didn’t have our room ready when we arrived. They didn’t even see our reservation. They went to prepare our room, separating the beds, but they didn’t put sheets on my bed or a duvet cover on the comforter. I went to the desk about the bed and they went upstairs with me to add a sheet but never covered the comforter. Oh well. I survived.

That morning, we swam in the pool and enjoyed the sauna before hitting the road. We had plenty of light during this drive, so we really got to appreciate the variety of colors in the stones. Lovely. We made it to Istanbul in the early evening. Kyndall dropped me off at the ferry dock in Kadikoy and then I made the journey across the Bosphorus and back to my apartment.

The view at the Ani Ruins was outstanding and I truly enjoyed seeing so much of the Turkish terrain from the ground level. I wouldn’t mind doing a trip like this again, catching more daylight hours and with more time to stop along the way as desired. I’m sure passed many gems worth seeing.

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