If you read my blog about Kars and Ani from the start of our bicycle tour two years ago, you can skip this one. We’re in the same places. I will, however, try to avoid describing stuff we’ve done before (eating goose, enjoying the architecture) and see if I can find something new.
This mosque complex in the center of the city is new.
The young Kurdish guy working at our hotel said a new mosque is the last thing Kars needs. All the (Turkish sunni) worshipers in Kars can’t fill a single small mosque, he joked.
As I wrote before, one of the things I like about Kars is its ethnic diversity. Some of the various groups include terekeme, Azeri, Alevi, yerli (which I think means Sunni Turkish (Turkey’s majority group) in this context), Kurdish, and malakan.
One day when Ferda’s father and I were checking out the Russian (with Armenian stonework) Aleksandr Nevski Kilisesi (now a mosque),
a young student with a headscarf lamented, “wouldn’t it be great if Kars’ old churches had been better protected and were turned into museums rather than mosques?”
“Did you know there’s a shia mosque across the street?” someone else asked.
What? I definitely wanted to check that out. Cemal baba and I were approaching the entrance when we were led into a large room, seated, and served a lunch of rice, meat, helva, ayran, and water. Someone had died, thus the meal. The group is Azeri (I’m not sure what relationship this has to Azeris in Azerbaijan or Iran), and indeed they are Shia.
Upstairs was the prayer area. I don’t think I have ever seen these black banners with colorful Arabic writing except at mosques in Iran.
And I have certainly never seen turbahs outside of Iran before.
Not surprisingly there were pictures of Ali and Karbala as well. What an exciting find! It simply looked like a standard Turkish mosque from the outside.
Kars’ architectural highlight is still the 10th century Armenian Holy Apostles Church.
Nearby is the Ebü’l Hasan Harakani Cami.
Also nearby is the Ulu Camii with a plaque in front describing an incident where Armenians killed 286 Muslims here (in 1918 or 1919, I believe). Of course no context was given. See Taner Akçam’s A Shameful Act to learn about the “miniature genocide” of “more than 69,000” Armenians (close to 198,000 according to the Soviets) that led up to events like this one at Kars’ Ulu Camii.
Kars actually tried to make a gesture of reconciliation to the Armenians with the construction of the Monument to Humanity. However, in 2011 Erdoğan ordered its demolition which, according to the student we spoke with earlier, actually cost more than its construction.
I can’t write a blog about Kars without some photos of its interesting architecture, unique in Turkey.
You might be wondering what Ferda and I are doing in Kars. Well, we arranged a short automobile tour for her parents (some others tagged along for bits and pieces). Our first destination was (of course) the old Armenian capital of Ani. It was my third visit.
This time I really wanted to make it out to Kız Kale(si) for the first time. It’s the building on the top of the mesa in the bend of the river in this photo:
I actually got to the very final bit of the cliff band when I decided to turn around. I didn’t realize how close I was, I was by myself and people were waiting, and the moves were just a bit delicate with little room for error. It’s certainly doable without a rope — something for next time, I guess.
Bye for now.