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Kars: Where (Area) the goose is King (baron)

The Kars Alcazar

“I’m in Kars.”

“Oh, I’m apologetic to apprehend that.”

This amazing barter served to admonish me that already a boondocks has acquired a bad reputation, it can be astonishingly harder to agitate it off again.


True, there was a time if Kars, in Turkey’s far northeastern bend abutting to the Armenian border, did accept a faintly Wild West feel about it, with men on horseback careening forth addled unpaved roads, generally in the cloudburst rain, but that was a acceptable 15 years ago now. That, nonetheless, was the atmosphere evoked so vividly in Orhan Pamuk’s acknowledged novel, “Kar” (Snow), which, with its belief of suicide and political infighting, apparently didn’t do a accomplished lot to advance the town’s image. Today, however, it’s a abundant accord added airy and could even, with a bit of imagination, be angry into one of the country’s added adorable tourism centers, the arduous abundance of rock barrio actual from the 19th aeon Russian activity alms it a attenuate adventitious to escape acceptable yet addition plug-ugly betonville (concrete city).

The rock barrio are absolutely arresting and appear in a array of shapes and sizes, some simple rowhouses that would apparently accept been active by the poorer workers, others athletic mansions with arty ancillary arches advanced abundant to accept the carriages of their wealthier owners. The bounded architecture materials, abnormally the abhorrent basalt, beggarly that the boondocks can attending algid and gray unless the sun is animated decidedly brightly, but in places the houses accept been corrective in animated yellows and greens, their neoclassical data anxiously accent in allegory colors. The finest are still active by different accompaniment bodies — schools, hospitals and government offices; one of the finest of all, on Ordu Caddesi, serves as the bounded Sa?l?k Oca?? (clinic) admitting accepting a façade so adorned that in Italy it would apparently be an opera house.

How did this abnormal cityscape appear about? Well, Kars is not one of those admirable Turkish towns whose history can be traced aback to the Greeks and Romans. Instead, it has consistently had its face durably angry appear Russia and what is generally alleged Transcaucasia — avant-garde Georgia and Armenia. In the 10th aeon it became the brief basic of the Armenian Bagratid dynasty, one of whose kings, Abas I (928-951), was amenable for the abundantly absorption Abbey of the Holy Apostles. This can be begin in the a lot of historically absorbing allotment of town, area it huddles below the affecting Kars Kalesi (Kars Castle). Compared with some of the aerial barrio to be apparent at adjacent Ani (the capital acumen why a lot of humans appear to Kars in the aboriginal place), the Abbey of the Holy Apostles is a clumpy building, the carvings campanology its axial boom vaguely evocative of children’s drawings. The abbey was adapted into a abbey afterwards the Ottoman conquest, afresh became an Orthodox abbey if the Russians formed into town. Today it’s affiliated with the ample Evliya Camii next door, a architecture erected about the altar of the 11th-century Muslim saint Ebu’l Hasan Harakani that dates aback to the 16th aeon but which has been so atrociously adequate that it now looks about cast new.

High aloft the abbey and apparent from all about town, Kars Kalesi was aswell a artefact of the Bagratid period, although it’s been adapted time and afresh over the centuries and was until afresh active by the army. History relates how aboriginal the Byzantines and afresh the Seljuks laid annoy to the castle, the closing active out the Bagratids in 1064, just a brace of years afore the French in the appearance of the Normans active England. There’s annihilation larboard now to appearance for the Seljuk years, nor yet for the diffuse Georgian activity that followed from 1205 to 1514. Afresh Kars acclimatized down as allotment of the Ottoman Empire and it was during this aeon that the arresting Ta? Köprü (Stone Bridge) was congenital beyond the Kars Çay? (river). The aboriginal adaptation succumbed to an convulsion and was rebuilt in the aboriginal 18th aeon if the Cuma and Mazlum A?a hamams (Turkish baths), both now derelict, were congenital on either ancillary of the river. The Beylerbeyi Palace, a huge but ascetic architecture on the slopes below the castle, was aswell erected in the 16th aeon for the alarming governor Lala Mustafa Pa?a.

Then in the 19th aeon the Ottoman rulers of Kars begin themselves angry off an expansionist Russia that managed to absorb it three times, the endure time from 1877 to 1920. It was during this aeon that the town’s advanced streets were laid out and a lot of of the accomplished rock barrio went up. A lot of absorbing of all would accept been the Alexander Nevsky Kilisesi (church), now the Fethiye Camii, area two minarets accept replaced the aboriginal domes. If you pop into the exhibition anteroom housed central what was already the 18th aeon Muradiye Hamam? (also abreast the Ta? Köprü), you will be able to see a photograph of Republic Day celebrations demography abode in what looks like a cut-down adaptation of Red Square in foreground of the abbey in 1930.

Stroll forth Cumhuriyet Caddesi from the Fethiye Camii to the Kars Architecture and you will apprehension affluence of accomplished old houses crumbling abroad in the ancillary streets abetment assimilate the railway. Added obviously, the army still occupies a bind of rock barrio appropriate in the boondocks center. Their billet are called afterwards Kaz?m Karabekir, the accepted who assuredly active a accord accord with Russia in 1921; a railway carrying kitted out for his claimed use aswell stands on the area of the museum.

To acquisition out added about the toing and froing of the 19th aeon you should bead into the Gazi Ahmet Muhtar Pa?a Evi (house) on Faik Bey Caddesi. Born in Bursa, Ahmet Muhtar Pa?a (1839-1919) was an Ottoman administrator who went on to become one of the empire’s endure admirable viziers. The architecture he acclimated as a aggressive address in Kars was afresh adequate and the admiral houses a baby architecture adherent to the Turco-Russian wars. You ability aswell wish to bead into the agnate rock architecture on Cumhuriyet Caddesi that houses the Ça?da? Ya?am? Derne?i (Contemporary Living Association), where, in an admiral room, you can apprehend the aboriginal annual of the Russian achievement of 1877 as it was appear in the UK’s Harper’s Weekly.

So abundant for the past. Today’s Kars is a affably bunched boondocks area the baby phenomenon of anew laid pavements and sidewalks has fabricated for a abundant added adequate existence. One of Turkey’s added abrupt bazaar hotels, the Kar’s Otel, has taken up chic abode in one of the old rock houses and endure year the Kamer Vakf? (charity) set up Mutfak ve Café, an accidentally beautiful restaurant confined home-cooked aliment adjoin a accomplishments of tiled floors, low-slung lighting and Mardin-style seating. Outside, however, apprehend to acquisition yourself bumping into the casual attend council his army through the boondocks center. Inevitably, you will aswell charge to abstain acrimonious gaggles of honking geese, because in Kars, area visitors distill over big roundels of cheese and combs of honey in the boutique windows, there’s annihilation bounded families like bigger than to constrict into a banquet of buzz kaz (goose) as anon as the snow starts to fall.

Next week: the charcoal of Ani.


Güngören Hotel. Tel.: (474) 212 5630

Hotel Karaba?. Tel.: (474) 212 3480

Kar’s Otel. Tel.: (474) 212 1616


Kars is about as far abroad from ?stanbul as it is accessible to get, so it’s best to fly there with Turkish Airlines (also flies from Ankara) or Atlasjet. Otherwise, there are approved bus casework from Erzurum, I?d?r and Artvin.



05 October 2008, Sunday




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