Eastern Express triples number of tourists visiting Ani
A nostalgic train line from the capital Ankara to the eastern province of Kars has tripled the number of people visiting the ancient city of Ani, once the seat of an Armenian kingdom and now on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Located close to the Arpaçay district on the Turkish-Armenian border in Kars, Ani was the capital of Armenian royalties between 961 and 1045 A.D. at the time of the Bagratuni Dynasty. Home to 11th and 12th century structures of Islamic architecture, Ani entered the tentative UNESCO World Heritage list in 2012 and the permanent list on July 15, 2016.
The first settlement in Ani dates back to the 3000s B.C.; it later became home to many civilizations including the Saka Turks, Sasanians, Bagratuni Dynasty, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottomans and Russians.
Tourists arriving in Kars, after disembarking from the Eastern Express, visit the Cıbıltepe and Sarıkamış ski centers and Çıldır Lake and then visit the the ancient city of Ani.
Local and foreign tourists as well as photography aficionados brave plummeting temperatures in Kars to experience picturesque scenes in Kars.
The region has been a crossroads of civilization, with the Evul Menucehr Mosque – the first Turkish mosque in Anatolia – the Amenaprgiç Church, Ani Cathedral, Dikran Honentz Church and Abugamir Pahlavuni Church becoming the most visited places in the ancient settlement.
Ani is protected on its eastern side by a ravine formed by the Akhurian River and on its western side by the Bostanlar or Tzaghkotzadzor Valley. The Akhurian is a branch of the Aras River and forms part of the current border between Turkey and Armenia.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Kars Museum Director Necmettin Alp said that a welcome center, an excavation house and similar structures were under construction in Ani under the inspection of the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
“There is a great tourist influx this year. People show great interest in the Eastern Express during the winter season. They come here to see the history of Kars, Çıldır Lake and Sarıkamış. The ancient city of Ani is also a must- see for them. The number of tourists triples in winter months. I hope we will see the same influx in the future months. I believe this dynamism in Ani will accelerate the restoration of the welcome center,” he added.
Alp said that visitors especially wanted to see the Ebul Menucehr Mosque, Fethiye Mosque, Dikran Honentz Church and the Big Cathedral.
It takes 25 hours for visitors to travel to Kars with the Eastern Express, but they say it is worth the experience.