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Kars, a city too often forgotten that is well worth seeing

on 12/06/2015
Citadelle de Kars et le vieux pont

Kars citadel

    In the famous novel “Snow” Orhan Pamuk describes the city of Kars and its peculiar wintry atmosphere. Although little-known to most tourists, Kars is not without interest. Located at a height of 1,500 m, it has one of the harshest climates of Turkey during winter but can be visited in the spring and summer months.

Kars played an important role in the country’s history. 11 centuries ago it was the capital of the Kingdom of Armenia, way before Ani, this lost city located not far from there you should definitely visit as well.

Rue de KarsIt then belonged respectively to the Seljuk Empire, to the Mongolians in the 12th century and to the Ottomans who dominated the city until 1877.

In 1878, Russia seized Kars and installed a garrison there until 1920, when the army led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk retook the city. It was included to the Republic of Turkey, as well as the city of Ardahan, on October 23rd, 1921.

The citadel, where terrible battles took place, is located atop a rocky hill and is undoubtedly the most famous monument in Kars. Its construction goes back to the Armenian era, though several transformations were made around 1300.

Located below the citadel, the Cathedral of Kars (also called the Holy Apostles Church) was built between 932 and 937 by a sovereign of the Kingdom of Armenia. It was modified by the Ottomans in 1579 and by the Russians in the 19th century and its conical roof above the dome shelters 12 figural reliefs that represent the apostles. A small museum was installed inside in the 70s. However, this place of worship was then abandoned and turned into a mosque 1998.

Mosquée de KarsA pretty basalt bridge, originally from 1579, spans the river at the bottom of the citadel. It was destroyed during an earthquake and rebuilt in 1719 by a prominent citizen. An inscription that was erased by the Russians during the invasion was replaced by a new one in the middle of the central arch.

Not far from there, your will find the Topçuoğlu Hamam, one of the three public baths of the city.

In the centre, near the cathedral, stands the Evliya Mosque, also built in 1579. Its minaret is the only remaining original feature. The tomb of mystic Abu al-Hassan al-Kharaqani is situated in a small adjoining building.

Near the impressive equestrian statue of Atatürk, you will find the Fethiye Mosque. Built at the beginning of the 19th century, it was originally a Russian church and was turned into a Muslim place of worship when the Russian occupation ended.

Don’t forget to try the delicious local cheese, the famous Kars gravyer which bares some similarities to French gruyere, and the succulent honey from the neighbouring region of Ardahan.


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