Have you ever heard of the city of Ani? City of 1001 churches, a powerful capital of the medieval Armenian kingdom? Well, it was powerful. Back in 10th century. Today Ani is a city of 1001 ghost rather than anything else.
Ani still exists and, even as a ruin, it brings controversy. It’s so dramatic, surrounded by the river gorge and the wild valley.
As a former capital and economic center of Armenian Bagratuni empire this place (the memory of that place?) is extremely important to all Armenians. Ani is one of the most common female names here. Thousand years, you say, is a lot. Nope. Some scars never fade. No matter how fast time flies and how many plot turns it brings.
Someone decided there will be a state border. Someone decided that Ani, one of the most important places of Armenian historical and cultural heritage, will be a part of Turkish province of Kars. To visit Armenian ruins you need to go to Turkey. If you are Armenian or you travel in Armenia, your journey will be exhausting and complicated. Because the border is closed. You can’t cross it. Trust me on that one. You would have to go to Georgia and get to Turkey from there. To see something very Armenian situated just a couple of kilometres from the state border. Isn’t this ridiculous?
It is. It’s also sad. And dramatic. I’d say it’s unacceptable but I’m afraid this might be considered as too personal. This is not a post on international relations.
This is actually a post on one summer afternoon when I happened to see the ancient city of Ani. Some of you know I’ve never been to Turkey yet. Wanna know how did I do it?
It was just couple of weeks after I arrived to Armenia this summer. I felt like escaping from Yerevan for the weekend so I signed up for a Birthright Armenia excursion. We had a great Gyumri city tour and then we headed to the border. We couldn’t cross it but we were lucky enough to get a permission to enter the no man’s land, the land between the two actual borders.
There is nothing. Just a meadow and a mountaineous landscape. Well, and the bored Russian soldiers smoking cigarettes. They stand there just to remind you you are in a limbo. And there is no way to make a step further. You can only sit on the edge of the rock and watch. Watch the city of Ani, so close to you, on the other side of the gorge. You can take photos. You can see it. You can scream, you can cry. But you can’t hike there. There is no bridge on the river. There is the international law and the thrilling border.
There are the Russian soldiers watching you from behind. One of them has just lit one more cigarette.
I couldn’t. I felt like crying.
I was sitting on the Armenian border watching an Armenian city, which is currently a part of Turkey and I was escorted by Russian soldiers.
The ruins on the other side of the gorge were telling me not to cry. They only wanted me to remember. And I want you to know.