Autumn Beauty: KARS

With the snow-capped beauty characteristic of a gateway to the caucasus, Kars at the end of summer awaits visitors eager to enjoy delightful moments cheek by jowl with nature and history.

A major city of trade down the centuries due to its position as a bridge between Anatolia and the Caucasus, Kars has a history dating back to the Paleolithic. The city center, which is blanketed in white for a third of the year on average, is fairly bursting with lovely examples of Baltic architecture. Monumental stone structures are a frequent sight in this city laid out like a chessboard. So much so that when you stroll down Ordu Caddesi, you will feel you’re in a European city.

Fethiye Mosque, Hekimevi Health Center, the old Russian Consulate, the Finance Ministry Building, the Health Directorate, the old Customs Building... Each one is more elegant than the last, and the newest is more than a century old. The 12th century Kars Castle meanwhile is the most impressive of the historic structures at the city center, which boasts colorful department stores, herbalists’ shops, dairies, candy stores, breakfast restaurants and working class eateries. And now for a special feature of Kars: Honey and cheese are plentiful here where red meat is consumed in serious quantities. Another culinary specialty of Kars is goose. Besides goose meat with rice and goose meat döner (roasted on a spit), one of the area’s favorite dishes is a veal and vegetable stew called piti, which is cooked in an earthenware casserole. One of the best things to do following an elaborate Kars meal is to take a post-prandial tea at one of the city’s many coffeehouses. And going to Kars without seeing the ruins of Ani 50 kilometers outside the city is a no-no. You will travel through time for a few hours amidst churches, mosques and city walls at Ani, an 8,000-year-old monument-city. The gates of this city, which had its Golden Age in the 11th century, are magnificent even today. The first mosque built by the Seljuks in Anatolia also stands here. The Seljuk Palace to the west of the ruins is striking for its crown portal with mosaics in a geometric pattern. As the sun slowly sets here, we realize that Kars, beautiful in every season, is even more beautiful in autumn.

On The Trail of Pushkin
An eco-museum is being set up in the village of Boğatepe in the first of two new projects undertaken at Kars with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The other is a series of walking tours following in the footsteps of Pushkin, Gurjieff and Orhan Pamuk, all of whom are associated with the city.

Getting There
Turkish Airlines has Istanbul-Kars-Istanbul flights daily. Departure times are 11:20 a.m. from Istanbul and 2:10 p.m. from Kars.