Kars and its castle


Kars is a pretty city in far-eastern Turkey, not far from the border of Armenia.

The windswept steppe that surrounds it, and the slightly austere and boxy apartment buildings give it a slightly Central Asian feel, but its nicer than that. The buildings are dappled with pastels. When we looked from above their colour was only interrupted by peeking minarets and tall trees beginning to take their autumn colour. As well they might. When we ventured out in the early evening to find our first beer since Dubai we saw a temperature gauge that read 2 degrees. Winter is coming.

There’s also something European about Kars. It might be the Baltic style architecture that has held on from when the Russians were in charge in the nineteenth century. Or maybe the streets lined by neat rows of trees. It’s probably also something about how compact the town is. Its got about 70,000 people placing it somewhere in between Nelson and Palmerston North for size. But you can see the whole city in the sweeping vista you see in the picture above. I know the quarter acre is paradise, but sometimes I wish New Zealand towns could manage to be a bit less spread-eagled.


Then there’s its excellent castle atop a nearby bluff. The hilltop has long been fortified, but probably took its recent shape in the thirteenth century. Apparently it remained an important military post up to and including world war one when Russian and Otoman forces had a significant battle over it. It seems odd that a castle would still have been militarily relevant so recently. But then again, not so far away ANZACs were fighting out of trenches in Gallipoli, and that kind of construction has basically the same premise as a castle, right?


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