A Short Guide On Khor Virap Monastery, Armenia

Khor Virap: An Ancient Armenian Monastery Near Turkish Border


-Tips & What To Expect-

Work Hours

Summer 08.00 – 20.00

Winter 08.00 – 18.00

  • Khor Virap is one of the holiest sites in Armenia and it represents vital importance for the nation. Moreover, Surp Astvatsatsin Church is an active place of worship. As a result, during your visit, dressing moderately is suggested.
  • Getting there early is important to avert crowds and being able to take pictures and walk around comfortably.
  • Take a tour to Khor Virap and combine your visit with different touristic spots.
  • The village of Lusarat near Khor Virap has some shops where you can get food and water.
  • Even tough the tunnel is very narrow, visit the underground pit where Saint George the Illimunator had been imprisoned for 13 years.
  • Some locals will approach you and will offer you to release doves for a small fee. They will tell that this is a spiritual practice and doves are hoped to fly to Mount Ararat. It is not a scam however, some see this as animal cruelty.

Surp Astvatsatsin Church

-Khor Virap-

Khor Virap is one of the most popular spots in Armenia. Two main reasons behind its popularity are its location and religious significance. The monastery is located a couple of hundred meters away from Turkish-Armenian border right near Mount Ararat, it is so close that you can easily discern Turkish soldiers and homes in Turkish soil. As you might think, the view is… SPECTACULAR.

 However, what really makes this spot quite prominent is a religous-historical myth in which Saint Gregory the Illuminator who is known to be the first Armenian Saint who converted to Christianity, was imprisoned in the dungeons of Khor Virap for 13 years.

The spectacular view of Mount Ararat and beautiful Armenian plain

Interior of Surp Astvatsatsin Church

Today, aside from its touristic purpose, Khor Virap is a common spot for traditional Armenian weddings, baptize ceremonies and pilgrimage. Upon visiting here, you might as well see some monks and Armenian Orthodox priests living and practicing their religious ceremonies.

-Brief History of Khor Virap-

The first structure of Khor Virap monastery complex was built in 642 CE. The main church Surp Astvatsatsin Church was built in the 17th century and it has been serving as the main symbol of the monastery complex. The iconic dungeon where the first Armenian saint George the Illuminator had been imprisoned for 13 years is still intact on the bottom of St. Gevorg Chapel. You can go down 200 feet to see the small dungeon room where the saint was held, however it is a very suffocating place so if you are claustrophobic, be cautious.

The big graveyard near the monastery

Inside St. Gevorg Chapel

-Where Is It Located?-

Khor Virap is located 45 kilometres away in the remote suburbs of Yerevan. Also, it is only a couple of hundred meters away from the Turkish border, which indeed adds an intriguing vibe. 3 most common ways of transport is taking a cab, going my marshrutkas (minibuses) or taking a tour there. Going all the way there by minibus is the least comfortable and convenient option. I, personally went there by tour which can be around the same prices as taking a cab.

Me and the beautiful Armenian plain

The road from Yerevan to Khor Virap has endless plains and small villages on both sides

For tours I would strongly recommend you to check HYUR SERVICE company. They provide outstanding service with experienced guides. Moreover, you can combine your visit to Khor Virap with different parts of Armenia by buying an extensive tour package.



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Gavurkale: Forgotten Hittite Ruins in Ankara

Exploring The Ancient Hittite Carvings On A Hill In Ankara

Gavurkale is an old Hittite castle monument dates back to 14th century B.C Great Hittite Empire period. 2 well-preserved rock carvings of human figures and an eroded carving of a sitting child on the crest of a hill are the most notable features of Gavurkale. This significant landmark is located at a remote village in ankara


Many of my friends including expats complain how dull Ankara is and they always say there is barely enough to do in the city. So this post is quite handy for anyone who wants to explore the hidden gems of Ankara as well as the history & travel enthusiasts who want to get to know a new cool historical spot! Before I headed for Gavurkale, I checked out this useful website hittitemonuments.com, where you can also find many amazing spots with ancient Hittite monuments all over Turkey.

Having been located at a 45 minute distance from my home, I decided to visit Gavurkale with Ayesha a.k.a the best travel partner. The ride was a bit bumpy due to bad infrastructure starting from the village of Dereköy. Our car might have a few small dents on the bottom however it was certainly worth all the hassle.

Brief History Of Gavurkale Monument And Rock Carvings

Gavurkale carvings depict three deities. On the rock face two large human figures are visible and quite well-preserved. The visible figures have pointed hats, swords and shoes. Third and smaller one is not very visible since it was damaged throughout centuries so one should pay lots of attention to discern it.

Alongside the carvings, there stand the old fortifications and wall blocks

Gavurkale was first properly studied by H. H. von der Osten in 1930. He proposed that this significant landmark was used for funerary affairs. The finding of a big room in the back of the carvings suggested that there is a path which is blocked now that leads inside to the interiors of the hills.

The poorly excavated big room behind the fortifications

The path leads to the room. There is still a lot to excavate.

Satellite image of the are. You can can spot the slight signs of old housings on the bottom and you can discern the remains of the fortifications on above.

In 1993, Bilkent University conducted an elaborate research in the area. Upon the advancement of the research, it was concluded that Gavurkale is actually a way more complex architectural complex that H.H von der Osten had suggested back in 30s.

The old fortifications surrounding the hill allude that the architecture here is much more complex!

Due to the findings of countless Hittite ceramics on the bottom of the cliff, it was concluded that a castle or a sort of fortification had accompanied the rock carvings along the centuries. Apart from this, the satellite images allude that there are some other settlements surrounding Gavurkale which are probably houses of the old Hittites.

Explore Gavurkale - Ancient Hittite rock carvings and remains of an old significant castle. Check out the ancient mysteries of Anatolia!

Here is one of the old wall blocks were found during the excavations which revealed different theories about the area.

Getting There

Until the village of Dereköy, the trip was comfortable but upon reaching the village, the road got so bumpy. Dereköy felt like a completely different place because it abounds with steep rock hills and strange rock formations which cannot be seen often around that region. The village was very secluded and quiet and we didn’t see a soul while passing by.

Gavurkale is located at a hill on a vast lowland.

There is a narrow river passing near Gavurkale

After the village we drove for 2 more kilometers and took the first turn which lead us to a dirt road. Starting from that point we could discern the steep hill where Gavurkale carvings and ruins are located. When we got close enough, I pulled over under an oak and we were ready to climb. It took us around 20 minutes to pass the large field abutting the hill and to reach the crest. We were breathless for the well-preserved carvings and ruins we saw!

Climbing the hill amongst the large boulders

After some point we saw the marvelous carvings.

Exploring Gavurkale

At the first glance we got marveled at what we stumbled upon. 2 well-preserved carvings survived throughout the centuries despite nature and unruly treasure hunters who ruin archeological sites each day. Gavurkale is situated at the crest of a hill on lowlands. Therefore it is not hard to spot the hill once you reach the area.

The carvings and the fortification ruins from close-up.

The hike was not very exhausting since we had been super hyped to do some rural exploring. Once we checked out the carvings, we proceeded towards the back part of the hill were we stumbled upon the unearthed bases of some old stone structures.

The bases of old stone structures I was mentioning above

It was really an unforgettable experience to explore an area like this which still awaits for a proper excavation. Let alone this hill, also the surrounding parts of the lowlands must be full of old Hittite ruins . Upon taking a look from the tip of the hill, one can easily spot some peculiar rock formations buried under the soil .

So if you reside in Ankara and if you want to explore a cool different place, then take a ride to Gavurkale to be marveled by mysterious ruins! If you are a history & archaeology enthusiast, I hope you enjoyed reading this post!



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11 Amazing Things To Do In Yerevan

11 Amazing Things To Do In Yerevan

My personal recommendations for you on 11 amazing things to do in the capital city of Armenia, Yerevan to make your time worthy! 


View of biblical Mount Ararat rising stupendously on the horizon.

The Cascade is a big and long stairway made of limestone in Yerevan, Armenia. It connects the downtown Yerevan with the Monument neighborhood. 

For me, Cascade was one of the most fun and alluring places in Yerevan to chill. The coolest thing is that one might see the enormous Mount Ararat clearly from Cascade (if you are lucky enough to not to get caught by never ending mist just like I did). Apart from the magnificent view of Ararat, there lies a beautiful park right before the stairs where you can see various and meticulously made contemporary art works. The park is surrounded with cafes and all of them have pretty tasty food!

I would personally recommend you to opt for The Green Bean, for they have the tastiest coffee in Yerevan. It is a minute walk away from Cascade. To make sure you reach the peak of joy at Cascade, grab yourself a cup of coffee and head towards the stairs. Sit where-ever you see fit and sip your drink while glancing at beautiful Yerevan and glorious Ararat! It kinda makes you feel above the clouds! 🙂

Cascade Stairs

A cup of coffee from The Green Bean and the alluring view of Yerevan.


Inside the museum. The exhibition is very well organized and apart from Armenian and Russian, there is information in English as well.

The Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex is Armenia’s official memorial dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, built in 1967 on the hill of Tsitsernakaberd in Yerevan. (Wikipedia)

If you want to learn about the historical view of Armenians and the series of events occurred in 1915, this museum would give you a pretty clear picture of the history from the perspective of Armenians. Excluding the politics, I shall say that I learned tons of different things during my visit to this museum.

The entrance is free. On Mondays, the museum is closed! Working hours: 11am-5pm! It costs 1000-1500 drams to get to the museum from the taxi stop right in front of the Cascade Park. This is not the taximeter price. Just tell the driver where you want to go and ask the price in advance. Incase there is traffic the driver might ask slightly more (maybe 500-1000 drams more). Do not pay more than 2000 drams. 

Upon visiting the museum, proceed towards the Genocide Monument. Moreover, do not forget to take a walk in the garden abutting the museum. Overall the complex is beautifully built and I am sure that you will enjoy your time there!

The Genocide Monument. It is surrounded with 12 stone blocks which represent the 12 states of Medieval Armenia.

The never-ending fire. It is devoted to the ones who died during the 1915 events.


The cathedral from far away. This photo is not from 1998, I took it with the HUJI photography app 🙂

The Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, a.k.a the Cathedral of Yerevan. It is currently the biggest cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the world.

This enormous religious complex is mind-blowing. For sure you wouldn’t want to miss seeing the biggest church in Armenia!

Do not forget to buy a bunch of candles and visit the small chapel at the right side of the museum. Also after visiting the museum, you can take a walk at the Circular Park which starts right near the cathedral. It takes around 20-25 minutes to reach the city center if you follow the park towards north. I highly recommend you to take this route back to the center for you might run into some authentic Armenian street settings! 🙂

The small chapel where you can light candles and say a bunch of prayers is at the right side of the cathedral.


Armenia is an affordable tourist destination and even if you are a budget traveler like me, for sure you will find the prices quite reasonable. So why not treat yourself with a traditional lavish dinner?!

Yerevan abounds in restaurants with amazing food and high quality service. In my opinion, one should definitely try out some fancy Armenian restaurants to make his/her trip unforgettable. I did not get the chance to try many fancy places but among the ones I have been to, I would strongly recommend Lavash Restaurant. It blew my mind!! The food, interior, service and overall atmosphere were beyond perfect.

Let’s say that you feel like treating yourself properly. Assuming that you order a starter, a few glasses of wine, main dish and desert, the approximate amount you would end up paying would be something like 6000-8000 drams which makes something around 12-16 Euros. Pretty amazing isn’t it?

NOTE: Depending on the day and season, the restaurant might get fully reserved quite fast. To avoid the hassle I suggest you to make a reservation. +374 10 608800

Armenian baklava and Armenian coffee.


The museum building standing on the northern side of the Republic Square.

It is regarded as Armenia’s National Museum and is located on Republic Square in Yerevan. The museum has a vast collection and exhibition starting from the early ages of humanity and stretches all the way to 20th century.

Armenia is indeed one of the oldest nations in the world with a mind-blowing history! Christianity was adopted by the Armenians first which surely is a very prominent achievement in history.

The entrance is 2000 drams.

If you are interested in knowing the Armenian history, you would spend minimum 2 hours, in the museum. However if you are not a history enthusiast, 45 min must be enough for you to get a general picture of Armenian history.

From the exhibition.


Green Elephant breakfast plate, Smoothie Bowl <3 and filter coffee. Perfect way to start your day!

MY FAVOURITE PLACE IN YEREVAN! Eat&Fit is a very cosy cafe where you can eat healhty and mouth watering tasty food.

I think this place is a must-do in Yerevan so make sure you add Eat&Fit to your list! 

Green Elephant (breakfast plate), Avocado Toast, Smoothie Bowl and Banana Pancakes were the dishes I tried and loved! They also have amazing coffee. During my 10 days trip, I have been there 4 times so Eat&Fit really makes you addicted to itself 🙂 

A proper lavish breakfast would cost around 4000 drams.

Avocado Toast and filter coffee <3


Christmas market on Northern Avenue. Taken by HUJI app 🙂

Northern Avenue is located in downtown Yerevan, just near the Freedom Square and it is the most lively pedestrian avenue of the city. The avenue is home to luxury residencial buildings, fancy shops and many other cafes, restaurants etc.

Northern Avenue is one of the main attractions of the city and it feels very classy to be frank. Surprisingly it is super clean and neat! If you happen to go to Yerevan onset of New Years, you will get the chance to see the beautiful Christmas Market on the avenue.

Just take a long walk on the street. Whenever you feel tired or feel like snacking upon I suggest you to stop by at Cinnabon and grab a cinnamon roll! Perhaps the one I ate was the tastiest cinnamon rolls I have ever had.

Big cinnamon roll is 1300 drams (around 2.5 euros), small one is 900 drams (less than 2 Euros).

Northern Avenue in summer.

Yummy cinnamon rolls! <3


The entrance of Zoravor Surp Astvatsatsin Church.

Armenian Orthodoxy carries one of the most unique characteristics in terms of customs, architecture of churches, ornaments and religious artisanship. It is possible to learn elaborately about Armenian Orthodoxy just by visiting the churches in Yerevan for they sum up all these unique features! 

Apart from The Saint George the Illuminator Cathedral, I will recommend 3 other churches to you: Holy Mother of God Kathoghike ChurchZoravor Surp Astvatsatsin Church and Saint Sargis Vicarial Church.

The walking route on Google Maps is below. It takes around 35 minutes to walk and 1.5 hours to visit these 3 alluring churches. Upon visiting these churches, you will get a clear picture of the way Armenian Orthodox churches look like. Moreover, the yards of these religious complexes abound with old stone carvings and ancient relics. Do not forget checking them out! 🙂

Click to access the walking route!

Ancient Khackars from Medieval Armenia. This stone carving artisanship is listed as Armenian Heritage by UNESCO.

Holy Mother of God Kathoghike Church at night.

You will run into beautiful ancient relics scattered on the ground like these ones.

Processions of people praying in the small underground chapel of Saint Sargis Vicarial Church. Get yourself a candle and join them!


Vernisagge is full of different stalls and beautiful artworks.

Vernissage is a very beautiful market place located inside the park with dozens of different stalls.

You can find various souvenirs, artworks and traditional works of Armenian wooden artisanship. I think Vernissage market is the best place to bring back some memories from Armenia to home. Overall, prices might be considered reasonable.

Even if you don’t want to buy anything. Just walk around and chat with some sellers. For sure they are the ones with interesting stories. Also surprisingly most of the sellers are quite fluent in English.

One of the stalls with wooden artisanship.


Stumbled upon to this picturesque Lada on one of the streets.

Kond is the oldest district in Yerevan. Narrow stony streets, roads, which are not paved, small houses and silence.

At first sight, Kond might seem shady and unsafe. I totally understand because I had the exact same impression. However no worries, it is perfectly safe and Kond awaits for you to explore its mysterious streets! You might even stumble upon some locals and have chat with them.

On Google Maps, if you follow the circular road, it would show you the area in detail and you would cover most of the notable spots of this medieval neighborhood. Depending on your speed, it takes around 30-40 minutes to complete the circular route.

One small advice I would give for you to stop by the St. Hovhannes Church which is literally 5 minutes away from Kond. This spot is not very popular among travelers, however I found it to be one of the most tranquil religious complexes in Yerevan. Like many other churches, its yard is full of ancient relics and alluring Armenian stone carvings.

Decided to take a selfie with the car 🙂

There are dozens of old homes made of stones in the area. 

You might as well see some weird looking structures like this one apart from the historical homes.


A snowy morning in Missak Manouchian Park.

One thing you should definitely do is to put your phone away and walk around the streets without checking any location providers. I really believe that there are many amazing hidden spots to explore in Yerevan and they are not on internet.

It might sound cliche but just get lost in the streets of Yerevan. I myself did that and discovered great places.

Also some people will approach and ask where are you from. Locals are always eager to start conversations with you which is pretty cool I think. For me one the most surprising things about Yerevan was young generation’s proficiency in English. Many of them are quite fluent and eager to get to know you 🙂

Here are some spots I discovered while getting lost in Yerevan :))

Old Soviet Blocks. Pretty dismal isn’t it?

Meanwhile you might discover cool and cosy cafes like Bakeryerevan. Strongly recommended!

Mesrop Mashtots Avenue in the evening. A perfect spot to take a walk!

A heroic monument erected in Circular Park.

A small corner of one of the chapels in Saint Sargis Vicarial Church.

Blue Mosque. Built by the Iranian congregation in Yerevan.



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Stanoz: Ankara’da Hayalet Ermeni Köyü

Stanoz: Tarihin Derinliklerinde Kaybolmuş Bir Ermeni Köyü

Stanoz… BİR zamanlar Ermenİlerİn yaşadığı bereketlİ bİr köy olan Stanoz, günümüzde bİrkaç kalıntıdan İbaret terkedİlmİş bİr yerleşİm yerİ… Ankara’nın merkezİnden 30 dakİkalık uzaklıkta hemen yanı başımızda bulunan bu saklı tarİh, her gün daha da yok oluyor.

Stanoz’un Kısa Tarihi

Eski kaynaklar, Stanoz köyü halkının Kilikya’dan 15. yüzyılda Ankara Sancağı’na geldiğini gösteriyor. Kaynaklar, Birinci Dünya Savaşı’ndan önce köyün nüfusunun 3142 (668 hane) olduğu ve nüfusun tamamına yakının Ermenilerden oluştuğu yazıyor. Stanoz köyü, terkedildiği tarihe kadar Armenofon (Ermenice konuşan) bir yerleşim yeri olmuş.

Köy halkı, halı dokuma, oymacılık, deri işlemeciliği ve Ankara keçisinden tiftik üretimindeki zanaatkarlıkarı ile bilinirmiş. Bu alanların yanında, tarım, büyükbaş hayvancılık ve inşaat da bu yerleşim yerinin ekonomisinde önemli yer tutmuş.

Malesef, Stanoz’dan iyi korunmuş bir kültürel miras olarak bahsetmek çok mümkün değil. Zamanın bu bereketli ve zengin Ermeni köyünden geriye kalanlar: eski bir Ermeni mezarlığı, taş bir köprü ve yok olmaya yüz tutmuş bir kilise temelinin kalıntıları. 

19. yüzyılda Stanoz

Köyü Keşfediyoruz

Ben de internette tesadüf eseri karşıma çıkan bu tarihi yere gidip, Stanoz’un kalıntılarını keşfetmeye karar verdim. Dünyaca ünlü seyyahların yüzyıllarca seyahat notlarında bahsettiği bu olağanüstü yerde bulunmak unutulmaz bir tecrübeydi. Kalıntıların arasında gezerken, bu kayda değer antik Ermeni köyünün ne derece ihmal edildiğini ve defineciler tarafından uğradığı akınlar sonrasında aldığı zararın geri dönülemez olduğunu görmek beni üzdü.

Malesef, birkaç mezar taşı dışında kalan pek bir şey yok

Zir Vadisi’ne girdikten birkaç kilometre sonra yolun sağ tarafında peri bacaları ve insanlar tarafından oyulmuş mağaralar görmek mümkün. Bu ilginç kaya oluşumlarını geçtikten bir dakika sonra eski Ermeni mezarlığı yolun solunda ziyaretçilerini bekliyor. Mezarlığın iki tarafında bulunan özel mülklerin, mezarlık arazisini yasadışı yollarla kendi mülklerine katmaları bu eski mezarlığın her geçen gün daha da küçülmesine sebep oluyor.

İlginç kaya yapılar ve mağaralar

Karanlık Mağalar, Taş Köprü ve Mezarklık

Taş köprü mezarlığın sol tarafında bulunuyor. Köprüyü geçtikten sonra, eski bir Ermeni kilisesinin kalıntılarını göreceksiniz. Ama beklentiniz fazla olmasın, çünkü kilisenin sadece temeli ayakta. Üzücü bir şekilde söylüyorum ama Stanoz’a verilen zarar geri dönülemez şekilde. Bu bölgenin turizm potansiyeli son derece yüksek olmasına rağmen, buradaki tarih neredeyse tamamen yok olmuş.

Ulaşılabilir durumda olan 2 mağaraya Ayesha ile tırmandık ama aşağıdaki resimlerde de görebileceğiniz gibi mağaraların çoğu erişilebilir durumda değil. Sonuç olarak kimse bu mağaraların, tepenin derinlerine uzanıp uzanmadığını ya da bir ağ aracılığı ile birbirlerine bağlanıp bağlanmadığını bilmiyor. Ainsworth, seyahat notlarında mağaların, tepenin derinliklerine kadar uzandığını ve karmaşık bir ağ ile birbirlerine bağlandıklarını yazmış.

Eski Seyahat Notlarında Stanoz

Stanoz hakkında en eski bilgiler, Evliya Çelebi ve İngiliz seyyah William Francis Ainsworth’ün seyahat notlarında bulunuyor. Stanoz hakkında, Çubuk Irmak’ı boyunca uzanan varlıklı – bereketli bir köy olarak bahsediliyor. Ayrıca, İngiliz Yarbay Frederick Burnaby’nin seyahat notlarında, Stanoz’da bir Ermeni bir rahibin kendisine, köyde Hristiyanların, Müslümanların ve Yahudilerin huzur içinde yaşadığını söylediği aktarılır. Bu huzur ve barış ortamının, köyün gelişmesinde önemli payı olduğunun düşünüyorum.

Evliya Çelebi – belki de en tanınmış Osmanlı seyyah

Meşhur seyyah Evliya Çelebi, bu eski Ermeni köyü hakkındaki notlarını, bu köye 1643 yılında yaptığı ziyaretten sonra kaleme almış. Çelebi’nin kaleme aldığı satırlar şöyle: “Üretimi bol, refahı yüksek olan bu köyün 1000 hanesi, büyük bir pazarı, ırmağın kıyılarında meyve bahçeleri, Türk hamamı ve büyük bir çamaşırhanesi var”.

Stanoz’un Ermeni sakinleri, Surp Pırgiç , Karasun Manug ve Protestan Kilisesi olmak üzere 3 ibadethanede dini törenlerini yürütürlerdi. Surp Ğevontyan Okulunda 140 erkek 40 kız öğrenci; Kalecik Lusignan Okulunda ise 50 erkek ve 35 kız öğrenci vardı.

Stanoz’u 1830 yılında ziyaret eden Ainsworth, bölgede insan yapımı mağaralar ve peri bacaları gördüğünü aktarmış notlarında. Ayrıca İngiliz seyyah da bu köyün halkının çevre köylerden çok daha zengin olduğunu anekdotlarında paylaşmış.

Stanoz Ermenilerine Ne Oldu?

Birinci Dünya Savaşı sırasında yaşanan karmaşa ve vahşet ortamı sonucu, köyün bütün sakinleri Stanoz’u terk etti. Savaş, yağma ve eşkiyalar köyün büyük bir kısmını yok etti. 1915 öncesi, Ankara Sancağı’nın bereketli ve varlıklı bir köyü olan Stanoz, Birinci Dünya Savaşı’nı takip eden yıllarda hayalet bir kasabaya döndü ve Stanoz’un bütün anıları kendisi ile beraber tarihin tozlu sayfalarında kayboldu. Eski Ermeni mezarlığı, günümüze kadar kalan en önemli yapı, ama bunun yanında antik bir taş köprü ve bir Ermeni kilisesinin kalıntılarını da bölgede görmek mümkün.

Geride Sadece 3 Ermeni Kaldı

Stanoz’un binlerce sakininden geriye 3 Ermeni vatandaş kaldı. İnternette, behzatmiser.blogspot.com sitesinde rast geldiğim bilgilere göre Kevork Balabian, bölgede ikamet etmeye devam eden 3 Ermeni vatandaşımızdan biri. Kevork Bey’in sözleri şöyle:

“Stanoz 1200 hanesi olan 7-8 bin nüfuslu bir yerdi. Osmanlı’nın değer verdiği, el üstünde tuttuğu köylerinden biri idi. O zamanlar köydeki nüfusun büyük bir bölümü Beyrut, Marsilya ve İstanbul gibi modern şehirlere göç etti. Burada sadece ben, Hatay’dan gelen eşim ve kızım kaldık. Hala orayı sık sık ziyaret ederim çünkü orada tarlamız ve atalarımızın mezarları var. Mezarların bakımını da yaparım. Bazen buraya altın ya da gömü bulma umudu ile defineciler uğrar, ama benden korktukları için çok dolanmazlar.

Bölgenin Eski Sakinleri Diyor Ki…

“Hepimiz Ermenilerle büyüdük, aynı okullara gittik… O zamanlar aç olan, Ermenilerin evlerinin kapısını çalıp onlarla yemek yiyebilirdi. Onlar için de aynısı geçerliydi. Çoğu şeyi beraber yaptık. Mihran Kiremitçi isminde Ermeni bir doktor vardı. Burada doğan her çocuğun üstünde emeği vardır. Kimin çocuğu, kimin nesi demeden herkesi tedavi ederdi. Bir kere para istediğini görmedik. Düğünlerde, cenazelerde ve bayramlarda hep beraberdik. Onlar yumurta boyardı, biz de yardım ederdik. Sonra zamanı gelince de beraber kurban keserdik. Özlüyoruz onları…”

Aravod Gazetesi 28 Nisan 1919 Sayısı, M. Suryan’ın Makalesinden Alıntı:

Birinci Dünya Savaşı sırasında sürülen Ermenilerin bazılarının evleri yağmalandı. Çok sayıda Arnavut ve Boşnak, bölgeye Osmanlı memurları tarafından yerleştirildi. Köyün yeni sakinleri, yakacak odun ihtiyaçlarını ormandan temin etmek yerine eski evlerin parçalarını söktüler ve köydeki ağaçları kestiler. Bu iskan politikası, Stanoz’un yok oluşunu daha da hızlandı ve kısa sürede harabeye dönen köy kaderine terkedildi. Stanoz’a bir saat uzaklıkta bulunan 20 haneli Gradz Kar köyü de aynı kaderle yüzleşti.

Çay yanında çamaşırlarını yıkayan Ermeni kadınları, 1929
 Maynerd Owen Williams, National Geographic Arşivi

Stanoz’dan Günümüze Ne Kaldı?

Hazine avcıları, devletin ihmali ve kalıntılara zarar veren bölge sakinleri

Üstünde Ermenice yazılar olan birkaç eski mezar taşı, antik taş köprü ve kilise kalıntıları dışında hiçbir şey…

Ankara merkezden 30 dakika uzaklıkta bulunan bu tarihi yer, köyü her gün daha da yokeden definecilerin uğrak noktası haline gelmiş durumda. Birkaç sene önce mezarlığın etrafına koruma amaçlı çekilmiş dikenli tellerden hiçbir iz yok. İhmaller sonucunda, isteyen herkes, bu kutsal yere elini kolunu sallayarak girebilir.

Stanoz, bilinen bir nokta değil ve malesef Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devleti bu önemli kültürel mirası korumak için hiçbir girişimde bulunmuyor. Bu sebeple Stanoz, tehditlere açık bir şekilde duruyor. Önceden, Stanoz’un tarihini aydınlatabilecek yüksek sayıda antik eser burada bulunmuş olsa bile, yasadışı faaliyetler sonucu bu bölgenin tarihinin çoğu detayını asla öğrenemeyeceğiz. 

Özellikle mezarlık korkunç bir durumda. Defineciler tarafından kazılan mezarların etrafına saçılan insan kemikleri, bu köyün anısına yapılan saygısızlığın en büyük kanıtı.

Bu bölgede bulunan, paha biçilemez değerdeki mezar taşlarının şimdiki durumu içler acısı. Bazılarının üstünde hala haç oymaları ve Ermenice yazılar var. Zir Vadisi’nin taş ocakları ile çevrili olduğunu düşünürsek, bu tarihi mezarlığın yakında yok olacağını düşünmek ihtimaller dahilinde.

İnsan Kemikleri Etrafa Saçılmış

Benim için en şok edici şey, defineciler tarafından kazılan mezarların etrafına saçılan insan kemiklerini görmek oldu. Altın ya da başka değerli eşyalar bulma amacı ile mezar kazmak kesinlikle aşağılık bir girişim. Ne olursa olsun orada yatanlar bizim ölümüzdür, Stanoz’un anıları bizim anımızdır.

Biz Türkler, Ermeniler ile yüzyıllar boyunca barış içinde yaşamış olan iki milletiz. Bu sebeple bu eski mezarlığın, Türk mezarlıklarına verilen önem ile aynı derecede bakılmış olması gerektiğini düşünüyorum. Etnik ve dini yapı gözününe alınmaksızın bu mezarlık ve Stanoz’un anılar, kutsal değerlere yaraşır bir şekilde korunmalıydı.


Tarih meraklıları ve macera severler için Stanoz gerçekten çok ilginç ve gizemli bir nokta. Ankara’nın çevresinde bulunan tarihi yerlerden çok daha farklı bir kültürel miras. Arabanız yoksa Stanoz’a ulaşım neredeyse imkansız. Bölge, Ankara’dan uzak bir noktada bulunduğu için toplu taşıma bulunmamakta.

Bu denli değerli bir yerleşim yerinin neredeyse tamamen yok olmaya yakın olması son derece üzücü. Kültürel miras, bir ülkenin kimliğidir ve en büyük tedbirle korunması gerekir Hemen solda bulunan fotoğrafta görüldüğü gibi Stanoz’dan geriye hiçbir şey kalmamış. Devlet, buraya gereken ilgiyi göstermez ise, geriye kalan mezarlık, köprü ve kilise kalıntıları da birkaç sene içinde tarihin derinliklerinde kaybolacak. Stanoz’u ilk ziyaretimden 5 a sonra, bu tarihi yere bir daha gitmeye karar verdiğimde eski mezar taşlarından bazılarının yerinde omadığını gördüm. Stanoz Ermenileri bizim dostlarımız idi. Bu yerleşim yerinin anısının daha saygın bir şekilde korunması gerekirdi. Kim bilir Stanoz’un bizlere anlatacak ne hikayeleri, ne anıları vardı… Ama malesef bu kaybolan tarihi asla öğrenemeyeceğiz.

Stanoz Nerede Bulunuyor?

Stanoz, Sincan ilçesinde bağlı olan Yenikent-Zir Vadisinde bulunuyor. Bu eski Ermeni köyünün kalıntıları Sincan-Temelli yolu üzerinde.

Mezarlığın koordinatları: 39.973385, 32.507227

Bölgenin haritasını görmek için resime tıklayın!

William Francis Ainsworth’un dijital hale getirilmiş seyahat notlarını okumak isterseniz, okuyucum sevgili Michelle Lynch’in benimle paylaştığı linke tıklayabilirsiniz!

Travels and Researches in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Chaldea, and Armenia



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Ruderi di Galeria Antica: An Abandoned Town in Rome


If you want to discover somewhere new and spooky in Rome, then this post is just for you! I really think that you are about to get to know one of the coolest places in Rome! Ruderi di Galeria Antica: an abandoned ancient Etruscan city in the woods of suburban Rome.

The main entrance of the town

– Ruderi Di Galeria Antica –

Be ready to meet Ruderi di Galeria Antica: ruins of an ancient town built by the Etruscans hidden inside a forest near River Arrone in Rome Metropolitan Area! Having been deserted for decades, the ruins of this ancient town have been reclaimed by nature!

Surprisingly NO ONE KNOWS that there is a huge ancient Etruscan town inside a forest which is located only 40 minutes away from Rome by car! So this intriguing place drew my attention quite a lot and I decided to go all the way there and check it out myself! I had an experience beyond my expectations. This marvelous place blew my mind!

– Where Is Ruderi di Galeria Antica? –

Many abandoned farms on the way…

Click to see it on Google Maps

It is accessible by public transportation. From central Rome it takes 1.5 hours

Once you reach the small Italian town of Osteria Nuova, walk down towards Santa Maria di Galeria. Upon passing it, take the first right you will be seeing after a couple of hundred meters. Then walk through the road that takes you to the abandoned farm. When you see the gate, take the dirt road on the right side of the road. As you follow the path, you will be seeing the ancient walls of the city on your left.

In case you cant find the way, here is the way to go to Ruderi di Galeria Antica from downtown Rome on Google Maps!

Ancient city walls start appearing after you diverge from the main road

– Brief History Of The Town –

Ruderi di Galeria Antica was founded in 5-4th century BC, by the Etruscans. The town reached its peak in Roman times. During the Germanic invasions of the 3rd century AD it was abandoned and repopulated in the Middle Ages. In the 9th century it was invaded and destroyed by Saracens. However in the 13th century the town was rebuilt by the famous Orsini family. In short, Ruderi di Galeria Antica was a settlement with a history full of upheaval and catastrophes.

During the mid-eighteenth century its inhabitants began to die mysteriously. Today it is assumed that the cause of these deaths was malaria, but at the time the unexplained deaths suddenly hit the city and the chaos resulted in uncontrollable disorder. 

What is striking is that the abandonment of the city did not occur gradually but took the form of a precipitous and chaotic escape at the beginning of 1800s. In the following years this town earned the label of ” Pompeii di Roma . By 1809 Galeria had been completely deserted. Just imagine how the town must have had looked after the abandonment. Pretty spooky isn’t it?!

The city is inside the woods and has many demolished ancient structures like this

– About The Town –

Ruderi di Galeria Antica is located on a cliff inside a forest 35-40 min away by walk from the small town named Osteria Nuova. THERE IS NO SECURITY SO ENTRANCE IS COMPLETELY FREE! THE TOWN IS HIDDEN INSIDE WOODS AND THE AREA IS UTTERLY ISOLATED FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD!

For me the most surprising thing was to see that many of the structures are still intact despite the fact that most of them were built more than 1000 years ago and witnessed countless wars. Two of the most important structures being the main entrance of the town and clock tower, most of the town is actually still well-preserved.

The town was actually bigger than I anticipated. Since the nature has reclaimed the area, many of the ruins and entrances of the underground caves are covered either by thick vegetation or bushes. I would say without a doubt this place is one of the most mysterious and mind blowing ancient sites I have ever been to!

This advanced Etruscan town had a complex network of aqueducts, through which water was once distributed

A narrow street between two buildings what was surely once a bustling road

– Exploring The Town –

The Main Gate and Intact Buildings

Right after you start noticing the city walls on your left upon passing the abandoned farm, you will be seeing a cobblestone path going upwards. Follow it to reach the glorious main gate of the city. The road and a surviving arch is covered with ivy and vegetation offer a picturesque scene! As you walk up, the mysterious atmosphere of the town starts embracing you!

The old cobblestone way leads you to the remains of this beautiful town

The main entrance of the ancient town

The building erected on the right side of the main entrance has a pretty weird and frankly spooky setting! There are random clothes scattered on the ground and burnt candles on the walls. Apart from that there are some gratifies on the walls but they are not very legible. Seems like it is regularly used by a group of people. Quite odd!

This is the view you see after passing the main gate of the town

The dilapidated multi stored structure is huge and it abuts the cliff. Blew my mind and gave me the creeps at the same time!


Frankly it was a bit creepy to see these burnt candles on the walls. Since I was exploring the area alone, seeing these made me feel a bit paranoid

There is a sharp stone erected in the middle of this mysterious structure

After entering the town through the main gate. If you keep to the right, you might see many small stone houses. Probably this place was the residential area of the town. This part mostly has deep holes covered by vegetation so the ground is not very strong.  Especially right behind the clock tower has a very weak foundation. Take your steps carefully.

Can you imagine how amazing it feels to wander around the ancient ruins claimed back by nature and there is utter silence!

The Clock Tower

It is not very possible for one to not spot the clock tower but just in case I am telling you to check it out! It is the most specific sight of the town! When you are roaming around the town, it really starts feeling spooky after sometime. Combination of utter silence, dilapidated ruins and hustling leaves blend in such a mysterious atmosphere!

Clock Tower, the most well-preserved structure of the town

Arcs and many walls are still intact

Dark Caves

On the borders of the town there are these man made caves carved inside the cliff. If you look carefully you can discern the crosses at the entrance. I took a glance inside and there were weird grafities on the wall. Unfortunately I didn’t have the guts to go all the way in 🙂

Here is one of the entrances to the advanced cave network that goes deep in the ground

It is said that some weird sort of things happened here in 1990’s. Lack of sources make these words only a bunch of urban legends however a photo taken during the police investigation that took place here arouses many questions in people’s heads. Here is that photo.

Pretty spooky and unaccountable isn’t it?

As I saw the caves are connected to each other through narrow tunnels that I could not dare going in. If you do not go alone then it would be safer to see around of course. Covering all spots of the town takes around 1.5-2 hours depending on your speed. I recommend you to come in the morning for the sun illuminates the area properly and it becomes more fun to see around!


  • Beware of the vegetation that covers the deep holes in the ground! There are many deep holes covered by fallen leaves, bushes etc. Therefore, moment you step on them, it wouldn’t be good I guess 🙂 
  • There fauna of the area accommodates many different types of animals including wild pigs. I myself saw a batch pigs from far away and for sure you would not want to have any sort of encounter with them. I do not mean to scare you, of course the area does not abound with them but just be careful!
  • Get hiking shoes! The slope towards the town is cobblestone so it is pretty easy for you to twist an ankle. Apart from that the town is also not suitable to be covered with any casual shoes!
  • On the borders of the town you might see bunch of man made caves carved inside the cliff. These caves go pretty deep inside the cliff and they might be inhabited by pigs or mountain cats and I do not recommend you to go all the way inside if you wander alone like I did!
  • The town is not guarded by any security or not patrolled by anyone so you go at your own risk! Just enjoy this marvelous place, however also be cautious at the same time!
  • Of course get water and some snacks before you come! It is not a very hiker friendly landscape you might get tired. As a result, you should boost your energy to not to get tired early!

Thick vegetation covering the ruins



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Stanoz: Remnants of an Old Armenian Village in Ankara

Stanoz: Remnants of an Old Armenian Village in Ankara

Stanoz – once a prosperous Armenian village in the Ottoman era, now, nothing but ruins and tombstones. This marvelous cultural heritage is located in the suburbs of Ankara and it vanishes day by day.

Brief History of Stanoz

Old Armenian manuscripts reveal that the first inhabitants of the village of Stanoz came from Cilicia in the 15th century. As records show, the population of Stanoz before World War I was 3142 people (668 families) and consisted of Armenians only. Up until its abandonment, Stanoz remained an Armenian-speaking settlement.

Residents of this village were known for their special artisanship in carpet making, embroidery and leather processing. Moreover, they produced fabric from Ankara Goat hair, which was a highly demanded product in Europe. In addition, they were also adept at agriculture, cattle-herding and construction.

Unfortunately, today we cannot consider Stanoz a well-preserved heritage site. Due to many factors, a graveyard, a stone bridge and ruins of an Armenian Church are the only things that are left of this historically important village.

Stanoz back in the 19th century

Exploring The Village

Since this notable place is a 30-minute drive from where I live, I decided to go there myself to check out the area properly. It was a marvelous experience to explore and wander around the ruins of this settlement which are mentioned in the journals of many travelers across the centuries. On the other hand, the level of neglect and the damage that treasure hunters have done disappointed me quite a lot. It is saddening to say that the damage is irreversible. Whatever is left of Stanoz will soon vanish.

A few tombstones and some rocks are what is left of the graveyard

Upon entering the Yenikent (Zir) Valley where Stanoz is located, fascinating fairy chimneys, man made caves and peculiar rock formations start appearing. After that, on the left side of the road you see the old tombstones. The graveyard is actually quite big. However, due to illegal infringement of the graveyard by the neighboring private properties, each day the size of this area is getting smaller.

Rock formations and caves

Dark Caves, Stone Bridge and Graveyard

The stone bridge is on the left side of the graveyard. After crossing the bridge you will see the ruins of the old Armenian church. Don’t have high expectations because they are in such abject condition. However, the graveyard still has some notable remains. Unfortunately, it is too late to recover Stanoz and turn this area into a tourist attraction.

I also went up to explore the caves. Due to the fragility and steepness of the ground, I was not able to check out many caves, neither were the travelers who visited here many years ago. Most of the caves are not accessible anyway and, unfortunately, local youngsters vandalized the caves with graffiti. No one really knows if they go deeper inside the hill or are connected to each other as a vast network. Ainsworth believed that the caves are connected to each other through complicated tunnels. Therefore, the caves still remain a mystery!

Stanoz In Ancient Journals

The earliest information about Stanoz appears in journals written by two prominent travelers – Evliya Çelebi and British explorer, William Francis Ainsworth, who has visited many places in Anatolia. Both of these travelers mention Stanoz as an opulent settlement that stretched across the Çubuk River. According to British military officer, Frederick Burnaby’s travel journals, during his visit to Stanoz, one of the Armenian priests told him that Armenians of Stanoz live in peace with people who practice other religions such as Islam and Judaism. I believe, as a result of peace and harmony, Stanoz ended up being a wealthy settlement.

Evliya Çelebi – perhaps the most prominent Ottoman traveler

The well-known Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi shares remarkable anecdotes in his journal about this village after his visit in 1643. He speaks of Stanoz as a wealthy town with impressive productivity. Furthermore, he shares that Stanoz had a thousand dwellings, a big bazaar, a fully functioning Turkish bath and even a laundromat.

The residents of Stanoz had 3 religious complexes: Surp Pırgiç Church, Karasun Manug Church and a separate Protestant church. 140 male and 40 female students were studying at Surp Ğevontyan School, and 50 male and 35 female students were studying at Lusignan School in Kalecik.

Ainsworth, who visited the region in 1830, reports seeing fairy chimneys and man-made caves. Apart from the geographical features, Ainsworth also concludes that Stanoz is a very prosperous settlement in comparison with the surrounding villages. Moreover, he states that there might be ancient settlements in the valley buried under the soil.

What happened to the Armenians of Stanoz?

Due to the devastating upheaval World War I and Ottoman government policies caused, many Armenians permanently left the village in 1915. War, plunder and bandits destroyed most of the village and a big part of this heritage. Before 1915, this village was one of the most prosperous settlements of Ankara Sanjack (Province of Ankara in Ottoman Turkish). Nonetheless, it became a ghost town in subsequent years and most of its remnants gradually vanished in the dusty pages of history. The biggest portion of what has remained is a pillaged graveyard, apart from that there is a dilapidated stone bridge and ruins of an Armenian Orthodox Church.

Only 3 Armenians are left

Only 3 Armenians remain from the thousands of residents of Stanoz. According to information I found on behzatmiser.blogspot.com, Kevork Balabian is one of these 3 Armenian inhabitants of the region and was born in Stanoz. He says:

“Stanoz had 1200 households and a population of 7-8 thousand. Ottomans valued Stanoz a lot. At the time, the Armenian population of Stanoz migrated to modern cities such as Istanbul, Marseille and Beirut. Only my wife and I, who came from Hatay, and our daughter live in the region. I go there often as I have a farm and a vineyard. Some treasure hunters come there in hopes of pillaging and finding some valuable artifacts but they are afraid of me so they mostly leave. We have graves there and I still look after them”

Old Turkish locals say..

“We all grew up with Armenians, went to the same schools. Back then if you were hungry, you could easily knock an Armenian’s door and ask for food and it was same for them. We did many things together. There was an Armenian doctor whose name was Mihran Kiremitçi. Every single child who was born in this region owes him so much as he cared for everyone and cured everyone’s child regardless of ethnicity and social class. We never saw him asking for money from anyone. And again, weddings, funerals, everything else, we did together with the Armenians. We even celebrated religious holidays together. They used to paint eggs and we used to sacrifice animals. We miss them.”

As M. Suryan reports in the Aravod newspaper published on April 28th, 1919

Some of the houses of Armenian residents who were exiled during World War I were looted and robbed. A considerable part of Albanians and Bosnians resettled in these abandoned homes. The new residents demolished many of the structures and provided firewood by removing wooden pillars, floor-ceiling boards of many homes. Moreover, instead of acquiring wood from the forest, they cut the fruit trees in the gardens to warm up. The aftermath was appalling as this notable village became dilapidated ruins. Gradz Kar, a small Armenian village, which consisted of twenty houses, located an hour away from Stanoz, also suffered the same fate.

Armenian women washing clothes near Zir River, 1929
 Maynerd Owen Williams, National Geographic Archive

What is left of Stanoz today?

Treasure hunters, reckless locals and neglect of the government

A bunch of tombstones with some carvings and Armenian texts on them, but nothing more… 

Having been located in a remote valley 30 minutes from downtown Ankara, Stanoz is a popular destination for treasure hunters who destroy what is left of this village each day. The graveyard was once surrounded with barbed wires put by the government, however today almost nothing is left of these and anyone can easily enter this sacred place.

Stanoz is not a popular place among locals and, unfortunately, the government takes poor measures to protect the cultural heritage here. As a result, this historical spot is open to all kinds of threats. Even if there were more notable artifacts that might have illuminated the history of Stanoz, due to illegal excavations they are probably long gone.

The graveyard is particularly in such an abject condition that human bones are scattered around the graves that are pillaged by the treasure hunters and many of the tombstones are damaged.

The tombstones are priceless. Each of them represent historical importance, however, their current state is heartbreaking. Even now after devastating centuries, there are still many artifacts and historical objects laying around.

Human Bones Are Scattered Around

For me the most appalling thing was to see some human bones scattered around the graves. In hopes of finding gold or other valuable goods, treasure hunters dig the graves illegally and throw around the bones of the Armenians who are resting there eternally. Undeniably, this is an extreme case of disrespect.

We Turks lived with Armenians in peace for centuries and I believe this place should carry the same importance as other Turkish cemeteries. Regardless of ethnicity and religion, the Turkish state should have taken measures to protect the memory of this village. Unfortunately, the future of Stanoz seems bleak.


In conclusion, Stanoz is an interesting spot to visit for history enthusiasts or whoever is into exploring different places. It is quite different than all of the historical heritage sites in Ankara. If you don’t have a car, it is almost impossible to get there because of the lack of public transportation. So, it would be more convenient to go there by car.

It is quite sad to see that this old and notable settlement completely vanished. This picture is solid proof of that.  After 5 months of my first visit, I decided to go there again and I was shocked to see that many of the tombstones are missing. The Armenians of Stanoz were our kin. Who knows what stories and secrets this settlement has to tell us. Unfortunately we will never learn them.

Where is Stanoz located?

Stanoz, is located in Yenikent-Zir Valley which is a part of Sincan municipality.

Coordinates of the graveyard and the ruins of the Armenian village: 39.973385, 32.507227

Click the pic to to see the map of the region!

If you like to read more of William Francis Ainsworth’s digitalized travel notes on Anatolia, Armenia and Mesopotamia, you can check out the link below that has been shared with me by a reader of mine, dear Michelle Lynch!

Travels and Researches in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Chaldea, and Armenia



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