A Short Guide On Khor Virap Monastery, Armenia


Khor Virap: An Ancient Armenian Monastery Near Turkish Border


AS A TURKISH TRAVELLER, I VISITED PERHAPS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT ARMENIAN ORTHODOX MONASTERY IN ARMENIA. HAVING BEEN LOCATED 45 KM’S AWAY FROM YEREVAN AND A COUPLE OF HUNDRED METERS FROM THE TURKISH BORDER, KHOR VIRAP WAS ONE OF THE MOST BREATH-TAKING SITES I HAVE EVER BEEN TO!

-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.


IF YOU ENJOYED READING THIS POST, THEN YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT MY POST “11 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN YEREVAN”


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Tazi Canyon: Hidden Wonder of Antalya


Hidden Gem of Antalya: Tazi Canyon


Antalya is one of the most bustling tourism hotspots in Turkey. It is a busy seaside town with countless ancient Greek & Roman cities, paradisiacal beaches, picturesque mountains and world class resorts. Many know about the main spots of this flourishing city but nobody really knows about the hidden gems of the region. In this post you will be introduced one of the most picturesque and marvelous spots of Turkey: TAZI CANYON!

Can you believe such place has existed and nobody but a couple of locals knew about this place until last year?

About Tazı Canyon

Tazı Canyon is a breath-taking natural wonder that is located within the borders of Köprülü Canyon Natural Park. It stands only 10 kilometres away from the rafting center of Köprülü Canyon Natural Park. The canyon has recently become popular after the smartphone company Huawei promoted it in a commercial. Some locals told us that this canyon hosted very little amount of tourists before the Huawei commercial, most of them being foreigners. However now, with its 300-meter-long walls, Tazı Canyon hosts hundreds of visitors each day.


Walls of the Canyon reach up to 400 meters! Let alone Antalya, one of the most steep ones in Turkey!

Getting There

Road from Köprülü Canyon Rafting area is pretty fine. However after the first bifurcation, road leading to Gaziler village is asphalted but pretty narrow. Upon reaching Gaziler Village which is a kilometer away from Tazı Canyon, you are adviced to park your car at the parking lot unless you have an off-road vehicle. Parking is free of charge but locals might ask a small amount like 5 liras which is less than a Euro. From that point, you can either go the rest of the road by foot or rent a quad bike for 50 liras (less than 10£ for round trip). Ayesha and I went the rest by off-road quad bike which was super fun.


Ayesha and I riding quad bike in the forest

Exploring Tazi Canyon

Flora and fauna are pretty rich in this heavenly area. Bear, bobcat, caracal, wild boar, deer, fox, wolf, badger, rabbit, lynx, snake, rock eagle and vulture are some of the predators and animals living in this area. During our visit, Ayesha and I saw a couple of eagles and a huge vulture near the cliff. The forest on the sides of Canyon is so dense and flourishing that it offers such a picturesque view. I have been to countless places in Turkey, however I haven’t witnessed such a natural wonder!

Many visitors only come to Köprülü Canyon Natural Park for rafting and to chill alongside the stream, unfortunately nobody really visits Tazı Canyon. I strongly recommended you to stop by this marvelous wonder upon visiting this area! Within a year, Tazı Canyon has become one of the top attractions of Antalya.


There is a small stream flowing through Tazı Canyon

-! Warnings !-

Since Tazı Canyon has recently become a popular spot for visitors, there are no signboards or warnings about the perils you might face. The most instagrammy spots are the big boulders bordering the 300-meter steep cliff so you are advised to be really careful. Moreover, the big boulders people step on for more likes on Instagram are quite slippery due to small weeds growing on them, so please be cautious!

An additional advise would be about the road after Gaziler village, if you come here by an automobile leave your car when the asphalt ends and walk 15-20 minutes to the Canyon for the rest of the dirt road would be so challenging for your car.

Where exactly Tazi Canyon is located?

Click To Watch The Huawei Commercial With Tazi Canyon In It



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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

GAVURKALE

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!


IF YOU ENJOYED READING THIS POST, THEN YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT MY POST “STANOZ: REMNANTS OF AN OLD ARMENIAN VILLAGE IN ANKARA!”


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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! 

1-GET A CUP OF COFFEE AND CHILL AT CASCADE STAIRS

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.



2-VISIT TSITSERNAKABERD ARMENIAN GENOCIDE MUSEUM 

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.



3-VISIT THE SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR CATHEDRAL 

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.



4-HAVE A LAVISH DINNER AT A WELL-RATED ARMENIAN RESTAURANT

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.



5-VISIT THE HISTORY MUSEUM OF ARMENIA

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.



6-HAVE A YUMMY BREAKFAST AT EAT & FIT CAFE

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



7-TAKE A WALK ON THE NORTHERN AVENUE AND STOP BY FOR A CINNAMON ROLL

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



8-SPARE HALF A DAY TO SEE THE MAIN CHURCHES IN YEREVAN

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!



9-VISIT VERNISAGGE MARKET

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.



10-EXPLORE THE OLDEST DISTRICT OF YEREVAN: KOND

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.



11-PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY AND GET LOST IN THE STREETS OF YEREVAN

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.


CHECK OUT MORE OF THE CITY GUIDES AND TOP THINGS TO DO IN VARIOUS CITIES ON TRAVEL TIPS PAGE!


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Get Away From Rome! Day Trip to Ostia!


DAY TRIP TO THE SEASIDE TOWN OF OSTIA, ITALY


ENJOY THIS guide TO the small seaside town of Ostia, located 30 minutes from Rome! Easily accessible by train, Ostia consists of two parts, one being the ruins of the ancient Roman city Ostia Antica and the second one being the modern seaside town of Ostia Lido.

The small town of Ostia consists of a wide palette of colors

Summary Of The Day Trip

Ancient City of Ostia Antica & the Modern Seaside Town of Ostia

5-6 hours, including train rides

Adult tickets to ancient city: €8 Train rides: €4.5 Personal spendings €5-10 TOTAL: €17.5-22.5!

STOP 1: THE ANCIENT CITY OF “OSTIA ANTICA”

Ostia Antica is one of the most attractive albeit under-appreciated ancient sites in Italy. It was founded in the 4th century as a military base. However due to its advantageous strategical location, in subsequent years this beautiful town grew quickly and became an important port city for trade. At its peak, it is presumed that the city had 50,000 inhabitants. It is assumed that the name of the town is derived from the word “ostium” which means mouth in Latin. According to some historians, the city was named that way because it is built at the spot where Tiber River meets the Mediterranean Sea.  

This huge ancient city, once an important port city during the Roman Era, accommodated 50,000 inhabitants

Many ancient slabs were discovered with carvings and texts on them

This ancient city is HUGE! When I got there I thought I would cover all the spots in an hour but it actually took me 3 hours to see the ruins! If you are a history enthusiast like I am then you might even spend more time but, in normal circumstances, 2 hours should be enough for an elaborate visit.

Old, beautiful, intact cobblestone roads take you around the city

I stumbled upon many unearthed intact statues in the city. Many of them are carved very meticulously. Blew my mind!

The Main Sights At Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica is a very impressive archeological site! However, surprisingly, the tourism organization is disappointing. Due to the lack of sign boards, I will write down the major spots of this ancient town that you should not skip! Google Maps links are attached!

The big ancient theater at the center of the city

STOP 2: THE SEASIDE TOWN OF OSTIA

Upon visiting Ostia Antica, what you should do is to freshen up at the seaside town of Ostia. As mentioned above, it is only a 10 minute train ride from the Ostia Antica Station. There are two stations in the town, however, the convenient one is Lido Central. Do not get off at Lido Nord! Once you get off at Lido Central, it is easier to access the beach.

The marvelous coastal line of Ostia is full of beautiful homes!

First thing I would recommend is for you to give a short visit to St. Maria Regina Church. The size of this church surprised me quite a lot for I was not anticipating to stumble upon such a big religious complex in a small town like Ostia. Italians are staunch Christians! If you are planning to chill at the beach (and you should definitely do that) you can get some snacks and beverages from Carrefour which is on the right side of the exit of the train station. They have the most varieties and most reasonable prices.  Then, just go and have a picnic alongside the sea.

St. Maria Regina Church

The coast of Ostia

It was an unforgettable walk along the coast! Don’t forget to grab some coffee along the way!

The beach area is quite lively and you will love it! Piazza dei Ravennati is at the center of the beach and the view is very picturesque from that point. Go all the way to the tip of the coast Pontile di Ostia! Watching the sunset from this pier can not be described in words! You have to experience it!

The most convenient entrance to the beach is on the sides of Piazza dei Ravennati. Also, I think that the sand is better and the area is cleaner there. The sound of the waves, seagulls and wind really gives so much peace.

Here is that alluring building I was mentioning. Perfect place for Instagram! 🙂

After chilling at the beach, you can take a walk on Via Dei Masenati. This is my favorite street in Ostia where you can find many small cafes, gelato shops and authentic Italian seafood restaurants. Even if you are not stopping by anywhere here, just take a short walk along the street and witness the relaxing atmosphere. If you get hungry, I suggest you to stop by Toastamore Lido di Ostia which is a small sandwich shop. Sandwiches and toasted breads are their specialities and the prices are pretty reasonable in comparison with the alternatives around.

Scenes from Via Dei Masenati

People walking their dogs, Italian families enjoying their time…

The menu at the sandwich shop, Toastamore

And of course, coffee! You should not leave here without having a cup of delicious Italian coffee! I would recommend the café Osteria Toscanelli for that. Right near the beach they have a very cozy outdoors area. For me it was pretty fun to sit outdoors and slowly sip my coffee while feeling the cool spring breeze.

Feels like heaven to sip your coffee while feeling the cool breeze! 🙂

HOW TO GET AROUND?

The commuter line you have to take is Rome Lido which is shown with grey line on the Rome Metro Map below. In order to get in the Rome Lido commuter you have to go to one of 3 stations on the Blue Metro Line: Piramide, Basilica St. Paolo or EUR Magliana. Once you reach one of these stations, just follow the signs and they will take you to the Rome Lido commuter. Transferring between the Blue Metro Line and Rome Lido is free! Depending on the station you transfer from, it takes around 30-40 min to get to the Ostia Antica Station. Once you reach the Ostia Antica Station, just follow the signs and they will take you to the entrance of the ancient city!

Train and subway network of Rome. Ostia Station can be seen on the lower bottom right.

After covering the ancient city, come back to the Ostia Antica Station and take the commuter to seaside town of Ostia. Get off at Ostia Lido! Many people actually get off at Ostia Nord which is once stop before Ostia Lido. So make sure you get off at the right station 🙂 It is actually pretty short and takes something like 10 minutes. If you want, you can also walk from Ostia Antica to the seaside town (it takes something like 45 min) but the road is not very suitable for walking. Of course it is your day trip so do as you see fit!


IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN MORE POST ABOUT ROME, CHECK OUT “6 BEST PLACES FOR DESSERT & COFFEE IN ROME”! GRAZIE 🙂



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Ruderi di Galeria Antica: An Abandoned Town in Rome


HIDDEN ETRUSCAN RUINS IN THE WOODS OF SUBURBAN 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!


I THINK THE COOLEST THING ABOUT THIS PLACE IS THAT IF YOU EVER DECIDE TO GO THERE, YOU WILL BE COMPLETELY ALONE SINCE NO ONE KNOWS THAT SUCH PLACE EXISTS!



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!




WARNINGS REGARDING YOUR VISIT

  • 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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The Ghost Cities: Chernobyl & Pripyat


THE GHOST CITIES: CHERNOBYL & PRIPYAT


A stop-by-stop journal of our trip to the abandoned city of Pripyat, and the Chernobyl power plant. check out for more information!

Beginning Our Journey

7.00 am. We woke up to pack the essentials, like our GoPro, some snacks and plenty of water bottles. After that we left our hotel around 7.30am and made our way to the train station. Here, we grabbed some sandwiches and headed to the KFC behind Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi Railway Station (also known as Pivdenny Station) where we met our small but awesome tour group with whom we were gonna be traveling with. In addition to us, there were five German adventurers who were also very eager to see the one of the world’s biggest exclusion zones: Chernobyl!

We also got to meet our extremely pleasant and enthusiastic tour guide from ChernobylWel.com who took each of our passports to confirm our places and then led us to an adorable minivan where we all piled in and paid our fee for our trip. We each paid $129 for the one-dayretro tour (more information about the company and our tour is available below) and began our hour and a half long drive from Kiev to Chernobyl!

Along the way we watched an hour long documentary about the Chernobyl Disaster
In the van, our guide gave us a very cool newspaper which contained quite a lot of info about the Chernobyl Disaster

Getting Close to Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Dityatki Security Checkpoint

We stopped along the way for some snacks and drinks and got to know each other and talk. Our next stop was an hour away and in the mean time, our guide played an informative documentary for us in the bus about Chernobyl called The Battle of Chernobyl, which I would recommend anyone interested in the event to watch because it was not only incredibly educational but also very thrilling and well-directed.

As we watched our documentary, we headed to our first stop, at the Dityatki Security Checkpoint held by the military. Here they checked our passports and our tour guide confirmed our entry into the area which is strictly prohibited from entering without an official tour. We also got some neat Geiger Counters, devices which measure radiation, and immediately began measuring areas around us!

Dityatki Security Check, Photos were not allowed but I took one covertly

Inside Chernobyl

Village of Zalissya

10.30 am or so, we passed the security control and continued our trip. Our first main stop was an abandoned village of Zalissya. We walked around and saw several abandoned buildings, houses, a city hall and many cars. This was one of the many villages close enough to Chernobyl to have been evacuated swiftly right after the explosion and never inhabited again. It was very thrilling walking along the main path of an abandoned village that had been completely reclaimed by nature!

A small Soviet village old Zallisya which was deserted after the disaster
Skull and remains of an elk that had died some time ago.
An abandoned house in Zallisya
A Soviet governmental building

Chernobyl City Sign

​We then had a short stop at the Chernobyl sign, which indicated that we had officially entered the city. We took some photos wearing the cool breathing masks, marking the official start to the real Chernobyl adventure.​​

At the Chernobyl city sign

St. Elijah Church

We then headed to the St. Elijah Church, a beautiful blue, white and gold structure  still standing after 30 years in a pristine state.  It was the main place of worship before the disaster and legend has it that the people foresaw the disaster through a vision of the Virgin Mary carrying dried wormwood (which translates in Ukrainian to Chernobyl) 10 years before the disaster ever happened right above the church. It was a well-reported incident in the papers in around April of 1976. Therefore, this church has a great significance on Chernobyl incident.

St. Elijah Church

– Chernobyl Riverport and Alley of Memory –

After that, we headed to the Alley of Memory and Hope and the Woodworm Star Memorial, which was a monument marking the memorial site dedicated to all those cities effected by the disaster.

Hope and the Woodworm Star Memorial

We then had another quick stop at the Chernobyl Riverport still had some ships that some locals used as well as those remaining from 30 years ago. Our guide told us that although the water and soil was quite radioactive, the radioactivity has sunken below ground quite a bit, making it safer for a small number of locals who still inhabit the area and like to come and fish or picnic by the port.

Road to Chernobyl Port

We made two more quick short stops, one was at the Monument to “Those Who Saved the World”, a structure outside the fire station dedicated to all the firemen, engineers, miners, scientists etc. who helped prevent the disaster from becoming much more deadly and threatening for the rest of the world, despite the cost to themselves.

We also visited the Chernobyl Open Air Museum for Machinery, which housed various examples of the original machines and vehicles used in fighting the disaster. Although they were no longer radioactively dangerous, as we put our Geiger counters closer, they showed a slightly higher level of radiation than normal!

Heroic firefighters who sacrificed themselves to end the disaster, Monument to “Those Who Saved the World”
The equipment that firefighters used during the disaster still has high numbers of radiation

Lunch Break At The Canteen

We then headed to the small Chernobyl Hotel and Power plant Canteen, where many tourists stay overnight as well, and had our lunch there. Surprisingly, it was well above our expectations! It included some cold pork sausages, scrambled eggs, oranges, vegetables and some sweet Palmiers as appetizers. We had a chicken stock and potato soup and our main dish – a grilled chicken with a cheese sauce, mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts and beans. We also had some sweet fresh cherry juice! The meal was excellent, fresh and hot from the stove! It was a great time to mingle with our fellow tour-buddies and relax with a delicious meal!

Dead Lands Between Chernobyl and Pripyat

Duga Soviet Military Radar

Right after the awesome lunch, we started heading for the enormous Soviet Over-The-Horizon Radar system called Duga, which was used from 1976 to 1989, and functioned as a early-warning system. Also known as the Russian Woodpecker, this giant metallic structure stretches endlessly far and wide in Chernobyl 2, the area nearby the main Chernobyl Power Plant. We also got to meet the famous Chernobyl dog, Tarzan!

The huge radar which is now a pile of metal
Ayesha with Tarzan, the radioactive dog of the area
You can see how big the radar was

– Elementary School –

Our next stop was one of the most excited and spookiest places we visited – the elementary school! This was a boarding school for the young children of the workers of the power plant and stood as a frozen piece in time. As we walked up the path towards the school building, we came across several discarded toys and dolls that have laid there for over 30 years now. Inside, books, clothes, toys and furniture lay strewn all over the floor, covered in dust.

The radiation inside the school was much lower than even that at the security check point miles away, since the radiation did not enter as much inside buildings. Upon leaving, our tour guide told us about the radiation hotspot that existed in this area, 90 times higher than the normal amount we were seeing. These hotspots exist in those areas were the soil remains exposed and is not covered by asphalt as are most other surfaces to suppress.​

A doll we discerned among the bushes and mud at the entrance of the school
Old cupboards remaining from 1986
Ayesha and I in the sleeping room of the school
In some places radiation levels were up to 500 levels higher than average
Books, dolls and toys left is they were in 1986
Around the school there were many small buildings and demolished cars claimed back by nature

Arriving At The Power Plant

– Chernobyl Railway Bridge –

As we left the elementary school, we gradually started to come into view of the giant shiny silver dome that now houses the infamous reactor number 4. This panoramic view of the power plant we got from across the Pripyat River was magnificent as we got to see the huge and wide-stretching power plant and the sarcophagus that now covers it. ​

We then drove to the entrance of the Chernobyl Power Plant where we headed to the famous railway bridge, now obviously unused, to feed the huge catfish that famously swim in the Pripyat river. Our tour guide had brought some bread along from the canteen we had eaten at earlier and gave some to us to throw to the catfish. They catfish were larger than normal and in such high numbers.

The infamous Reactor 4! Since the power plant was recently covered by a sarcophagus, the radiation level is not that high here
Feeding the radioactive catfish from the infamous railway bridge

Reactor Number 4 –

It was now time to go to the gates of the Reactor Number 4! Here we got to see the famous sarcophagus up close and took many photos next to the Chernobyl Monument. The radiation here was no longer extremely high after the construction of the sarcophagus had been completed with the help of French constructors. It was extremely overwhelming to stand so close to the site of one of the biggest human-made disasters in the world, and at a site where at one time such chaos and mayhem ensued.

With our German crew whom we took the tour with
Goodbye Reactor 4! Hope we never meet again 🙂

Inside The Town Of Pripyat

– Pripyat City Sign –

We were now headed for one of the most exciting part of the trip – the town of Pripyat! First, we stopped stopped shortly in front of the Pripyat town sign, and took several photos. Then we passed through the Red Forest, where the radiation level still remains higher than the rest of Chernobyl.

With the famous Pripyat city sign! Achievement unlocked 🙂
We passed along many old Soviet blocks like this along the way to Pripyat

– Pripyat Downtown –

We finally arrived in main center of the town of Pripyat! To our right, was a large apartment building where many of the residents once lived. It was one of the luxurious apartment buildings of the town in those times. Our exploration inside the town of Pripyat had finally begun!

Pripyat downtown
A dilapidated restaurant in downtown Pripyat

– Supermarket –

Our first sight was the ruin of a supermarket that was once a prime example of the modern Soviet constructions and facilities. Fun fact: after the evacuation of the town, it was only in 2001 when the next major supermarket was constructed in Ukraine! It was one of many modern and luxurious buildings the Soviet government built as part of their plan to make Pripyat a model city in the Soviet Union.

Some of the signboards in Russian were still legible
Exploring the supermarket and the dark rooms inside the building
Rusty old fridges and many demolished equipments

– Theather –

We then walked to the theater, now ruined and falling down but still possessing some remnants of the past. The theater chairs were still fixed upon the ground, and the overhead stage lights had fallen onto the stage but still remained intact. The wooden stage floor was partially collapsed and the wood decaying in many places. Many equipments had become rusty over the years but the environment was truly impressive and preserved the past so hauntingly.

There were some old Soviet propaganda posters and pictures of prominent leaders piled at the entrance
Soviet politicans
Exploring the deserted theater where our geiger counter beeped a couple of times

– Pripyat Amusement Park –

The next stop was perhaps the most popularly advertised and well-known spot in Pripyat – the amusement park! True to it’s word, the place was a haunting picture of a once lively and joyful spot where children once played and families came together for recreation. We started by walking towards the bumper cars, seeing a beautiful mural on the wall painted almost 30 years ago, of a herd of reindeer grazing. The cars, which had sat in the same place for three decades now, were embraced by mother nature by now.

There were cool artworks and gratifies on the wall
In some parts, the levels of radiation drastically increased!

– Ferris Wheel and Bumper Car Field –

Next to it, standing tall and mighty was the Ferris wheel, with its yellow carriages flowing in the wind still holding onto the wheel. It seemed like any moment the wheel would open and queues would form and the park would liven up! Everything was in its place and untouched by anything except the years and the environment. Probably, this place had the highest level of radiation among all spots we covered in our tour.

The famous bumper car field
Me with the iconic Pripyat Ferris Wheel
Deserted bumpercars

– Culture Center of Pripyat –

We now moved on to the culture center of Pripyat, which included two very interesting locations! As we walked into the culture center and up stairs that were completely disintegrating, we first entered the large basketball court, with the hoops still attached to the board. The place looked half demolished as the years took a toll. We moved onto the next room through a small passage, to the swimming pool. The pool was one of the largest public pools I’ve seen! Around it, changing rooms for men and women separately were aligned next to each other. Both seemed damp and dark, however the structure had remained intact and you could still see the showers and the cabins inside for changing.

The famous pool of Pripyat. Now nothing but a demolished structure
Me at the dilapidated basketball court
A bench at the entrance of the Culture Center of Pripyat
1.22 am/pm since 1986
Creepy shower rooms abutting the pool
Another view of the pool

– Grammar School –

Next up was the grammar school! This was probably the most picturesque place of all! We entered through a large hallway that led us to a room on our right. This large common area was a dining hall and a study room. As soon as we entered, we were overwhelmed by the number of stimuli that hit us. 

A notebook with Russian handwriting in the school
In an abandoned classroom with books scattered on the floor
Some books with illustrations and and alphabet chart in a classroom

To the left corner of the room, a sea of gas masks piled up. Around the room, tables lay with various kinds of books and pages, and notes written from even before 1986. A cashier machine sat atop a table with its buttons coming out and the rust gradually creeping over the whole thing.

After exploring, we moved onward down the main hall, which led to the L-shaped corridors full of classrooms, most locked. We walked into an open one and were beheld by amazement. In other words, it felt as if I had entered a portal into 1986. Desks lined up in rows and columns still remained and shelves had fallen down along with the books they contained. The desks still had countless books and pages scattered around and projects made by students. The sight is difficult to give justice to in describing it in words!

Hundreds of gas masks piled on the floor. We were told not to touch!
Some dusty ragged clothes were left on tables
Another room with gas masks
A rusty cash registrar
Exploring the classrooms
Due to abandonment, many walls are about to collapse
Many parts of the ceiling has fallen down

– Pripyat Recreational Club –

After a long and weary day, we arrived at our last stop of the trip. As we walked up the stone path, our guide told us we were at the Pripyat Recreational Club. This building was cornered by the Pripyat River, which was overlooked by a large porch where parties and events were often held. Inside, plates, glasses and shelves and even vending machines lay broken and scattered everywhere. It was a haunting scene of a place once full of parties and liveliness. In a large room, which appeared to be a ball room, was a glass mosaic wall, painted with Soviet art, as we were told. We explored and walked around, taking in the lack of life in the place – the only sound of us walking around.

The building of the Pripyat Recreational Club
The façade of the structure with broken glasses
The artworks on glasses were intact in the grand hall
We stumbled upon an interesting statue while heading towards the Pripyat Recreational Club

Headed Back

We finally headed back. It had been a tiring day but that was not of the slightest concern considering the incredible and unique day we had just had. It was a two hour journey back to Kiev, and on the way we stopped at the security check point once again where the military officers scanned us for any radiation left on us. Upon reaching the Kiev central train station, we all said our goodbyes and parted our ways.

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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.

Conclusion

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


CHECK OUT MORE OF THE CITY GUIDES AND TOP THINGS TO DO IN VARIOUS CITIES ON TRAVEL TIPS PAGE!


THANK YOU FOR READING!



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