A Turkish town that looks like it's been lifted out of the Russian Caucasus- or even Central Asia, reflecting its history as a Tsarist Russian settlement in the 19th century.
In some novels, the city it's set in becomes a main character rather than just a background to the story.
If you have read Orhan Pamuk's novel 'Snow' you will have been intrigued by the setting, the city of Kars, which, in Pamuk's novel, is full of grey Russian and Armenian houses, and snowed in for three days.
In real life, Kars indeed offers a fascinating glimpse of the 19th century geopolitical and architectural confrontation between the Russian and Ottoman empires
Northeast Anatolia, not far from the fabled abandoned city of Ani and in a forgotten corner of Turkey. Map.
ORHAN PAMUK IS without doubt Turkey's most famous writer and the country's only Nobel Prize winner (in 2006). His 2002 novel, Snow, captured the world's imagination (or at least Minor Sights' imagination), not in the least because of its unusual setting.
'Snow' ('Kar' in Turkish- get the pun?) is set in the Anatolian city of Kars, an otherworldly place with an end-of-the-line kind of feel. As the lead character paces the streets of the city, Pamuk vividly brings to life unusual cityscape of Kars.
In the novel, Kars is isolated from the outside world for three days due to incessant snow. Indeed, January average daytime temperature is close to -10C, so visiting in summer may be a better idea. Unless you want a real Siberian experience to top off the Russian architecture!
It may be Turkish now, but the city's history reflects the historical and cultural complexity of this part of Anatolia. Starting off as an Armenian city, Kars became Ottoman until the Russian Tsarist empire first annexed it in 1828, and held on to it, with a few intermissions, till 1921.
In a fit of empire-building, the Tsarist Russians went to town between 1878 and 1921 and created a new garrison town, instantly familiar to anybody who's visited Almaty in Kazakhstan or some of the towns in the Russian Caucasus, but minus the Soviet eyesores that vandalized those towns later.
And so central Kars remains a city of low houses and cottages, built on a grid, with distinct Russo-European architecture (Pamuk refers to it as 'Baltic') with gingerbread window frames and neo-classical frills. No other city in Turkey looks this way- you won't see anything like it unless you're prepared to cross into the former Soviet Union.
|Armenian inscriptions- as co-believers, the Armenian community flourished during the Russian occupation.|
|The Mosque Formerly Known As Church.|
|Kars cheese is world-famous, at least in Eastern Anatolia.|
There are direct flights from Istanbul and Ankara. If you've got time to spare, there is also a train connection, and buses run from various towns in East Anatolia.
'Snow' on Orhan's Pamuk official website.