Exploring the Historical Kars Castle and Stone Bridge in Turkey
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It was on my itinerary for Turkey to visit the Kars Castle and Stone Bridge, both of which are hundreds of years old. These places take me back to the period that connects me with several key moments in Kars and Turkey’s histories. Moreover, Kars Castle is a symbol of Kars, and is visible from anywhere in the city.
History and information about Kars Castle
Kars Castle is a former fortress that was built by Bagratid Armenia in A.D.1153. It remains a significant landmark of Kars to this day. As a fortress that was constructed for defense purposes, Kars Castle was the location at which the people of Kars successfully defended against Mongolian, Georgian, Persian, and Russian forces.
In the early 19th century, the castle lost its military function. It was later severely damaged during the Russian occupation of Kars during the Ottoman-Russian War of 1877-1878.
In terms of its architecture, Kars Castle was built out of basalt masonry. It features a small mosque, Janissary barracks, tombs, several mansions, and an ammunition depot. It originally has 22 towers; however, only seven of them remain intact today. The castle also had four gates, of which two are still in use.
Nowadays, the castle occasionally hosts events like music concerts, Islamic religious events, and traditional ceremonies.
Access and explore the Kars Castle
Kars Castle is open to the public and the top and interior are accessible via a set of stairs. Walking around the outer walls give visitors a rare glimpse into life of a traditional Ottoman home, as the mansion once belonged to Ahmet Tevfic Pasha, who served as the Governor of Kars in the 19th century.
The property appeared dilapidated when I visited; however, with a bit of imagination, you can conceive what it was like to live during this important period of history.
In the winter, the stairways are ice-rink slippery, and there is nothing to hold onto. If you decide to take the stairs to the top, be sure to walk slowly and watch your feet. Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with a panoramic view of the city of Kars and the river.
From the top of the tower, you can see that this Russian outpost does not have any skyscrapers; only traditional properties. The city is divided by the Kars River between the north and the south.
Kars Stone Bridge
On the south side of Kars Castle is a stone arch bridge over the Kars River that was built in 1579. The bridge collapsed during a flood in the Spring of 1715 and was reconstructed by Faji Aboubakir Karahanoglu in 1719.
During the years of Russian occupation, the inscription on the bridge was destroyed as Russians intended to erase all traces of the Turkish. The bridge was also significantly damaged during this era. Eventually, the offspring of those who first constructed the stone bridge decided to rebuild it.
The bridge is 153.5 in length. There was only a couple of individuals on the bridge during my visit; as such, I was able to enjoy a peaceful and relaxing walk with a winter view of the river on both sides.
While it is not quite the thriving commercial hub it was back in the early days, Kars River remains an important highway that connects the north and south of Kars and continues to connect the city and the people.
Related articles that will help you plan your travels to Kars:
- From Ankara to Kars on Eastern Express
- Ani – A Forgotten Ancient Capital of Armenia in Eastern Turkey
- Lake Çıldır – The Largest Freshwater Lake in Turkey’s East Anatolia
If you want to get some treats and beverages, I recommend you visit Lalezar café, which is located diagonally across the street from Kars Castle. It has a gorgeous interior, and plays beautiful music.
This café has amazing tea and coffee, and their Turkish pastries are delicious. It is a nice place to take a break. The owner of the café is particularly friendly and warm.
Where to stay
The hotel Katerina Sarayi is only a few steps away from the Kars Castle and is perfectly positioned with the Kars River running in front of it. It is a 10-minute walk from the city center and offers friendly service, complimentary breakfast, and free parking. I did not stay in this hotel, but I walked around the property. The hotel was originally a Russian Military Hospital; it has a gorgeous terrace and a rich Russian interior.
There is a selection of several good hotels in the city center that are only walking distance of the castle and the river. I stayed at the Kars Konak Hotel, which is another great option. The hotel offers a delicious free Turkish breakfast and unlimited tea. The service was fantastic, although the employees there speak limited English.
Have you visited Kars Castle and the Stone Bridge before? Please share hare your experiences below!
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