Day 18: Laughing Ani

I’m writing this a few days after the event, so bear with me… It was the morning after the night before and I woke up in agony… (I’ll get told off at work, but I’ve been eating Ibuprophen like Smarties ever since).

For a start, my sleep had been disturbed by first a phone call from a health insurance assistance company – they could only really help if I needed emergency assistance, even repatriation, sorry they can’t do anything for my bike… And secondly by Mehmet my friend in Istanbul, he’s been a great source of info and help, but why he thought it was a good idea to send messages at 3am is beyond me… But anyway, we came up with a plan in the middle of the night (get the bike to Ankara for BMW to look at it) and he started balls rolling. By the time I woke up, he’d already sorted some things out. 

I took the health assistance advice to go to hospital for a check up. Apparently the only person in Kars who can speak English is the manager of my hotel. So, he gave instructions to a taxi driver (Taski) to take me to orthopaedics… In the cold light of day I can see how bad the roads are in town – more pot hole than road – and the taxi rarely goes above 15mph. When I go to put my seat belt on, he stops me, shakes his head as if to say ‘don’t bother’.

 We go from ward to ward asking for help. Someone tries to register me as a patient: without my passport apparently the most important piece of information about me is my father’s name, not sure what use that is given that he died 10 years ago (I suppose it’s the equivalent of a gas bill at home – you can’t do anything without a gas bill). They decided it was too difficult, so sent me elsewhere, to what looked like an A&E. Thankfully, the A&E Doctor is the second person in town who speaks English, fluently.  As he was examining me, asking questions and generally prodding and poking me, the van driver from last night’s accident showed up, with his boss, and a police officer. No idea how he knew I was there, and no idea what he thought he could do given the language barriers. The doctor became translator… 
In the end the doctor decided it was too much like hard work to register me, and raise the paperwork for the insurance company, so went ahead and X-Rayed me unofficially (if that happened in the NHS Farrage and the Daily Mail would be having kittens!) Nothing broken – which on one hand is a relief, but on the other means that the health insurance assistance won’t kick in. So, it’s down to me to get me and the bike sorted. 

The plan was to get me and the bike on a train to Ankara in the morning. It is a train that starts in Kars at 07:45 and arrives in Ankara the following day at 08:30. Again, language was a barrier. I bought a ticket by taking a taxi to the station, then calling my hotel manager on my mobile who spoke to the ticket office. Ticket for me, no problem. First class sleeper, £25. But the bike…. ‘No problem’ pay the man on the train and he will take it. How much? 30 Lira should be ok. Sounds like a bung to me… (In the end it cost 170 lira – about £50. Not sure if it was a bung or not, I didn’t get a receipt. But the bike got on).

Right, practicalities sorted, I had an afternoon to do some sight seeing. The only reason to visit Kars is to use it as a base to visit the ancient ruined city of Ani. Now, unfortunately, my camera lead is in my bike luggage at BMW so I can’t download my pics, so I’ve nicked these from t’internet. At some stage in the future I may return to this post and edit it with my own pics. 

In the 10th Century, Ani was the capital of the Armenian Kingdom, was a key trading point on the Silk Road and was known as the ‘City of a 1001 Churches’. It was abandoned in the 16th century and forgotten about. On the day I visited I think it had been forgotten about again. Apart from the guard at the gate and the guy in the ticket office, I was the only person there! For two hours I didn’t see another person as I wandered the ruined churches, bazaars and mosques. 

My body regretted it from the start. Perhaps my injuries are worse than I thought. It was a struggle to catch my breath, to hold my camera up, even to sit down for a rest and then to stand up again. Which is all a real shame as the place was stunning. Eejay would have a field day here, and as for The Scholar Millerman (a friend who’s into archaeology) she’d probably want to set up camp. If Ani was in the UK it would be owned by English (or Scotish, Welsh etc…) Heritage and would have buses full of tourists, but as it is at the far, far end of Turkey, near the Armenia and Iran border the place is desolate and deserted. Shame. 


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