The cracked streets and crumbling buildings of Kars, Turkey, bear feeble witness to better days long past. But it's also the last stop on the journey to Ani, the magnificent abandoned Armenian capital, which sits in the province of Kars, on the Turkish side of the Armenian border.
To historians, Armenia is a borderland between East and West, on which the tide of cultural division has washed back and forth since the days of Rome and Persia. To theologians, the country is a window through time; this oldest national church is a witness to a Christian tradition both ancient and unique. To students of early-Christian history, it's both.
Since Ani's heyday in the 10th and 11th centuries, Seljuk, Georgian, Mongol and Timurid armies have breached its walls. Now the city is empty, ruins on a barren and treeless plain, with no visitors apart from a young group of Turkish soldiers joyriding through the site.