The abandoned Armenian city of Ani in north-east Turkey is a reminder of the Armenian history of this region. Visitors who pass through Ani’s city walls are greeted with a panoramic view of ruins that span three centuries and five empires, including the Bagratid Armenians, Byzantines, Seljuk Turks, Georgians and Ottomans. The ruins of the former mighty capital of Armenian Kingdom Bagratuni lie right on the Turkish-Armenian border. At the time of its greatest glory it competed in its importance to the largest towns in the Middle East. It was protected by canyons of rivers on three sides and on the fourth by powerful walls. Between 961 and 1045, it was the capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom that covered much of present-day Armenia and eastern Turkey. Called the “City of 1001 Churches”, Ani stood on various trade routes and its many religious buildings, palaces, and fortifications were amongst the most technically and artistically advanced structures in the world. At its height, the population of Ani probably was on the order of 100,000. Long ago renowned for its splendor and magnificence, Ani was sacked by the Mongols in 1236 and devastated in a 1319 earthquake, after which it was reduced to a village and gradually abandoned and largely forgotten by the seventeenth century. Ani is a widely recognized cultural, religious, and national heritage symbol for Armenians.
It was a cloudy day in London, but we decided to visit the Tower of London since we had never visited. When William the Conquerer invaded England he built a fortress in the middle of London. It is not clear exactly when work started on the Conqueror’s White Tower or precisely when it was finished but the first phase of building work was certainly underway in the 1070s. By 1100 the White Tower was complete. Nothing quite like it had ever been seen in England before. The building was immense, at 36m x 32.5m (118 x 106ft) across, and on the south side where the ground is lowest, 27.5m (90ft) tall; the Tower dominated the skyline for miles around. A series of separate building campaigns ensured that by about 1350, the Tower was transformed into the formidable fortress we see today. These building works started in the reign of Richard the Lionheart (1189-99), John (1199-1216) who often stayed at the Tower and was probably the first king to keep lions and other exotic animals there. John’s son Henry III (1216-72) and his son King Edward I (1272-1307) added a massive curtain wall on the north, east and western sides, reinforced by nine new towers and surrounded by a moat flooded by the Flemish engineer John Le Fossur (the ditch-digger) to which was added a second wall by King Edward I. The tradition of whitewashing the White Tower (from which it derives its name) began in 1240.