Stories in stone: Kars at night

When night descends, the streets of Kars empty soon. A single car, a pack of stray dogs, an adventurous cat scaling the walls of an abandoned house – only a few signs of life remain. The soft yellow glow of the street lights gives the cityscape a magical twist, as if it were old-fashioned lanterns and not light bulbs keeping the darkness at bay.

In the calm and quiet of the night, the city has her own story to tell. Hidden histories, drowned-out by noise and chaos during the day, reveal themselves when the world around comes to a halt. Hiding in nooks and crannies, behind unhinged doors and broken windows, under patched-up porticoes and in run-down ruins. Whispers of lives lived and loves lost, overtaken by time, forgotten by most, remembered by few. Windows boarded up, gates shut down. Sealing secrets inside. Shutters closed, just for the night or for good?

Houses made of black basalt rock; solidified lava. As if their builders were hoping that the rock’s memory of its former flowing glory would help to keep their families warm during the long, cold winter nights. Built to last a century or more, home and hearth for many generations. But then history happened. Politics knocked on the front door, while war sneaked in through the back. Battles, treaties, borders. Russians and Turks; Armenians and Kurds; Poles, Greeks and Georgians. Each their own space, each their own time. Kingdoms, empires and republics came and went, advancing and retreating like ocean waves crashing on a rocky shore. Builders banned from their houses. Packing up their lives, leaving homes behind. Their stories preserved in stone. Hidden in plain sight, only heard in the silence of night. Waiting to be recovered by those wandering the empty streets in that soft, yellow light.

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