A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: sagbucks

Driving Along Part of Turkey’s Black Sea Coast

Day 13 Tuesday June 6 2017
Safranbolu to Sinop / 349 km

  • Predictably we are awoken by the Mullah at 4 a.m. calling us to prayer. Nothing is further from our thoughts. We suspect that it is a recording that is carefully reset everyday to coincide with the sun's movements. SG feels that if the whole town must be woken to prayer at dawn, then at least it should be done by a Mullah who is also making an effort.
  • AG managed to fix the fridge. New fuse or something like that. So we are back in business and have restocked the picnic supplies.
  • Today's route has been a subject of dispute for a while. Back in 2014 we barely arrived at the Black Sea Coast when we had to change plans, rush to Ankara and hospitalise AG for 5 days. The section from Amasra to Sinop is meant to be very picturesque. AG is not that keen. The compromise reached is to drive from Safranbolu via Kastemonou to Inebolu and then along the coast to Sinop, tonight's destination.
  • It is overcast and a cool 18C. This is unexpected in Turkey in June but it makes for comfortable travelling.
  • So we leave Safranbolu and Gulevi Otel for the second time. It has been a relaxing stay and we would recommend to anyone passing through this part of Turkey. Don't be put off by new Safranbolu which is modern and really quite grim. Old Safranbolu nestles down in the next valley well out of sight. Choose only to stay there. Several former Ottoman Mansions have been converted into Butik Otels. And as yesterday's photographs reveal, there are many more historical houses awaiting renovation.
  • At Gulevi we are delighted to meet with Hassan again. He was the very kind Manager who helped us beyond the call of duty when we lasted visited in 2014. Hassan takes a photo of our truck whilst we are parked up and sends an Instagram to his friends around Turkey. One of his contacts replies to say he had already spotted us the previous day in Luleburgaz. He had been struck by the size of our truck, that it was UK registered and that it had left hand drive.
  • We were indeed in Lukeburgaz the previous day having just left the Vineyard Hotel. It's a small world and social media makes it even smaller.
  • Kastemonou is a university town with old Ottoman houses in back streets but also grand administrative buildings of the Ataturk era. A short distance NW of the town is a little farming village called Kasaba where there is a mosque dating from 1366. It is renowned as a fine example of a wooden mosque. And indeed it is. The village is obviously preparing itself to become a tourist destination - new road, public toilets, ticket office & souvenir stalls. But for now it isn't and we are alone.
  • The woodwork within the mosque has been fitted without a single nail. And it's lasted all these centuries.
  • Then onward to Inebolu and the beginning of the Black Sea section of our trip. It is thought that the Black Sea name was a euphemism replacing an earlier reference which translated as "Inhospitable Sea". Before Greek colonisation and the knowledge they brought with them, the sea was difficult to navigate and its shores inhabited by hostile tribes.
  • 6 countries share the Black Sea - Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Russia & Ukraine. On our London to Sydney trip we stayed overnight in the Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Sozopol and also a brief night in quaint little Amasra, several 100 kms west of Sinop. It is obvious that coastal scenery varies immensely. The section we are now driving is definitely not (yet) a holiday destination. The coastline is rugged, forested, the road narrow and windy and the small communities dotted along are neither pretty nor wealthy. We search out a place to pull over and eat our picnic lunch. At this point the sea is a gorgeous turquoise colour and certainly not black.
  • But after lunch things go downhill. The clouds descend obliterating the coastline in the distance and the road becomes a construction site for miles at a stretch. Infrastructure is being financed on a large scale but it makes for very slow progress on what is already a long driving day. Cockpit chat is minimal. All this compounds SG's discomfort - remember AG never wanted to drive this route in the first place.
  • SG had wanted to detour a further 20 km to Ince Burun, the most northerly point of Turkey where there is a lighthouse, and perhaps, good views. But with poor visibility and a very tired driver there seems no point.
  • Our arrival in Sinop is no less disappointing. A coastal town of average architectural style, in grey damp weather & out of season. Our hotel is on the seafront, thankfully in a quiet part of town. It really is the best around. Nearby buildings are either half constructed or half demolished. It is difficult to judge.
  • At supper in the hotel's glass fronted restaurant overlooking the sea, the Ramadan ritual repeats itself. A large group of friends, business associates and/or relatives assemble about 30 minutes or so before the Mullah gives the signal to eat. So there is half an hour of chatting and communal restraint to the culinary temptations that are being laid on the table before them. A large TV screen prominently positioned in the restaurant announces the end of today's fast. Everyone stops talking and starts to eat. At this time of year fasting Muslims will have gone 14 hours without food or water.
  • On the positive side, we are however allocated a room with sea view. We hope the hotel is well out of earshot of the nearest mosque. We may be able to sleep with the windows open and to the sound of waves. Now that would be nice!

Heavily Carved Door of the Mahmut Bay Mosque

Heavily Carved Door of the Mahmut Bay Mosque

Wooden Interior of the Mahmat Bay Mosque 1366

Wooden Interior of the Mahmat Bay Mosque 1366

Picnic Lunch Overlooking the Black Sea, a Gorgeous Turquoise Colour

Picnic Lunch Overlooking the Black Sea, a Gorgeous Turquoise Colour

A Rather Grey Black Sea Coast

A Rather Grey Black Sea Coast

Posted by sagbucks 11:04 Comments (0)

Sinop to Amasya - the Hardest Section of Our Journey Begins

Day 14 Wednesday June 7 2017
Sinop to Amasya / 255 km

  • What a difference a day makes - weather, scenery & of course humour. Last night, once our neighbours turned off their TV, we enjoyed peace, quiet & the sea. Not a Mullah was heard.
  • Breakfast is grim according to AG but really it is just a classic Turkish spread that is offered: dried fruit, a selection of cheeses & meats, olives & pickled vegetables. We each have a couple of hard boiled eggs with pitta bread. Eggs are a great default breakfast for travellers. Nutritious, filling & safe.
  • Turkish coffee is too strong for our Costa palates. For the first time we brew up our own in the truck using supplies brought from England.
  • We take a quick look at old Sinop. In antiquity it was the leading trading port on the Black Sea coast because of its strategic northerly position. It has long since lost this status. Samsun is now Turkey's largest port on this coastline. Sinop also used to be famed for ship building. Down by the water there is still boat activity going on but it is repair & restoration rather than construction.
  • There has been a castle in Sinop for a long time - since 2000 BC it is claimed. It will be best seen from a boat. Subsequent civilisations that have inhabited the area have restored & enlarged the fortress: the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans . According to historians, the castle once measured 800 m x 500 m with walls as high as 30-40 m and 3 meters thick.
  • However if you are interested in a castle visit, Boyabat might be a better choice. It lies on our route to Amasya some 60 km from Sinop. The Boyabat castle built high up on a craggy rock face is visible for miles around and looks far more complete than its Sinop counterpart.
  • Another tourist attraction is Sinop prison. For a hefty 10£ ticket you can visit the disused buildings and imagine what it was like to be an inmate there. Sinop has had a prison for centuries. The first version was constructed in 1215. The one you can tour around today was built in 1887 within the inner walls of the old fortress. Double security. It was closed in 1997 and inmates moved to a modern establishment nearby. Famous names, known only to Turks, are included on the long list of previous inmates. Political prisoners maybe?
  • Our route takes us through undulating wooded countryside. Altitude varies considerably up to 1200 m and down again. The inland roads are far superior to the coastal route we took yesterday. Thank goodness.
  • Lots of supervised roadside grazing goes on in Turkey. Maybe because the land belongs to no one farmer in particular and the grass is free? It makes for potentially dangerous situations as AG knows only too well ( dead sheep in Turkey episode 2010 )
  • As we continue from Boyabat to Duragen, we note changing agricultural use of the land. In the valley below it looks remarkably like rice paddy fields. Or perhaps some other grain that is grown with similar technique.
  • The majority of women are now wearing long dark overcoats and headscarves.
  • We select a quiet road off the main highway to pull in and have an early lunch. Or rather second breakfast. Yogurt, honey, dried fruit, hazelnuts and a sprinkling of Jamie Olivers amazing granola dust. It does the trick. We don't wish to arrive in Amasya hungry.
  • Even here, in the middle of rural Turkey, the Mullah's lunchtime call to prayer is audible. There is no escape. Mosques are everywhere. The little side road suddenly becomes busy with cars & trucks full of men heading uphill somewhere. Despite the fact we are eating in public, they all wave & grin. We follow them up to a little farming village where there is a large mosque. That is why the little side road had suddenly become so hectic.
  • We arrive in Amasya in good time to do some sightseeing / exercise. Our hotel, the Uluhan is tucked away in the old part of town on the North side of the River Yesilirmak.
  • We visit the Amasya Museum where there is a large well labelled ( in English ) archeology section. It helps to put into historic perspective the various civilisations that have ruled over Turkey down the ages. There have been many comings & goings.
  • We walk through the old town- nice as it is, it highlights how truly wonderful Safranbolu is for its large compact collection of Ottoman houses.
  • High above, on the rock summit is Amasya Castle. Midway up and accessed by flights of steps are the Pontic Tombs which date between 330 & 26 BC. We climb up to the cafe adjacent to the tombs for a relaxing sundowner - zero coke and soda water, with a great view of the town below.
  • The Guide books claim that the tombs will be illuminated at night and are much better viewed from afar than within.
  • This evening we are subjected ourselves to the Ramadan ritual. Our hotel recommends & books a table at a nearby restaurant. We request a table at 7.30 p.m.We arrive punctually, are welcomed by staff, shown to our table. Then we sit and wait. As you do. But it soon becomes evident that there is no service. Yet.
  • We ask the question we should have already asked. Can we eat at 7.30? No, we must also await the Mullah's wail. Of course we understand. One positive is that as we travel eastwards, sunset is getting earlier and so therefore is Iftar.
  • But what with early morning calls to prayer & late dining, we are relieved to be leaving the Ramadan zone in 3 days time.
  • After our Iftar supper we cross the river to the South side to view the floodlit tombs, Sadly there are no illuminations switched on and there is nothing to be admired.

What a Difference a Day Makes

What a Difference a Day Makes

A Beach Ready for Tourists

A Beach Ready for Tourists

Remains of Sinop Fortress

Remains of Sinop Fortress

Honeycomb & Yogurt & Dried Fruit - Our Lunch

Honeycomb & Yogurt & Dried Fruit - Our Lunch

It Must be Water Melon Season Again

It Must be Water Melon Season Again

Waiting for our Iftar Supper

Waiting for our Iftar Supper

Posted by sagbucks 11:07 Comments (0)

A Gradual Climb & A Slow Bake

Day 15, Thursday June 8 2017
Amasya to Erzincan /368 km

  • It's sunny & fine. As we set off at 9 a.m. the temperature is already 24C. AG thinks that we may hit 30C for the first time today.
  • Breakfast, although served in a delightful garden courtyard, is uninspiring for our European tastes. We resist the cold chips ( a left over delicacy?) processed meats & salty olives. Instead we eat our trip staple: boiled eggs & some soft cheese. And since there is simmering hot water in the traditional Turkish Samovar, we make a brew of Italian coffee from Waitrose. Our metal coffee plunger & thermos mugs are indispensable parts of our travel kit.
  • As are the small feather cushions and cotton sleeping bag inners which we used for the first time last night. Beds & pillows are getting harder as we travel East.
  • Before we leave Amasya we drive up to the castle from where the views are outstanding.
  • There is no other sightseeing planned today either en route or at our destination. Erzincan is very much a convenience stopover to break our long journey to Kars in Eastern Turkey.
  • We have now been on the road 2 weeks, and by the end of today, will have driven 5000km give or take a few. There is no question that our pace is full on and it is tiring. But each day brings fresh experiences & new scenery. It is this inspiration that gives us energy.
  • Overall we are very impressed with Turkey's road infrastructure. Yes the coastal route we chose to drive to Sinop was poor but that's because work is in progress to build a coastal highway.
  • Storks are nesting in this part of Turkey too. We have noted multiple occupancy in the nests and guess the eggs have hatched. SG wonders where storks built their nests before humans gave them the convenience of pylons, mosque minarets & bell towers!
  • We have another breakfast for lunch - same as yesterday. Variety of food is not our top priority on this part of the trip - eating healthily and with balance is.
  • As we head SE we are climbing imperceptibly. Distant mountains have remnants of snow. This part of the country experiences cold winters. Road signs warn of the need for winter tyres. The maximium altitude we reach today is just over 2000 m and above the dense treeline. For this reason our maximum temperature ends up being only 29C.
  • We are seeing trucks with number plates in Arabic or Farsi script . A reminder of the countries that lie on Turkey's eastern borders.
  • On the last 100 km before Erzincan we are essentially retracing steps - we drove this route back in 2014 London - Sydney. Only that time we overnighted in Erzurum some 200 km further away and we were en route to Iran.
  • The area around Erzincan is scenic, the city itself less so. We are staying in a new hotel in the outskirts. It reads well - air conditioning ( essential ), parking ( preferable ) pool ( optional but nice ). But reality is disappointing. It's modern veneer is deceiving. We spend an hour moving from one room to another until we are eventually allocated a quiet room with aircon that functions. The hotel is spacious but deserted. We feel as if we are the only guests here.
  • Suspicious that a hotel with so few guests might not serve the freshest of food, we opt for a truck supper. We heat up a couple of packets of camping food ( Wayfarer brand ) and are pleasantly surprised by the quality. The chilli con carne tastes better than many supermarket ready made meals. The portions are on the skimpy side - we reckon 3 packets for 2 people would be the ideal ratio.
  • The Mullah's call to break fast resonates just before 8 p.m in Erzincan, 15 minutes earlier than in Amasya last night. It illustrates very clearly the indisputable fact that as we head east, sunset times are getting earlier. For now the official time zone remains the same because Turkey, vast as it is in longitude terms prefers to operate just one time zone. The sun of course has its own schedule.
  • With no prospect of bar entertainment we decide to go to bed early to prepare for the last 3 days in Turkey. As we go to sleep, the aircon is working but by midnight it has ceased to blow out cool air. The room temperature is soaring. The windows are not made to open. We are hermetically sealed and it makes for a very uncomfortable night. SG dresses and goes to reception to complain. Predictably the electrician is off duty and nothing can be done.
  • We slowly bake. Very early morning we ring booking.com to negotiate a refund. They are based in Holland. We are loyal & regular customers and rarely dispute bills and always give reviews. This is the great thing about booking .com - the reviews, good or bad are authentic and written by genuine customers. Their system makes planning our trips much easier and you can deduce we are big fans. In the end we do not have to pay for privilege of baking in bed!

We Use the Samovar to Brew Our Coffee

We Use the Samovar to Brew Our Coffee

Lovely Scenery, Great Roads, No Traffic

Lovely Scenery, Great Roads, No Traffic

Posted by sagbucks 11:09 Comments (0)

Ani - Lost City of Ancient Ghosts

Day 17, Saturday June 10 2017
Kars, NE Turkey

  • Thanks to earplugs & eye blinds, not a bad night's sleep. But as we wake up the day after the election results - the feeling that the UK is in a political mess has not diminished.
  • We have detoured to Kars in order to visit the ancient & long abandoned city of Ani. Frankly speaking, unless you are headed beyond Turkey to Georgia, Iran, Iraq or Syria (!), or wish to experience a small but important legacy of Armenian culture, there is probably no major incentive to come to Kars. Conversely if you are headed East, then Kars makes a great stopover exactly because of its proximity to Ani. This famed ancient city is situated about 50 km out of town. The River Akhurian which flows through Ani is the current day border between Turkey and Armenia. The border has been closed since 1993.
  • Relationships between Turkey and Armenia have never really recovered since the Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottomans during World War 1. There has been insufficient recognition and apology to the Armenian People for the atrocities perpetrated against them: mass & brutal killings, enforced deportation and dispossession of their homes & businesses. A more contemporary reason is the continued territorial dispute between Armenia & Azerbaijan, Turkey's regional ally.
  • It is for this reason that our journey to Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan requires 2 passports and an itinerary that zigzags from Georgia to Azerbaijan, back to Georgia to enter Armenia and then return to Georgia once again in order to cross back into Turkey. Georgia is the 'neutral' player in all these diplomatic games.
  • To get to Ani we drive across flat exposed grassland. However we are at an altitude of 2000m. We pass through small farming communities. Herdsmen shuttle their cows from one grass patch to another. Who leads, the cows or the herdsmen? Either way they do it on foot. No quad bike nor horses are used to help control.
  • Ani - a city of many names. Variably referred to as the city of 40 Gates , of 1001 Churches, of Abandoned Ghosts... It is also a Windy City. The midday temperature in June exceeds 30C. Hats, suntan cream and water are essential. At the moment there are no tourist facilities at all. Not even holes in the ground!
  • Ani is known to have been founded more than 1600 years ago. It was situated on several trade routes, including one of the Silk Road routes. In the 5C it was documented as a fortress city belonging to the Armenians and it is they who built the churches ( archeological evidence of about 40 exist ). The Kingdom of Armenia established as an independent state in 884 made Ani its capital.
  • Life was never peaceful for the residents of Ani. Too many empires fought each other in this strategic part of the world. In 1045 it was attacked by the Byzantines during their take over of the Armenian Kingdom. Then a mere 20 years later the city was captured by Seljuk Turks who murdered and enslaved its citizens and sold them and the city, lock stock and barrel to a Kurdish dynasty.
  • Despite all this, Ani prospered commercially and grew to become a walled city of more than 100,000 residents by 11C. By this time the city was no longer Christian - churches were converted to mosques and new mosques were constructed. Then fortunes changed, trade routes shifted, several damaging earthquakes struck and during the 14C the city went into steep decline. By the 1700s it was completely abandoned.
  • Tensions between Turkey and Armenia have contributed to its neglect. Clumsy archeological digs, poor quality restoration and Turkish attempts to eliminate Armenian history from this area, have produced a landscape of rubble & ruins. Not forgetting the inevitable effects of the passage of time & Mother Nature It is nonetheless a place hugely evocative of past centuries and civilisations. Rumour has it that UNESCO are close to designating it as a World Heritage Site. Perhaps this is why a large visitor centre is being built near the site, due for completion early 2018.
  • Ani could do with some protection, professional restoration and certainly better & more objective information labelling. The ticket price will inevitably increase and so will visitor numbers. At least today we did not have to avoid each other's photographs. We all have plenty of space to wander & reflect.
  • On our way back to Kars we make a short detour down a dusty track to a small tent encampment that is surrounded by bee hives. We have been intending to do so for a while. This is not the first time we have seen roadside apiculture in Turkey!
  • Eastern Turkey is famous for its pure honey. The nectar comes only from wild mountain flowers., no crops, no tree blossom and no pesticides. And according to the traditional techniques that they use, the native “Caucasian” bees are never given any sugar to increase production.
  • The bee keeper and his wife are naturally surprised by our arrival. A shake of the hand and smile soon dispel suspicion and even the dog stops growling. We are shown the slabs of honeycomb ready for sale to wholesalers in Kars. We are also given a peep inside one of the hives where the bees are busy making their precious nectar. The beekeeper does this without any protective clothing or mask. We are also a little close for comfort. Through a language of gestures we understand bee stings are simply regarded as part and parcel of the job.
  • We perhaps should have purchased honey direct from these kindly people but the honeycombs are large ( and heavy ) and not well wrapped. We fear a sticky mess in the truck. On our return to Kars we wander down 'Honey Street' - a road leading down to river, where there are several honey shops. We hope to meet with an English speaking shopkeeper who can explain to us about the different honey products. No such luck.
  • But we do discover: honey that is produced without adding sugar to the hives is more expensive because the bees are less productive. A round slab ( sugar free ) such as you see in the photo weighs about 1.5 kg and costs around 12£. It makes us wonder about the production methods and sugar content of our supermarket honey sold at a much cheaper price back in UK.
  • The honey shops also sell large rounds of locally made cheese. Honey & cheese, nuts and dried fruit - what a delicious combination.
  • We manage a pre- Iftar supper at 6.30 p.m. The only problem is that most of the normal menu is unavailable because - you guessed it - the chefs are too busy with the preparation of Iftar. We must vacate our table by 7.30 pm when the Iftar crowd start arriving. And so the show goes on. Yes Ramadan must be good business for restaurant owners.

Ani Cathedral Built 987. Converted to Mosque in 11C

Ani Cathedral Built 987. Converted to Mosque in 11C

Looking out From Cathedral to Armenian Border

Looking out From Cathedral to Armenian Border

Distinctive Hexagonal Minaret of Minuchihir Mosque

Distinctive Hexagonal Minaret of Minuchihir Mosque

Cave Dwellings in Ani Area

Cave Dwellings in Ani Area

Ruins & Rubble - The City Wall and One of Several City Gates

Ruins & Rubble - The City Wall and One of Several City Gates

Church of Saint Gregory

Church of Saint Gregory

Signs Warn of Military Zone

Signs Warn of Military Zone

Bee Keeper Opens Up Hive to Show Us - No Protective Clothing

Bee Keeper Opens Up Hive to Show Us - No Protective Clothing

And The Finished Product - As Wild & Organic As You Can Get

And The Finished Product - As Wild & Organic As You Can Get

Pure Organic Wildflower Honey For Sale in Kars

Pure Organic Wildflower Honey For Sale in Kars

Rounds of Local Cheese For Sale in Honey Shops

Rounds of Local Cheese For Sale in Honey Shops

Posted by sagbucks 14:59 Comments (0)

Georgia Day

Day 18 Sunday June 11 2017
Kars to Ahalcihe / Akhaltsikhe ( same place, different ways off writing ) / 189 km / Border Day

  • Its Georgia Day. It's leaving Ramadan zone Day, it's hopefully have a glass of wine with our supper Day!
  • SG concludes that living within earshot of a mosque ( most Muslims do ) is like living near a railway line. You get used to it. Only temporary visitors hear the Mullah 's dawn wails.
  • We are driving in a NW direction to the Posof / Vale border post between Turkey and Georgia. We are deliberately avoiding the crossing further west near Batumi which is much busier with road freight traffic.
  • At times we are at an altitude of 2500 plus meters. We have that top of the world feeling again. Elevated grass plateau all around. The temperature drops to 12 C and it's mid morning. The shorts we wear, now seem a rather optimistic choice.
  • We are both beginning to lose weight - lack of exercise, loss of muscle, nutritious but monotonous food and no alcohol. We are careful not to fill up with junk food. And there's only so much Turkish delight we can consume. AG claims he needs to add another notch to his belt. Literally not metaphorically.
  • As usual at the border we must queue at various booths. There is a process but signage is not in English. We rely on Turkish truck drivers to point us in the right direction and in the correct order. We are the only foreign car. Our passports are stamped twice, there is photographic record taken of our arrival in Georgia and our truck is given a cursory inspection.
  • We do not however purchase any car insurance. We are not covered by our European policy. But it seems insurance for foreign cars is not compulsory in Georgia. Nor is it readily available. We feel a bit vulnerable for obvious reasons.
  • The whole procedure has taken less than an hour. We have chosen to stay in Akhaltsike which is the first main town after the border because we feared longer delays. So we arrive mid afternoon and in good time to have a look around.
  • Within a few kilometers of the border we see the first crucifix. Many more will come as we travel through Georgia & Armenia. Armenia was the first Kingdom in the world to convert to Christianity in early 4C. Georgia followed in 319.
  • According to Orthodox tradition, Christianity was first preached in Georgia by the Apostles Simon and Andrew in the 1st century. The Georgians' new faith replaced pagan beliefs and Zoroastrianism. Georgians remained mostly Christian despite repeated invasions by Muslim powers and their efforts to destroy churches or convert them to mosques.
  • Georgians call their country Saqartvelo. They claim to trace their ancestors to Noah's great great grandson, Kartlos ( Gosh that's some family tree research ). Perhaps the English word Georgia comes from the old Persian word Gurj - it may have been a name heard by the Crusaders and taken back with them.
  • During our week travelling across Turkey we have seen many large Turkish flags flying proudly. It is only when we arrive at Akhaltsikhe that we see the Georgian flag for the first time. There were none at the border. See photo. It looks familiar.
  • In fact we share St George, our patron saint, with Georgia and several other countries: Portugal, Malta, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Ethiopia & Russia for example. No wonder he's not that special!
  • In any case who was this George guy?!
  • St George was reputedly a senior officer in the Roman army who was executed in 303 AD for refusing to persecute Christians. Venerated as a Christian martyr he was made famous in Georgia by St Nino in 320 s when he brought Christianity to Georgia.
  • Georgia celebrates 2 x St George's day - 6 th May which is the anniversary of his execution and 23 th November commemorating his torture on a wheel of swords! In England St George's day is normally April 23. Sadly it is not a national holiday.
  • The Georgian flag flies together with that of the EU. Much to the annoyance of Russia, Georgia has opted to look westwards rather than to Russia . In 2014 Georgia signed an association agreement and a free trade deal with the EU. Hence the flag and no doubt other benefits as well.
  • Akhaltsikhe is the capital of Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia. It was founded in 9C and the fortress ( castle complex) was built in 13C. Today approximately 18000 people live here. So not big. We manage to find our way to our hotel which has been built within the old castle walls. It means parking is a bit of an issue and we have to drag our cases across the public areas to get to the reception entrance. Why on earth did they give planning permission for a new hotel within a 13C castle?! But at least it is convenient for visiting the major tourist attraction of the city.
  • The castle was restored in 2011-2 - ( some would say rather excessively) in order to revitalise a town that was in post soviet decline. Judging by the crowds this Sunday afternoon this has been achieved. It is worth mentioning also that there is a reasonable Museum of National History within the complex. Signage is in English and there are some interesting exhibits. Coincidentally it is sponsored by BP, AG's employer for many years.
  • We have a meander around the fortress. It is very heavily restored by UK standards of authenticity so do not make it a detour priority. But as a convenient stop over at the start of our Georgian experience it is a good option.
  • We decide to eat at the hotel - sitting on the terrace enjoying a very quiet fortress environment now that the crowds have gone home. We sample Khatchapuri, a traditional Georgian delicacy - cheese filled dough served with melted butter and runny egg. It tastes good ( but then when hungry and weary of Iftar food anything would!) It is surely also very calorific and if eaten daily not very healthy.
  • Our first Georgian meal tastes all the better since we sample a bottle of Georgian red wine - from Château Mukhrani which is a blend of French & Georgian grapes. Apparently M&S sell wine from this vineyard! Take a look next time you go shopping.
  • SG will mention more about Georgian wine in later blogs - we will be staying on a Georgian vineyard during our visit to this delightful country. Suffice to say it is believed that wine has been produced in Georgia for about 8000 years.
  • What a difference a day makes...

High Altitude Grasslands Heading to Turkish / Georgian Border

High Altitude Grasslands Heading to Turkish / Georgian Border

Interior of the Mosque within Rabati Fortress. Amazing Brickwork for 1752.

Interior of the Mosque within Rabati Fortress. Amazing Brickwork for 1752.

National Flag of Georgia. Does it Look Familiar?

National Flag of Georgia. Does it Look Familiar?

Oldies Trying to Take Selfies. Get that Angle Right!

Oldies Trying to Take Selfies. Get that Angle Right!

A Glass of Mellow Georgian Wine

A Glass of Mellow Georgian Wine

Khatchapuri - Georgian Delicacy - Naughty but Nice

Khatchapuri - Georgian Delicacy - Naughty but Nice

Rabati Fortress Akhaltsikhe

Rabati Fortress Akhaltsikhe

Posted by sagbucks 15:02 Comments (0)

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