A Travellerspoint blog

Turkey

Ani, A Lost City of Ancient Ghosts

sunny 30 °C

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 grass land. 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 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 had 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 when the Iftar crowd start arriving. And so the show goes on. Yes Ramadan must be good business for restaurant owners.

Arslan Gate at Entrance to Ancient Ani City Named  After Stone with Lion Carving

Arslan Gate at Entrance to Ancient Ani City Named After Stone with Lion Carving

Ani Cathedral Built 987. Converted to Mosque in 11C

Ani Cathedral Built 987. Converted to Mosque in 11C

View From Cathedral Looking Over River Akhurian Which Forms Natural Border Between Turkey & Armenia

View From Cathedral Looking Over River Akhurian Which Forms Natural Border Between Turkey & Armenia

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

All These Boxes are Live Bee Hives

All These Boxes are Live Bee Hives

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

Guarding the Bees.  He wears an Amazing Collar

Guarding the Bees. He wears an Amazing Collar

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 07:51 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Kars City - Work in Progress

sunny 28 °C

Day 16 Friday June 9 2017
Erzincan to Kars / 390 km

  • A very bad night's sleep and an equally bad awakening. We tune in to LBC at 4 a.m. UK time and hear the prediction of a hung parliament. Teresa May & her team have badly misjudged the political landscape and voter psychology. Even to ardent Conservatives her campaign must seem disastrous. And against all odds and even against the predictions of his own party it looks as if Jeremy Corbyn has swept up anti establishment, pro Remain, anti Conservative votes.
  • Whatever our political persuasion, we all need to be concerned. Our electoral system and constituency borders no longer seem to be fit for purpose. Neither do most of our politicians.
  • There's nothing much worth taking from the breakfast table for our picnic lunch stop. As usual we have boiled eggs and bring in our own coffee. We are in desperate need of caffeine this morning. The kindly Turkish waiter asks why we don't drink Turkish coffee. It's a fair question. We explain its too strong. He suggests that this is exactly the reason it is an ideal chaser to strong Turkish alcohol.
  • Outside the hotel it is a lovely fine morning and a very pleasant 25C with a breeze.
  • Today we continue our route through eastern Turkey to Kars where we will have our last rest day before entering Georgia, one of our 3 'destination' countries. The roads impress. Dual and triple carriageways, reasonable road surface, glorious scenery and of course minimal traffic.
  • We are driving fairly consistently at around 2000m but usually across elevated plains so we have no real perception of altitude.
  • At Herasan we branch off the road that ultimately leads to the Iranian border. instead we head

NE to Kars.

  • Kars lies at about 1700 m. In winter temperatures drop to -30C and there is skiing within an hour of the city. The resorts are famed for powder snow.
  • It has the feel of a frontier town. It is certainly a long way from Ankara. In fact Kars is the nearest city to the Turkish Armenian border which has been closed since 1993.
  • During the 19C, Kars and its namesake province, was contested by both the Russian & Ottoman empires in a somewhat tug of war scenario. In 1828 the Russians seized control, later they lost power and then regained it in 1878. After World War 1 the area fell to Armenian rule and subsequently to the Turkish Republic.
  • These days the only Russian connection is seen in the architectural style of some of the buildings that are dotted around the older part of town. Many are now under preservation orders - signs on the buildings designate this status. But for a large number of these it is still very much 'work in progress' or indeed, not yet even started. Many of the protected buildings are in a very dilapidated condition.
  • As an aside, Wikipedia is unobtainable in Turkey. Facts, figures & general information whilst in Turkey does not come from this source. We wonder why. It may have something to do with political commentary about Turkey's 20 C Ottoman history, as well as current government changes that are happening under Erdogan.
  • Kars has a population of around 75000 and it is estimated that about 20% are Kurds. Several people we speak to stress their Kurdish identity. They are also Turks.
  • The truck receives some care & attention today - AG changes the oil & oil filter. Something that is necessary every 5000km and is therefore now overdue.
  • Whilst AG is at the local garage, SG attends to her principle domestic chore - washing laundry. A 2 day stopover always means laundry day. We have brought with us : washing liquid, universal plug, a couple of elasticated washing lines & clothes pegs. All part of the traveller's essential kit.
  • Our hotel is charming: clean, simply but tastefully furnished and calm. It's a little oasis in a city of generally very average modern architecture.
  • It is classified as a Butik Otel ( probably with justification ). There are only 8 rooms ( not all of them free from traffic noise ) so if you are coming to Kars and wish to stay here, you will need to book ahead. The owner lives in Ankara & has a second ' Butik otel ' near Bodrum on Turkey's Agean Coast Called Casa Costa Sitesi (www.casacostahotel.com) with sea views, terrace dining etc. - might be nice too? The hotel Manager in Kars Otel, who is also Kurdish, speaks enough English to be a source of good advice about where to eat & visit.
  • Kars Otel has been converted from a Russian style building that dates from 1901. It was originally used by the military. Later after the departure of Russian soldiers it was occupied as a residence by 4 Turkish families.
  • Its stone walls are about a meter thick - for insulation from the cold winters and for natural cooling during hot summers. Whereas the front facade is obviously of Russian influence, the rear aspect is distinctly Ottoman. See photographs.
  • Late afternoon we venture out for a walk around some of the old buildings of Kars. This takes us down to the river where an old Hamam is supposedly being renovated. The scenery is dominated by Kars Castle on the hill beyond and minarets of the numerous mosques.
  • We also want to check out where we might eat this evening. We are ever hopeful of local culinary delights.
  • We stop for liquid refreshments ( still no beer ) in a riverside cafe. The river is sadly polluted and not at all fragrant. As has been the case all through Turkey, even if we cannot actively converse with each other, the Turkish people have shown us kindness, interest and good humour. We are approached several times by young people who are curious about our origins and are keen to practise their English.
  • We must again eat Iftar supper this evening. It seems we have no choice. It is a set menu individual to each restaurant. But SG suspects that there are certain traditional Iftar foods that feature regularly - a bit like eating Christmas food for 28 days.
  • We leave Turkey on Sunday so we only have more more night of Iftar suppers, soda water and the Mullah's dawn wail. On the return leg of our journey we will be spending another 11 days in this vast & richly cultural country but Ramadan will be over for another year.

EU has Subsidised a Project Adjacent to our Hotel. Why?

EU has Subsidised a Project Adjacent to our Hotel. Why?

Picnic Time on the Road

Picnic Time on the Road


Old Kars Architecture

Old Kars Architecture

Old Hamam in Need of Restoration

Old Hamam in Need of Restoration

Raw Wool Drying on Pavement. It's Wonderfully Soft

Raw Wool Drying on Pavement. It's Wonderfully Soft

Typical Old Architecture in Kars

Typical Old Architecture in Kars

Katrina Hotel - Very Old Russian Style

Katrina Hotel - Very Old Russian Style

SG with Some Young Turkish Teachers

SG with Some Young Turkish Teachers

A Handsome Medical Student has Just Graduated

A Handsome Medical Student has Just Graduated

Large Samovar on Pavement & Proud Owner

Large Samovar on Pavement & Proud Owner

Turkish Cafes Seem to be Hub of Male Social Activity. - AG Joins Them

Turkish Cafes Seem to be Hub of Male Social Activity. - AG Joins Them

Russian Inspired Front Facade of Kars Otel

Russian Inspired Front Facade of Kars Otel

Rear Ottoman Facade of Kars Otel

Rear Ottoman Facade of Kars Otel

A Restaurant Specialising in Goose. Kars Castle in Background.

A Restaurant Specialising in Goose. Kars Castle in Background.

Posted by sagbucks 08:15 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Sinop to Amasya - The Hard Section of Our Journey Begins

sunny 25 °C

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 2000BC 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

The Old Prison Built Within the Walls of the Fortress

The Old Prison Built Within the Walls of the Fortress

Busy with Boats

Busy with Boats

Agriculture is Changing - Are These Paddy Fields?

Agriculture is Changing - Are These Paddy Fields?

Honeycomb & Yogurt & Dried Fruit - Our Lunch

Honeycomb & Yogurt & Dried Fruit - Our Lunch

A Little Old Rural House Near Amasya

A Little Old Rural House Near Amasya

SomewherUp There are the Royal Tombs of the Pontic Era (333-26 B.C.)

SomewherUp There are the Royal Tombs of the Pontic Era (333-26 B.C.)

Old Town of Amasya with Pontic Tombs Above & On Rock Summit Amasra Castle

Old Town of Amasya with Pontic Tombs Above & On Rock Summit Amasra Castle

It Must be Water Melon Season Again

It Must be Water Melon Season Again

Bronze Art on Bridge over River Yesilirmak

Bronze Art on Bridge over River Yesilirmak

And Then They Go & Spoil Things - With a Seagull Phone Booth

And Then They Go & Spoil Things - With a Seagull Phone Booth

Sunset over Amasya

Sunset over Amasya

Iftar Supper Menu is Advertised

Iftar Supper Menu is Advertised

Waiting for our Iftar Supper

Waiting for our Iftar Supper

Posted by sagbucks 06:01 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Driving Along Part of Turkey's Black Sea Coast

overcast 18 °C

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 ( whatever that means ) . And as yesterday's photographs reveal, there are many more historical houses awaiting renovation.
  • At Gulevi we were 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 took a photo of our truck whilst we were parked up and sent an Instagram to his friends around Turkey. One of his contacts replied 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 11:20 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Returning to Safranbolu

overcast 16 °C

Day 11 Sunday June 4 2017
Bakucha Vineyard, Luleburgaz to Safronbolu / 576 km

  • Overcast & only 18 C as we leave the vineyard at 9 a.m.
  • AG pays the bill. It's all in Turkish & the receptionist speaks insufficient English to translate. We have no idea if it is correct. But it is less than was originally quoted for room & half board so we pay up. We were unable to use booking.com for this hotel reservation. There is no trip advisor rating either so they receive very few European visitors. A well kept secret. Maybe it's best to keep it that way.
  • It's a long drive today . That's often the way in SG's carefully planned schedule - a day of sightseeing followed by none, a short mileage journey precedes a long one. This truck trip has taken over a year of preparation - it is our unique route with most destinations especially selected.
  • We rarely return anywhere out of choice. But this evening is an exception. It almost feels like we are heading home. Safronbolu - a place we stayed on our London to Sydney adventure. A place that was meant to offer a 2 day stopover but which due to AG's arm infection was extended to several days. The manager of the hotel, Hassan, was extremely kind and drove AG to the various clinics in an effort to get an accurate diagnosis and the correct medication. We hope that he is still there. AG did little sightseeing back in 2014. SG remembers the wonderful old Hamam and hopes to share that particular experience with AG this time around. In any case we have a rest day tomorrow in Safronbolu to recharge the batteries before the long Turkey leg of our journey.
  • We are feeling angry. We have just connected to the Internet and have heard about the London Bridge incident last night. Another act of terrorism on Mainland UK, more innocent lives lost. We're reasonable people and are willing to carry ID cards, be subjected to random searches, give the authorities power to take away British passports from those who are even 'petty terrorists' and to throw out of our prisons and deport those who have committed crimes on British soil but who are here illegally in the first place. Yes enough is enough.
  • Meanwhile en route to Istanbul and beyond, the 3 lane motorway is empty. Istanbul - there's no way round it since we are heading to Northern Turkey & the Black Sea coast. That's why it was and still is so strategically important. Being a Sunday we are hoping that traffic on the city ring road will be reasonably light. We have no intention of stopping in Istanbul. We are trying to avoid Turkey's potential hot spots of political protest.
  • Istanbul is one of the world's great cities. It is a metropolis of 15 million people that extends for miles. The motorway system around the city and leading across the Bosporus is first class. Large national flags dot the skyline, as do numerous mosques. Long stretches of the motorway banks & verges are cultivated ( you could say manicured) with specimen trees and flower beds actually in bloom. Yes there is money being spent on civic pride in this city.
  • The views from the road bridge across the Bosphorus are magnificent. Istanbul's old town hugs the waterside. The sun has now emerged and the water is a gorgeous colour -a true turquoise.

A colour forever associated with the Turks. Originally a French word meaning Turkish jewel because the turquoise stone was imported into Europe from Turkey. The first recorded use of turquoise as a colour in our English language was in 1573.

  • We have now crossed over the geographical border between Europe & Asia.
  • At our journey's 1/2 way point we stop at a Shell service station. A Starbucks beckons. This side of Istanbul we are seeing more women wearing headscarves. Worry beads or prayer beads take pride of place as an impulse purchase at the cash desk.
  • For several hundred kilometres we share the motorway route to Ankara before joining a more minor road ( still a dual carriageway ) & heading NE to Safronbolu. We drive through an extensive low lying mountain area that is deeply wooded. It starts to rain again and the temperature drops to 16 C! Somehow not very Turkey like. A reminder that this is a vast country with varied geography, vegetation and climate.
  • When we stop for our picnic lunch we realise the fridge is not working. This is a blow to our planned self sufficiency en route! It's another electrical problem in a vehicle that is meant to be electronically simplistic. The contents are smelling. The cheddar cheese from UK is maturing nicely and pungently.
  • 7 hours later we arrive in Safronbolu. AG is an amazing driver. But driving such distances is manageable when there are no traffic jams and carriageways are triple lane. The state of our UK motorway infrastructure is in contrast embarrassing. Only today we read that journey times on the M25 are getting slower. Don't we know it!
  • Our small hotel, the Gulevi, is a converted former Ottoman house & has not changed in 3 years. Nor has it been updated. It is still quite basic but the lovely garden is a real feature & hopefully the breakfasts too. If our memories serve us correctly.
  • It is quite cool - for Turkey - and rain showers continue intermittently for the rest of the evening.
  • We walk the short distance downhill into the old town of Safranbolu to re-acquaint ourselves with the layout, determine what we might do tomorrow and find a restaurant for supper.
  • It is Ramadan and many establishments are closed or not serving food until sunset when the local Mullah announces break fast time. Those who have fasted since sunrise will then tuck into the special meal of the day - 'iftar'.
  • A kindly Turkish man from Ankara, also a visitor to Safranbolu, recommends a restaurant. It is 7.30 pm and it is empty. The owner agrees to serve us and beckons us to a solitary table outside, We sit practically on the street. We choose from a limited menu and start to satisfy our hunger but not necessarily our appetite. We are surprised we are allowed to do so in full sight of fasting muslims. This is not the case in the Middle East during Ramadan. We wonder how long it will be until Erdogan decrees that Ramadan be more strictly observed by everyone in Turkey, including 'non believers'.
  • For the next hour we not only eat but watch the world go by. More and more Turks arrive at our restaurant, greeting each other warmly and taking a seat at the various vacant tables. This continues until every space is taken but still no one eats. Time is moving on, it is nearly 8.20 p.m. and now food is served to the tables. Everyone will eat the same. Still no one raises a fork or sips a drop of water. They are waiting for the Mullah to give the signal that the day's fast is over.
  • At around 8.30 the loud call to prayer resonates around the town. Finally everyone relaxes and starts to eat. This performance is repeated everyday throughout the month of Ramadan. A supper party with friends & relatives that lasts 28 days.
  • Previously such sounds & sights would have brought back happy memories of our 5 year posting to Muscat, Oman. We have lots of Ramadan stories to tell. But today after recent atrocities committed in London & Manchester in the name of Allah, we feel great sadness and not a little irritation, however unjustified it might be.
  • Back at our very quiet hotel ( we suspect we may be only guests ) we later here the final call to prayer of the day to the nearby mosque. Earplugs in again tonight - but they are unlikely to work 100%. The Mullah is too loud and the mosques too numerous. It is truly a surround sound.

Manicured Motorway Flowerbeds - Miles & Miles of Them

Manicured Motorway Flowerbeds - Miles & Miles of Them

Safranbolu Old Town

Safranbolu Old Town

One of the Many Mosques in Safranbolu Old Town

One of the Many Mosques in Safranbolu Old Town

Washing Feet & Hands Area in Front of Mosque

Washing Feet & Hands Area in Front of Mosque

What Men Do Best - Chat & Play with Their Worry Beads

What Men Do Best - Chat & Play with Their Worry Beads

A Little Boy Clutches Fresh Bread for His Famiky's Iftir Supper

A Little Boy Clutches Fresh Bread for His Famiky's Iftir Supper

This Local Bakery Seems to be Baking Iftir Bread for All Safranbolu

This Local Bakery Seems to be Baking Iftir Bread for All Safranbolu

Safranbolu is Named After the Most Expensive Spice in the Workd

Safranbolu is Named After the Most Expensive Spice in the Workd

Many Old Cobbled Footpaths Criss Cross Old Town Safranbolu

Many Old Cobbled Footpaths Criss Cross Old Town Safranbolu

An Old Ottoman House in Need of Restoration.

An Old Ottoman House in Need of Restoration.

AG Awaits His Supper

AG Awaits His Supper

The Fasting Turks Have to Await the Mullah's Signal to Eat

The Fasting Turks Have to Await the Mullah's Signal to Eat

Posted by sagbucks 23:13 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 16) Previous « Page 1 2 [3] 4 » Next