Eastern Turkey



Dogubeyazit to Sanliurfa (26 October to 4 November 2001)
Turkey ! Yet another new country ! Where shall we start ? First things first. Kathleen dropped the veil after 6 weeks in Iran. We arrived at the Iranian side of the border at around 11 am and were in for a couple of surprises that day. Leaving Iran took us less than an hour. Entering Turkey took us a little more than 4 hours. No single border crossing since we left HK (15 border crossings all together) has taken us more than one hour, our record being two crossings in 30 minutes. Not only was the whole matter inefficient but most people involved were unpleasant and none spoke any English, all of this in contrast with all previous crossings ! Did we loose our temper ? Yes ! Our next surprise happened in a small supermarket in the border town of Dogubeyazit, commonly known among travelers as "Dog biscuit" ! Entering shops and supermarkets in foreign countries is always a very interesting thing as you discover different brands and different products. The automised bar-code readers at the exit of the shop were a first surprise. The next one was being able to pay using a cash card issued in Belgium that was part of the Maestro network. Slide the card, sign the printed slip and go ! As we have not even been able to use credit cards except in a few luxury hotels in India, this was a shock ! 


Africa ? No, Mount Ararat in Eastern Turkey, an extraordinarily beautiful mountain also visible from Iran. According to the Old Testament, this is the place where Noah's Ark landed.


Our first night in Turkey was spent on the hill overlooking Dogubeyazit city but also overlooking the 17th century fortress of Ishak Pacha Sarayi. It was a cold first night in Turkey with the temperature in the tent going to - 2 degrees C during the night ! We woke up with the stunning view of the fortress cum mosque, young dogs running around our car and... a first puncture in 35,000 km.




We were also greeted with a beautiful sunshine and blue sky, another splendid view of Mt Ararat (which is not always visible) and the glorious mosque below us. The building was started in 1685 and finished in 1784 and is an interesting mixtures of architectural styles : Seljuk, Ottoman, Georgian, Persian and Armenian ! The sand-coloured stones and the blue sky were just magnificent.




One of our many lunch breaks in Turkey. The road North to Kars (left), delicious Turkish bread (centre) and a first alcoholic beer in public since India ! (right)


On the road to Erzurum
The road between Kars and Erzurum is sprinkled with old Armenian churches and small Anatolian villages. This area is also home to the beautiful Georgian valleys, filled with deep gorges and thick pine forests. At this time of year, the leaves of many trees were a riot of colours ! 



Ishan Church is set in the middle of a schoolyard of which the secretary doubled as ticket seller ! Kathleen still firmly believes these were fancy fair lottery tickets !


Three old men talking about the good old days (left), the young boy who repaired our first puncture in Kars (centre) and a small village (right)


We got our first puncture in Turkey. We also got our first ticket in Turkey (cost : 26,600,000 Turkish lira's or nearly US$ 20) crossing a white line on a road like the one below whilst overtaking a truck. Christian acknowledged his mistake but that didn't help.


The journey, not the destination ! Snow-covered Anatolian plateau North East of Kars, Eastern Turkey. 


The city of Erzurum is not famous for much except that it is a large garrison town in which every soldier remembers the number of days he still has to serve to the exact day because of the miserably cold weather. For the two of us, it seemed like the most modern town we had seen for years : our first encounter with a huge Swiss Migros supermarket as well as a Burger King next to it. The weather was so bad we resorted to going to a hotel instead of sleeping in our rooftop tent.


Our first encounter with the traditional Byzantine dome shape (left), colourful arch decoration (centre) and the Three Tombs of Erzurum (right)



Welcome back to the modern world of credit cards (and a cleaner in the reflection of the window wondering what on earth we are photographing). Dairy products !


From Erzurum to Sivas and Divrigi
After 3 horrible days in Erzurum, during which we conveniently stayed indoors, we were blessed with gorgeous winter weather : crisp and cold but sunny ! The best possible weather in this part of the world for this time of year. The stop in Sivas was a routine stop to find an internet cafe (as our computer clapped out on us in Teheran) to write to IBM begging them to deliver us from our misery. We bought the local specialty for Christian : dried apricots !


Stunning mountains overlooking the Anatolian plains on our way South (left), Sivas and the building that housed Ataturk's Congress of September 1919 (centre), weathered Ottoman style tombs in Tercan, West of Erzurum, Eastern Turkey.


The purpose of our visit to Divrigi, a small and little visited town hidden behind a 1970m mountain pass (where we hit the 35,000 km mark) : the 13th century Ulu mosque with its immense portals and ebony pulpits. A portion of the mosque served as hospital and medical faculty and the whole building has been listed as world heritage by UNESCO. We got an unexpected closer look at Divrigi.  If Turkey is a country of firsts, it's also a country of seconds. In Divrigi, we got a second puncture, only a week since the first one ! 



Changing tyres outside Ulu Cami (left), one of the first words we learned in Turkish was "Oto Lasticki" or tyre repair shop.


Taking a shortcut out of Divrigi or one of the rare occasions we have taken unpaved roads in Turkey on our way to Sanliurfa.


Here is the first of our extra pages : the city of Ani
The ruined city of Ani

We are doing well !

Coming from Northern Iran Back to Trip page Heading to Mediterranean Turkey