Turkey Journals

Driving Eastern Turkey Part 2: Van - Ankara

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An April 2005 trip to Turkey by HobWahid

Amasya: Anatolias Hidden Gem Photo, Turkey, Europe More Photos
Quote: Northeastern Turkey might be Turkey's least-visited region. Everyone else's loss is your gain. From medieval Armenian cities to Georgian churches to supreme natural beauty, Northeastern Turkey doesn't disappoint.

Amasya: Anatolia's Hidden Gem

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Attraction

Amasya: Anatolia's Hidden Gem Photo, Turkey, Europe
Quote:
Today Amasya is a relatively small provincial capital, but 2,500 years ago it was the capital of the Pontan kingdom, a rival of Rome and remained an important trade center under the various empires that passed along the banks of its lovely Yesilırmak (Green River). During the Ottoman Era it was considered an ideal spot for the imperial summer residence, as well as the place to send future Sultans as governors to learn the trade. The city, one of Turkey's most beautiful, lies nestled on the banks of the Yesilırmak and contains an old town full of 200 year-old Ottoman mansions and cobblestone streets, tucked into the side of a cliff under magnificent Pontan tombs.In summer Amasya is a fair...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 11, 2006

Amasya: Anatolia's Hidden Gem
Amasya
Amasya, Anatolia, Turkey

Hattusa: The Path of the Hittites

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Attraction

Hattusa: The Path of the Hittites Photo, Turkey, Europe
Quote:
The last stop on our road trip of Eastern Turkey was the ancient Hittite cities of Hattusa and Yazilikaya. These sites, just outside of Ankara, are a popular stop for expats in Ankara as well as tour buses. For us it was a bit of a shock entering back into mainstream "tourist" Turkey. Having spent the last few weeks in places where we were one of the few, if not only tourists, it was weird to be among streams of tourists again, and the annoyances that come along with that. Like many of the sites on the tourist path, Hattusa is full of touts who try and sell you tours or "antiques" and will follow you around the site until you tell them to shove off. Still, though, it doesn't mean that these sites aren...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 11, 2006

Hattusa: The Path of the Hittites
North of Ankara
Van, Turkey

Ishak Pasha Palace

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Attraction | "Ishak Pasha Sarayi: At the foot of Ararat"

Ishak Pasha Palace Photo, Dogubeyazit, Turkey
Quote:
Sitting majestically at 1,000 feet above to border town of Dogubeyazit, lies the magnificent palace-fortress complex of Ishak Pasha, one of Eastern Turkey's most extraordinary sights. Although a fortress has existed on this spot for centuries, the structure you see today dates from the mid-18th century and was the home to the aforementioned Ishak Pasha, a Kurd and the governor of the Dogubeyazit region. At this time the area was on the frontier of the Ottoman Empire and a strategic point from which to defend against Persian and Russian invasions, all of which accounts for the palace's fortress-like location and exterior. Once inside its towering walls, however, a whole different world appears, one of ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 11, 2006

Ishak Pasha Palace
Dogubeyazit District, Agn Province
Dogubeyazit, Turkey

Sumela Monastery

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Attraction

Sumela Monastery Photo, Trabzon, Turkey
Quote:
The main reason travelers come to Trabzon is to take a trip to the Monastery of the Virgin Mary at Sumela. This 1,000-year-old monastery, nestled in the mountains 30 miles from Trabzon is a hit with tourists and Trabzonians alike, who flood the monastery in the summer for picnics. The whole time we were in Trabzon people constantly asked, "Have you seen Sumela yet?" and when we finally saw it we understood why.Today the monastery is preserved in the Altindere National Park, sparing it from being drown in development. The approach to the monastery is a road that winds its way up the mountains through forests and past waterfalls. Eventually you arrive at a small tourist vill...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 11, 2006

Sumela Monastery
Altindere National Park
Trabzon, Turkey

Hoşap Castle

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Attraction | "The Kurdish Castle of Hosap"

Hoşap Castle Photo, Turkey, Europe
Quote:
The road out of Van towards the Iranian border, provided you can find it, is a narrow, winding one, full of lorries trucking back and forth between Turkey and Iran. As you pull away from Van, the lush valleys give way to desolate mountains. The black smoke spewing out of the exhaust pipes may hide it, but this is an ancient land that has been home to empires of Urartians, Armenians, and Kurds. Indeed this is where Turkish Kurdistan gives way to Iranian Kurdistan.About an hour into the journey, depending on how many trucks you get stuck behind, you will come upon a flat plain with a large hill in the middle. This hill is called Cavustepe (Sergeant Hill) and atop it you will find the ruins o...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 11, 2006

Hoşap Castle
Village of Hosap, 30 miles from Van
Hosap, Turkey

Trabzon on the Black Sea

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Attraction

Trabzon on the Black Sea Photo, Trabzon, Turkey
Quote:
Trabzon might be my single favorite city in Turkey other than Istanbul. Istanbul is one of a kind, but as you cross Turkey you will begin to notice that a lot of Turkey's major cities have a similar feel, that is to say, large chunks of concrete laid out across the Anatolian steppe. Trabzon is different; It has a distinct character that makes it one of Turkey's most charming towns.Long isolated from the rest of Turkey, squeezed between the Black Sea and the Kackar Mountaıns, Trabzon has more in common with nearby Georgia than Istanbul or Ankara and has always maintained an independent flair. Founded by ancient Greeks, and long an important trade center, Trabzon was home to a brief empire ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 11, 2006

Trabzon on the Black Sea
Trabzon
Trabzon, Turkey

Ani: The Ghost of the Armenians

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Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
The ancient Armenian city of Ani is perhaps the most unique historical site in all of Turkey, not to mention one of the most stunning. Set about 30 miles to the east of Kars, right on the Armenian border, it is also one of the most out-of-the-way and least-visited, which means that the chances of having this vast site to yourself are very high. The city itself, founded by Armenian King Ashot the Meat-Eater (perhaps the best regal name ever) in 961, Ani flourished as the Armenian capital and a large trade center on the Silk Road for two centuries. Fearful of Byzantine domination, it allied itself with the Arabs it in return gave the Armenians autonomy. It finally fell to the Byzantines in the 11th cent...Read More

Caught in a Blizzard

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Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
Upon leaving Trabzon, we headed southwest towards the Anatolian city of Sivas, a town with a long Turkic history and numerous architectural monuments from the Selcuk and Ottoman eras. Sivas, however, was on the other side of the upper Anatolian mountain range, on the Anatolian plateau, and to get there we had to wind our way through a series of mountains.The day started in the lush semi-topical climate of Trabzon where the sun was shining at t-shirts were able to be warn. After we crossed back into central Anatolia and turned west from Erzincan, however, the weather cooled down and the skies turned grey. As we pushed our way into the mountains it started to rain slightly. As were rose in e...Read More

Kackar Mountains: Turkey's Georgian Past

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Story/Tip

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
The drive from Erzurum to Trabzon is perhaps the most visually spectacular drive in all of Turkey. It is a long and winding one that leaves desolate plains of Erzurum, passes through the towering Kackar Mountains, and then descends into the lush and semi-tropical climate of Trabzon on the Black Sea coast. It is a drive that passes some of Turkey's most remote and isolated communities. Along the way you will find the crumbling ruins of ancient Georgian churches, as well waterfalls and a few communities of Turkey's Caucasian minority the Laz, recognizable by their elaborate red headscarves. This is prime territory for trekkers (which sadly I didn’t have time to do), but completely impassible during wi...Read More

Kars: Disheveled Beauty

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Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
Kars was once the Eastern jewel of the Ottoman Empire. Lying on the primary Silk Road trade route through the mountains into Armenia, it was a wealthy and diverse city, full of Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Russians and Georgians, but it's been a rough 150 years for the city of Kars. It was conquered by Russia in the Crimean war, then again in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 in which (like they did in Van), the Russian nearly destroyed the city. In 1915 it was devastated by fallout of the Empire's dealing with the Armenians. The minorities fled. It returned to Ottoman hands in 1918, and then was briefly independent until it was occupied by the Armenians in 1920. During the Turkish War of Independence, Kars f...Read More

Where's the military? The East opens up.

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Story/Tip

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
As recently as five years ago the whole of eastern Turkey was a web of checkpoints and special permits, but all of that is rapidly changing. I had heard stories from travelers about being denied access to areas and being forbidden to take pictures. I had heard about the numerous checkpoints along the roads and the suspicious police that can make traveling in this region a headache, but by the time I arrived, it seems like that had all but disappeared. Ever since I had arrived in Diyarbakir I had been expecting numerous run-ins with the military, but hadn't seen a single one. The one-two punch of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Kurdish conflict, have opened up Eastern Turkey in a wa...Read More

Dealing with a broken hubcap

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Story/Tip

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
Somewhere along the road from Kars to Erzurum I hear a loud pop as our Ford Fiesta ran over a large pothole. I looked out my right window in time to see the front hubcap go flying into the air and then watched through the rear-view mirror land on the side of the road behind us. My friend and I pulled the car over, convinced that we had popped our tire. I got out and inspected it but could not find a hole. It had seemed we had escaped, but still needed to find a hubcap. After all, this was a rental car and I was sure they would charge for a lost hubcap.So we left our car behind and began to search for the missing hubcap. We were having a bit of trouble until a couple of cars drove by honkin...Read More

The Cuisine of the Northeast

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Quote:
I am a traveler who likes to do a lot of gastronomic exploration. Everywhere I go I have to sample the local specialty, no matter what it is, and Northeastern Turkey doesn't dissapoint. Most people, when they think of Turkish cuisine think of the kebabs, doner and kofte, the specialties of Istanbul and the south. But while the culinary hubs of Adana and Urfa steal much of the gastronomic glory among foreigners, Turks hold a special place in their hearts for the unique cuisine of the Northeast.While much of Turkish cuisine contains Arab, Persian and Greek influences, Northeastern Turkey's cuisine is closer to that of its Georgian and Armenian neighbors. Each town has its own specialties and...Read More