Evening in Istanbul

Evening in Istanbul
The alluring and beautiful Aya Sophia

Monday, September 12, 2011


From gridlocked traffic at Sumela Monastery, to a high altitude walk near Mt Deniz in Eastern Anatolia, and a visit to the ancient city of Ani right on the border of Armenia, it's been a intensely occupied time for the first half of Jenny's and my four week drive in Eastern Turkey.

Beautiful frescoes are on the walls inside the Sumela monastery
We decided to visit the Sumela Monastery, high up on a cliff, not far from Trabzon on the Black Sea, and fortunately for us, we left earlyish in the morning. By the time we'd walked back down the 850' slippery stoney path from the breathtaking Monastery everyone from Trabzon and surrounding area had arrived, for the last day of their holidays. Everyone. The narrow mountain road was lined for kms on both sides way back to the toll gate, traffic was stalled bumper to bumper coming up, while we were trying to go down past the mad Turkish drivers who kept on trying to come up the road on our side and completely blocking the road in the process. Some Gendarmes were trying fairly ineffectively to sort the shambles. We did manage to coerce people into letting us through, and stopping others coming up on our side, and so we escaped. We reckoned some of them would have still been there at midnight; there was simply nowhere for them to go.

From the town of Of we made our way over a high 10,000' pass, and through narrow winding mountain roads to Yusefeli, and then Barhal village, and met up again with Vedat Vural, his family and some other trekkers. We mainly did our own thing though, including a 7 hour hike (yep, I did it, ankle and all) to a high mountain campsite underneath Denizdagi, or Mt Deniz. The scenery was astounding and massive, we had perfect weather, and walked up through old stone villages with the houses half set down into the ground, surrounded by crocuses and gentians. It's covered with snow up there for months in the winter, and was cold enough when we were there.

The beautiful Church of St Grigor at Ani
In fact, it's still cold, and we're in Kars, further east still, passing by haymaking time at beautiful Lake Cildir, a place which has a reputation of being fiercely miserably chilly in the winter – you go there for icefishing. We managed to find a young girl who happily guided us around the ancient city of Ani, which only has a river gorge between it and Armenia. In fact my phone decided it was in Armenia, and I got a message from TelecomNZ telling me to check the rates, and did I want the 2 hour time difference updated. It's hard enough for Turks to get into Armenia; the border is absolutely closed to Kiwis. Built by the Armenians in the 10C, and added to by the Selcuk Turks, and demolished by succeeding marauding armies, it's a wonder so many of the churches are still standing, and are such a wonder to gaze on. You can see Armenia on the other side of the Akhurian River, with houses for the Armenian guards in the distance

We're heading south today to Dogubeyazit (door-beer-zit – but we're privately calling it DB for short), and hopefully will be walking on Mt Ararat!! (Ağrı Dağı). Marie has just climbed Mt Sinai, so maybe we're trying to compete!, but we won't be summiting like she did. 
If you scroll right down to the bottom of the blog, past the other blog posts, there are more photos at the very end.
Yani şu an için uzun (So long for now . . . . .)

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