As the Armenian Temporary Import Permit was about to end, we had to leave, crossed Georgia and entered Turkey. We followed the Black Sea Silk Road along the coast to the west, then southwards to the tourist hotspots at the Mediterranean Sea.
20th September; Gyumri
But let’s have it a little bit more in detail: after all extravaganzas in Yerevan we left for the highest mountain in Armenia – Mt. Aragat, some 4000m above sea level. Probably they called it after Mt. Ararat which they lost many years ago to the Turks. Nevertheless, 4000m is still ok and, anyway, the name of Ararat remains in the collective memory in the form of Ararat Konyagi – a kind of further development of odd vodka into highest quality cognac. Most of the way up to the mountain you can drive by car. A narrow, winding’n’steep road to 3200m. There you arrive at a former Soviet nuclear research station. Nowadays still inhabited by a few Armenian physicians. Some rumours insist they still try to stop the nightly nuclear glowing of the summit of Mt. Aragat. Can imagine, but who knows…
Please click on the arrow 2c the Panorama
Then on to Gyumri in north western Armenia. Again a road which has seen many repair work. Over the mountains and along witnesses of times long ago.
Unfortunately Monika’s all beloved favourite restaurant in town had closed that evening – probabely a family issue. Alternatively we had to go to the famous Ponchik-Monchik for a real fat Armenian farewell dinner. Even if nobody spoke a word of English we got what we thought to have ordered in our 50 words of perfect Russian. And it looked and tasted wonderful.
Due to the never-ending disputes between the Turkies and the Armenies the border between these 2 nice neighbours has definitely closed. So we had to cross Georgia before entering Turkey.
Passing thru the fairly shabby outskirts of Gyumri with their Soviet style housing schemes.
A short trip to the border. Formalities rather fast. On Armenian side some more all important paper work and costs to close the TIP for Prado, on Georgian side everything fast – except the customs. They wanted to see our rooftop lodge in all its glory. But after having discovered the bag with our unwashed clothes he definitely forgot about the lodge and insisted on having the bag x-rayed. No problem. After ½ h we were back on the road on the way to Vardzia.
We stayed at Valodia’s GH. 2 days. For washing clothes, cleaning Prado – inside only, who the hell bothers for the outside. To recover a bit from Armenian monasteries and to have enough time for some beer before entering tea prone Turkey.
Then on to Turkey. A last heavy load of cheap sulphur rich diesel for Prado in Akhaltsikhe near the border. Border control on both sides within minutes and we were on the way to Artvin. We went to the Koru Hotel were we’ve been some 3 months ago – more for the nice terrace and view than the hotel.
Then on to Trabzon at the Black Sea coast. On the way we realised that Turkey is celebrating Id al-adha, or Tabaski how it is called in other places. So most shops closed for at least 4 days, all discussions limited to sheep or other nice animals to be sacrificed that day. Anyhow, sheep at every corner.
Near Trabzon to the famous monastery of Sumela high up in the mountains. On the way up we learn that it is closed for renovation. The visit was limited to a quick look from outside.
So we moved on. Along the Black Sea cost westwards. On a signboard it was definitely stated that we follow the Black Sea Silk Road – probably that’s the loose end we’ve been looking for a long time. The famous one that starts in Laufaburg, Swizzyland. Anyway, we followed it the reverse way to Unya.
On the way we discovered some interesting traffic lights. Not just the lights of the robots are illuminated. No, the whole poles. Very attractive in the otherwise quite boring street scenes of these towns. Nevertheless, we wonder how to manage our right of way if the lights and poles show different colours.
Unya, a small coastal town, some Turkish tourists enjoying beach life, a few bars where probably dubious elements (including ourselves) were drinking some beers well hidden from the rather conservative inhabitants and some crowded fish eateries.
The next day still along the coast to Sinop. A real hot spot for Turkish tourists, for unknown reasons absolutely no foreign ones. Every house a hotel with a restaurant or a tourist shop on the ground floor. No idea where the poor locals live.
A purely Turkish beach hot spot looks a little different to those of other nationalities. No huge resort hotels, but countless small ones. The beachfront full of tea houses. In-between some places resembling somehow to lounges selling beer. And interestingly, no beach or swimming pools. Nobody looking for a swim or sunbathing. But they all seem to be busy in catching fish.
27th September; Safranbolou
Further westwards along the coast …
… then over quite high passes to the south.
Safranbolu, a CBD with many Ottoman houses. Many of them carefully restored and converted into guesthouses. Of course, also numerous souvenir shops full of items produced in China for their Chinese customers to bring them back to their origin. And the most famous item – Lokum. Just sweet. A kind of death thru sweetness, resembles somehow to American chewing gum with Turkish taste.
In the evening a street side restaurant. Maybe the cook didn’t have his best day. Maybe if you’re there it’s a good idea to look for somewhere else – whatever, it’s up to you.
At least, we got something to eat and we didn’t get sick.
We drove southwards. 600km, 9h to Egirdir. Mostly on double line roads, around Ankara on the toll highway. Unfortunately we couldn’t pay. At the only station where we could buy some credit for the electronic toll system the only computer was on strike. Nevertheless, they promised us that we could easily make the payment within the next 15 days and some Turkish computer systems will book it correctly and without any further hassle to us. We’ll see.
The highlight – the view on lake Egirdir. Just minutes before arriving there in the evening.
Nevertheless, Prado started an entertainment program. We were hoping the change of the diesel filter in Yerevan would end Prado’s asthmatic attacks. Far wrong. Some km south of Ankara Prado’s control panel started a kind of eccentric disco firework. All no problem, maybe except the yellow one showing an engine block. Consulting the car’s manual we learned that it was time to contact a Toyota dealer. Thus no village doctor, but a Toyota hospital. Carefully we drove on, the lights went off. Finally we arrived in Egirdir, postponing the hospital to tomorrow …
The short trip to Antalya. Some 200km to THE ultimate Turkish tourist hotspot.
The 1st point we headed for: Toyota. They were kind enough to immediately have a look at the car. With a lot of translators helping us we could explain the problem with the disco lights and had an appointment for tomorrow to test the injectors.
Then to town to the quarter of Kaleici. Most accommodation in the old town was fully booked. Finally we found one. Right on top of the harbour – a top location. A place called Hotel Reutlingen. Up to now the only never again hotel experience we had in Turkey. The place seems to be mainly for nostalgic guys still living in the 70ies of the late GDR. As a speciality they had air-conditioned rooms. To facilitate the tasks of the poor customers the reception took the burden of switching them on …. and when required off. Taking care of poor customer’s health was the top priority of the hotel management. So they principally turned off the air condition after a little time, ignoring all arguments of their customers who try to escape the sauna. Anyhow, just avoid the place. For the money you can only get better.
A stroll thru the alleys of the old town. Many tourists, many wanted or unwanted services offered and some irresistible fashion offers just on the street side.
Many historic Ottoman houses, mostly converted into accommodation or restaurants – some falling into pieces…
… and a busy roman harbour for all kind of adventure cruises. Next to it even a kind of a beach …
After 3 days Toyota phoned us. The next day we could get Prado back. The injectors repaired and a clear warning to the car’s consumption habits: less sulphur, less dirt in the diesel. A little similar to the recommendation to reduce McDonnald’s mayonnaise in human diet.
To Toyota. Prado was stationed in front of their office – clean as never before. The injectors were not damaged, just needed to be cleaned. 60 Euros worse off we drove towards Kas at the so-called Turkish Riviera.
More about the part of our trip without any real adventures in the next post.
C u soon, cheeeeeers Monika’n’Martin