Leaving Cappadocia I headed east across the Anatolian plateau towards the borders with Georgia, Armenia and Iran. Turkey also borders on it’s south Syria and Iraq. I wanted to get into the eastern part of Turkey in part because it is more fundamentally Muslim. I also had to experience the massive Anatolian plateau that ranges from one to two thousand meters above sea level, with mountains up to five thousand . The high quality roads enabled me to comfortably make it to Erzurum in a day and a half, stopping at Erzinican on the way. I loved the often bare country with enough activity and foliage to add interest.
I had a bit more than a day to visit Erzurum, with the reputation of being quite fundamentalist. It may be so, I found people very warm and welcoming. I had some reading glasses made and the young man who made them drove me back to my hotel as I had wandered some distance away. I also bought some long johns (it is almost 2000m here and cold at night). It was in the market so I thought I would offer 50 TL ($12). “No.No.,the vendor said, 25TL. The old mosques, mausoleums, and medresses (seminaries) are the prime attraction here, although it’s location high on the plateau is also a big plus for me.
It took another day and a half to drop down through an extensive canyon system to get to the Black Sea near the border with Georgia and then back up into the Kackar mountains.
I had picked a small village called Ayder, at about 1500m at the end of a road about 50 km from the sea. I headed there to find some high altitude walking.
The village is well below tree line, above which are the yaylas (farm meadows) that I was hoping to find. Off of the pavement the roads immediately became too rough for my little rental car. The first day it took me my whole walk just to get to the yayla, but the second day I found a concrete road that went almost up to a yayla, so I spent that day in my idea of heaven. I walked with a lovely black dog (named Gino I was told) I gained 500 m over the day, met lots of locals and about 500 goats, took lots of pictures.
From there I spent two more nights in Trabzon on the Black Sea walking the streets except for a half day driving again into the mountains to visit Sumela Monastery. It was active from the 4th c AD until 1923, when the Greeks were shipped out. Unfortunately it has been under renovation for five years, but I primarily went because it is so striking plastered against the cliff.
I am now heading west along the Black Sea before heading inland again.