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The Northeast Frontier - September 2010


This is the Planning! and this is the route

This is a map of the area: map


Go directly to the different Places:

Lake Van Georgian valley Trabzon
Ankara Cappadocia Konya




Friday 17 September

We enjoy the hotel breakfast with at least 5 different kinds of cheeses and then we take a 5€ taxi to the bus station. In the afternoon we arrive in Trabzon, which has a very Russian atmosphere, or is it just my imagination? I see Vodka bottles for sale in the shop windows, I hear a lot Russian words, the shops have signs in Cyrillic writings, a lot of men with blue eyes and blond hair and some Natasha’s doing an evening stroll. As a matter a fact we see many shops selling alcohol, or is it because we have been in the very conservative Kurdish area of the country so far that we have forgotten how modern some parts of Turkey are? I also notice that the majority of the women do not wear a headscarf, and we even see a brothel in the same street as our hotel. At first I do not realize it is one, in the window are some puppets wearing sexy underwear and are posted in a chair like waiting for a customer.


Chai from a samovar - Boztepe

In the afternoon we take a dolmus to Boztepe Picnic place, which is located on a hillside southeast of the city. The hillside park is one big teahouse with stunning views over the city. We order a samovar (4€) from which we are able to poor an endless stream of cups of tea while we watch the sun set over the black sea. We get a holiday feeling while sipping chai, watching the other people go by and looking at the changing colours in the sky that are making a great sunset. A 10 euro bottle of wine accompanies us before bedtime.

Saturday 18 September



At 10 o’clock a minibus drives us to Sumela for 10 euro a person. We are really excited, we have been to Turkey so many times but we have never visited this monastery. It is a clouded day and while the minibus makes the ascent onto the mountain it starts to drizzle. When we get out at the first viewpoint I almost cry as the fog is so dense that the monastery cannot even be seen. After the 5 minute stop we continue the road up to the monastery. The last part to the monastery must be walked over a slippery path. At the monastery (4€) it is quite busy, or the monastery is small compared to the number of people visiting it. The frescoes are really nice to look at but after half an hour we have seen enough and decide to walk back to the minibus. We tell the driver that we want to walk back to the first viewpoint in the hope to catch a glimpse of the monastery from there and indeed after some time we can see the fog move with the wind and during a short time the monastery can be seen. It is quiet far and a 200 mm zoom is hardly enough to photograph the place.


Sumela - visible through an opening in the mist

We then decide to walk further down to the restaurant where we are supposed to have lunch and from where the minibus will leave at two in the afternoon, which gives us ample time to enjoy the scenery while walking slowly down the hill. It is a lovely walk along fast flowing streams in thick forest surroundings, far away from civilization. They sure picked a secluded spot when they build this monastery.

Another bonus we get from walking down is that we have several nice viewspoints of the monastery, much better photo opportunities than where the minibus stopped. The best place to photograph the monastery is just before you arrive to the restaurant, where there is a clearing in the trees that give a great view of the monastery.


sumela - an impressive monastery from afar

By 3 we are back in Trabzon where we visit the Trabzon museum, a 19th century mansion that houses some archaeological finds in the basement. The real nice part however is the mansion itself, with high ceiling rooms and original furnishing which gives a good idea how the rich and wealthy lived in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. The house was originally built by a wealthy Greek banker Kostaki Teophylaktos between 1889 -1913 with materials imported from Italy. The building was used as one of the headquarters during the independence war, and Attaturk stayed in it for a brief while in 1924.

We get to bed early as our plane leaves at 7.



Sunday, 19 September

The decision to fly was quickly taken as it was only twice the price of a bus fare, but now we do in one hour what would have taken us 12 hours by bus.
We get up at five and hurry ourselves by taxi to the airport where we arrive 10 minutes later to find that there is no need to arrive two hours ahead of departure for a domestic flight. Another 5 minutes later we have already checked in and are left with nothing else to do than doze off till boarding time.


By 8.10 we arrive in Ankara where the Havaş bus takes us to the bus station from where we take the tram to our hotel. Watching through the bus window I see a very modern and clean city. The 1 euro metro fare is the same price as in Antwerp. We stay at the Mithat hotel which is OK for 37 euro but the free internet does not allow Skype video which is a pity.


For us there is only one reason to come to Ankara and that is the Museum of Anatolian Civilization, so that is where we immediately go to. Indeed, the museum does contain some unique Hittite, Phrygian and Urartian exhibits. We spend a couple of hours watching the displays, have some tea, browse through the bookstall and then walk to the citadel which is only a bit further up the hill from the museum.


The Citadel - a village inside the city

Entering the Citadel is a real time warp. It is really weird to find there a small village as it was 100 years ago. It is safely separated by a wall from one of the most modern cities of Turkey. It does get its fair share of (Turkish) tourists, but it still has the village atmosphere and it is lovely to walk around and get lost in the maze of small streets of the citadel. The people are very friendly and I am allowed to make photos, totally different from my experiences in the East.


Friendly folks in the citadel

We slowly walk back to the hotel and after the obligatory kebab we go to bed early. Is has been a long day!


Monday, 20 September

We take a slow start and after a late breakfast we go to Amit Kabir which houses Attaturk’s mausoleum and is the holy shrine for the Turkish nationalists. We economize and buy a 10 rides metro-ticket for 7.5 euro and walk from metro Tandorgun to Mustafa’s grave.


Amit Kabir - the same architect as Persopolis?

Amit Kabir is a huge mausoleum complex and I have to leave my camera bag at the entrance which has a tight security. I suppose the place is a prime target for the Koran bashers or the PKK. We enter the complex through the Lions gate (Hattusa all over) and arrive at a huge square. The whole place resembles a bit of what his contemporary politicians like Mao and Lenin have as well, a personality cult as an institution. Below his tomb is a huge museum dedicated to Mustafa Kemal’s deeds. On display are his books, clothes, and other paraphernalia. Also the reforms he pushed through that lay the foundation of the present Republic are listed “ad nauseam”.


Amit Kabir - Attaturk's mausoleum and museum

Another part of the museum consists of paintings of the several battles fought around Turkey during the first part of the 20th century (photography not allowed!). It is however a one-sided exhibit from the Turkish point of view and indeed that is where we are (Vae Vicitis). The Anzac soldiers are depicted smaller than the Turkish soldiers (like King Ramses victory over the Sea People or Palestinians); another painting shows Greek soldiers killing defenseless Turkish women and children. The text below the painting explains that these ethnical cleansing happened at the instigation of priests. Now all this may very well be true but then why do I not see any paintings of the Armenian genocide? I get a bit bored with paintings of brave Turkish soldiers, smaller Anzac soldiers being shot and dying. Not only the building is copied from the Hittite’s, also the depicting of the enemy is the same as what the Hittite’s did 4000 years ago.

We hang around a bit longer because we want to see the 11 o’clock changing of the guards. This is indeed a nice show and I feel sorry for the guys who have to stand still for 2 hours in the hot sun.

After the ceremony we go to the train station to buy our bus ticket for Gôreme for tomorrow. 12,50 euro buys us 5 hours on the bus. We are in a pretty good mood when disaster strikes us. At the ATM in the bus station we decide to use our debit card to withdraw some money but the machine says we insufficient funds. That’s strange, I am sure we have plenty so we decide to use our credit card which says that the password is not correct. I think that the ATM is not working properly and decide to use the ATM next to it and slip in the visa card. To my surprise it swallows our card out of security reason! Now we are in trouble. I begin to wander…did somebody forge our visa card to empty our account? Was it the run in we had we the care hire and the burst tyre? I have no written agreement that I paid. We are in no mood to continue our visit of Ankara city and drop our planned visit to Marks & Spencer. Instead we take the metro back to the hotel to investigate with our bank and the Visa company. As if the whole world is against us we have to evacuate the metro station due to a bomb alarm and we have to walk several metro stations on foot. Exhausted we reach our hotel where a call to our bank reassures us that our account has not been plundered and visa is able to say that no other transactions were made then the ones we did ourselves. Their computer such says that there were two attempts to use the card today and that the card was stopped. We are more at ease now, but we only have 1 visa card which is now gone and I am afraid to use our debit card. Luckily we always carry cash with us and we are able to change that to Turkish Lira. It takes a bit of time at the bank but luckily cash is still King! We buy a few beers and have an afternoon nap to recover from our emotional day.

In the evening we go to the same restaurant for a lovely çorba and pide.


Next Cappadocia and Ankara

Back The georgian Valley



















Trabzon (pop. 200,000) Excavation in the area has revealed 7000 years old civilization. Trabzon, or Trebizond soldiers are supposed to have fought in the Trojan war, and the area has been ruled by the Assyrians, Miletians, Persians, Romans, Goths, Comnen and the Ottomans. Colonists, Greek traders from Milete founded trapezus in the 7th century BC and Alexander the Great in 334 BC. The Romans were very active in the area around 118 to 110 BC. The Goths conquered the area in 258 AD.

The last city of the Roman Empire, it outlived Constantinople and the last Christian bastion against the Islamic hordes. Mehmed II, sulktan of the Ottaman Empire, finally overran the city in 1461 and brought Turkish settlers into the area which was mainly inhabited by Armenian, Greek and Laz population.

In WWI Trabzon was captured by the Russians but by Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 it was given back to Turkey.





























































Ankara, an ever growing city in the Anatolian plains



ankara hotel

Hotel: www.otelmithat.com.tr/english.html



A friendly woman from the citadel