It’s a three day trip to get to Kars with a couple of passes to traverse. This ment that we had to cover some meter of height (to be looked up in our statistics), some heavy headwinds, although some tailwind, some descents - whatever you can imagine. The first day we were caught by surprise: we rode along a dam, which neither exists on my map or on google maps. First we see the concrete dam, then the lake and a huge display panel, which gives some information about the dam. It is thought to be the 4th biggest dam of the world. At first sight we can’t believe it, as the lake doesn’t really look big. Only after we started to ride along the lake we could figure out how huge it was. We had to ride an additional 10km than planned! How impressing!
Around lunchtime we pass a small village, where we have to buy some water. There is only one little market just next to the mosque. Some men are sitting there, waiting. Usually, they would have their cay in front of them but due to the Ramadan, the tables are empty. We already got used to such pictures – men sitting in the teahouse or along the street without their tea. It looks very special! As we stop in front of the market with our packed bicycles we are the attraction of the day! We take pictures and selfies, as usual. While we are taking the pictures, the muezzin is calling for prayer. One man after the other disappears whith one exception: the shop owner takes his time to get his pictures on his mobile. As background he is choosy, we can’t just stand in front of his market! It has to be a nice place, in front of a lime tree!
Once again we have to camp! We look for a nice spot in the middle of nowhere. We miss the lake from last time, and the river is also too far away. Nevertheless, it is a lovely spot, away from traffic and other people. This time we are already much faster putting up the tent and get everything ready for the night. We even have some spare time to lay in the sun, relax and read. After dinner we rush into the tent, mosquitos are all over the place!
The next morning we leave rather early. The sun wakes us up at 4.30 am! We pack everything, have our breakfast and are ready to leave, when the first cows arrive on the spot where we have been camping! What a perfect timing!
In the next village we have to buy some fruits. It is market day. What a nice picture. Fresh cheese, honey, fruits, clothing, tools, everything is being sold at this regional market. What surprises as over and over again; peole love it if you take a picture of them (with or without us)! That makes it easy for us to get nice pictures!
Early afternoon we arrive in Göle.Dusty roads, poor looking houses – the hotel is not really that nice…While we ride through the village, a horseman gallops through the street, we see carriages, huge tractor, 4X4 – the contradictions couldn’t be bigger! For the first time since we are travelling we get the impression that we are not really welcome her. We are glad that we only have to stay here overnight!
We hardly had left Göle, when two horseman gallop towards us on the mainroad. These two young men must have seen us coming and were curious to see who we are. We feel like being in the “Wild West”, although we are in the “Wild East” and it is not at all that wild! The landscape has changed a lot. We are always between 1500 and 2300 asl on a hilly plateau. We see more and more herds of cattles, cowboys and herdsmen. Over and over again, we are overhelmed by the beauty of the landscape, the width. On the other hand we face the poverty of this area. Simple rock houses, most of them without water inside. During the icy and windy wintertimes they use the dried cow pad for heayting. We see these cow pads all over the place, as they dry them during the summer months. We can only imagine how cold it gets in winter, especially with strong winds. We had to fight against a strong headwind, going uphill. The pass was at 2344 asl. It was the first time I doubted whether I would manage to get as far as Kars. Markus, being a gentleman, took some of my weight to carry uphill! After a break and eating some dried fruit we managed to reach the pass! What a releave!
The province of Kars is really a poor region. The unemployment rate is at 60%. The people make their living out ouf livestock farming and some other small business.
We reach Kars early afternoon. It is only 50km away from the Armenian boarder. Kars is a Turkish province town with Russian influence. This shows in some of the buildings, including our boutique hotel. It has a turbulent history, different regent changed during the years (Bagtiden, Seldschucken, Geoergians, Armenians, Osmans, Russian). At the same time it is also the initial point to visit the ruins of the ancient City of Ani, which used to be the capital of Armenia.
While walking through the town, we were surprised how many shops were selling hard cheese and honey. Usually we get soft and white sheep- or goatcheese. It is chust lovely to look at these little shops.
By the way: Markus has changed his habits. Instead of eating dried meet or “Fleischkäse” for breakfast he has become fond of eating bread, honey, white cheese and olives. He can’t get enough of this fresh honey including the honeycomb. Once he has eaten all this honey you can’t stop him pedalling. I hardly can catch up with him anymore!
Today we visited the remains of Ani. For a change we didn’t bike there, we took a taxi. During almost 2 hours we visited the site, looked at the remains of the city walls, the churches, the mosques and read about the history of the town, being an important spot of the silkroad during ancient times. It was worhtwile visiting.
And we are still waiting for some nice and warm weather! We are in the middle of June, far in the south, but unfortunatley in the mountains….