Saturday, October 4, 2008
The Kaçkar Mountains- Entry 3
The next day, we took a minibus and taxi to another valley town called Şenyuva. Because we had been staying in small towns without ATMs, we had run out of cash. So when we made it to Şenyuva, we first stopped at Otel Doğa (Mountain Hotel), as the taxi driver knew the owner, Idris, spoke English. Idris was by far the sweetest Turk we met on our trip. We explained to him our situation, and he put us up, fed us all our meals, and then when we left, merely gave us his name and bank, trusting that we would transfer the money to him.
The weather turned beautiful for us, and after having every single layer on the day before, we were down to T-shirts for our day hike. The river valley was littered with houses; they used ziplines to pull supplies up to their homes. There were many lines from the river going every which way; if you followed each line, you could find the home way high up on the hillside.
We adopted a companion for our hike, a dog we named Bill. Bill protected us from all the cars that drove past, ferociously barking and biting at their tires.
We came across some very old, gravity-defying stone bridges.
We walked up the valley to Zil Castle, which served as a checkpoint along the Silk Road during the Ottoman Empire.
After our hike, we hung out on the hotel porch overlooking the river and read in the sunshine, enjoying Idris' hospitality.
The next morning, we hiked up to a village called Ortan, a little maze of gardens and the unique wooden, top-heavy Kaçkar houses. And of course an Ataturk statue (the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey). He is depicted everywhere.
And then it was time to make our way out of the green valleys back to Trabzon. In one day, we took 4 different minibuses to get out off the mountains and back into the city. Traveling in Turkey is so easy though; you never have to read schedules for the minibuses. A minibus drops you off in a town, and as soon as you mention to the line of minibuses what town you are going to, inevitably there is a person who herds you onto his minibus. You may have to wait a few minutes for it to fill up (even when you think it's full, the driver loads on 4 more people), and then you're off.
It was nice to return to Trabzon and spend 24 hours in a city we knew how to get around and not have to rely on maps in our guidebook. In the last day of our vacation, we toured a mansion, drank tea and read English newspapers in the townsquare, watched men make copper plates, and ate good Turkish food.
Now I am back, exhausted, but with a special place in my heart for the mountainfolk of the Kaçkars. (I did lots of thinking about the type of people who flock to small towns in the mountains...it's a special group of people to whom I feel a kinship.) And the best part of it all? Going away sure did make my new little apartment in Ankara feel like home.