Tag Archives: Erzurum

Erzurum to Hopa, Türkiye to Batumi, Georgia

2/6 – Got up early this morning to catch a bus – it is 3 degrees F! That’s mighty cold for a southern belle like me… We bought tickets on the 7:30am bus to Hopa, Türkiye, the last town before the Georgian border.

Based on our experience with Turkish buses, we did not wear our long johns despite the cold, as buses usually have the heat cranked up to 80. Just our luck, this bus had no heater! We sat and shivered for the first hour, until the sun started to warm things up. Of greater concern was the driver, who, without a defroster, kept splashing lemon cologne on the windshield and rubbing a little circle to see out of!

Once the windows cleared, we were treated to some great mountain scenery, reminiscent of Nevada or Arizona.





We also got to see some of the strange sandstone formations for which Cappadocia is famous.




We rode for a while along the river.



We arrived in Hopa by 12:30, and took a cab to the border, where Türkiye bade us farewell.


And Georgia welcomed us in!



As we waited to get through passport control, I noticed that these folks don’t adhere to the western concept of orderly queuing – there was a knot of people in front of each border inspector, and they jostled for position, trying to cut in front of others without making eye contact. You know this New Yorker wasn’t having any of that! Today was good practice as we move into Asia.

I was struck with the things people were carrying over the border – big bottles of laundry detergent and all sorts of household goods in plastic bags. Is Türkiye that much more prosperous than Georgia?

A half hour minibus ride got us to Batumi, where the weather is 65 and sunny. Hallelujah! We can put away the long johns for a while! A former Soviet city, Batumi looks like it is gearing up to be a Black Sea beach destination. Lots of new construction on the waterfront.






When we checked our iPads, we discovered we’d lost two hours of time instead of the one we expected when we crossed the border. We are now 9 hours ahead of home. Solution? Go out for supper, instead of lunch!

We had supper in a Ukranian restaurant right across from My Warm Guest House (yes, that’s the name of our hotel!), where the menu was printed in Russian, Georgian and English. Thank goodness, as I don’t expect to get the hang of reading Georgian anytime soon. It all looks like Ms and 3s to me!image

A Day in Erzurum

2/5 – Jim decided we needed a day off before crossing the border, so we had today to explore Erzurum. Our first order of business was to find a barber (berber), as Jim has been looking for a haircut for a while. This would not normally be a blog worthy event, but the barber did something we hadn’t seen before. After cutting Jim’s hair, he lit a torch and burned the little hairs out of Jim’s ears! It was thrilling to watch, and Jim didn’t scream, so I guess it’s a viable way to get hair out of your ears…

Erzurum had a substantial snow before we arrived, and the streets were in various states of packed ice, slush or mud, which made walking hazardous. The temperature was in the 20s. We only had a mile to the city center, but it was treacherous going all the way.


Here we are sliding down a street full of wedding shops and jewelry stores.


Erzurum is known for wedding shops.


Our goal was the Citadel, a twelfth century fort with a tower that afforded an overview of the city. The fort was mainly walls covered with snow.




The views from the tower – beautiful mountains all around!




There is also a mosque here, famous for its unusual minarets. They must be refurbishing them this winter.



We stopped for lunch at a tavuk doner (chicken wrap) shop with only two tables. Our last doners in Turkey!


The wraps were delicious, but the little shop had no sink. When we were done, I watched the proprietor wipe off our table with a rag, take our plates outside, wipe them with the same rag, then put them back on the stack of clean plates! There are some things we are better off not seeing…

Tomorrow, Georgia!

Istanbul to Ankara to Erzurum, Türkiye

2/3 – Today we bid farewell to Istanbul. We plan to take the high speed train from Pendik (about 20 miles east of the city) to Ankara, then a sleeper train from Ankara to Erzurum. We will travel east across northern Turkey until we reach the border with Georgia. It’s been a grand three months, but our visas are due to expire, and it’s time to move on.


Unfortunately, Jim was not able to book our train tickets online, so we got up early, walked to the train station and hoped for the best. The news was not encouraging. Both of today’s trains to Ankara were sold out. When we expressed dismay, the man, with very little English, managed to convey to us that a few business class seats are held until thirty minutes before the train departs. We sat patiently waiting for an opening on the 10:30 train. No luck. He told us to come back at noon and try again for the 12:45.

We went and had a doner sandwich, and the lovely salty yogurt drink Ayran. At 11:45 we returned. Where was our guy? We saw him outside talking on his mobile. What if he’d forgotten us? What if he was on his lunch break? At exactly 12 noon, he opened a side door and motioned for us to follow. He led us upstairs to an office with a computer, where he printed out our tickets to Ankara without our having to stand in line. Nice person of Turkey! He asked our ages, then gave us the business class seats at half price with a senior discount. Then he looked at the second leg of the journey. All the private sleeper cabins on the overnight train were booked, and there was only one couchette (4 bunks per cabin) left, in the men’s section. Jim took the couchette, and I got a seat in coach, where I will spend the night trying to sleep sitting up. Well, at least the seats are more comfortable than I would have on a plane…

The high speed train got us halfway across the country in four hours.


The scenery did not disappoint, and we business class travelers were served soft drinks, coffee or tea, and were given a box lunch and a Snicker bar. Life is good!




Here’s the sunset as we approached Ankara.



We had a half hour layover before boarding the Dogu Expressi at 6pm.


Making stops in every town, we’ll get across the other half of the country by 2pm tomorrow. I settled into my crowded coach car, listening to a hundred phone conversations trying to outshout the crying babies. Sheesh! I bet Jim was having a fine, quiet time back in the sleeper car!

We met for supper in the dining car at 7, and had a pretty good and reasonably priced meal of chicken shish kabob and rice. We asked for tea, and were told that tea would not be available until 8pm. Now that is very strange – Turkish people live and breathe tea, and it is always offered at any time of day or night! Oh well, we waited until 8, asked again, and were given our tea.

Sleeping wasn’t too bad – just like the olden days of air travel, I found two empty seats side by side and stretched out across them, with my feet in the aisle. At the next stop, however, a person had a ticket for my claimed seat, so I had to move. Then I saw another passenger turn the seat across from him around so he could put his feet up. That looked like a great idea, so at the next stop when the car emptied a bit, I did that too. I was awoken every hour as the conductor called out the next stop, but it really wasn’t bad.

2/4 – I met Jim back in the dining car for breakfast.


It turned out that there was only one other man in Jim’s cabin, and he got off in the middle of the night, so Jim now had a cabin to himself. I wasted no time moving my stuff back and settling in.

We had passed through some regions of deep snow during the night, but this morning’s views looked wintry but nice.




As the morning progressed, the views looked colder.




At 2pm we got off the train and trudged a half mile through yesterday’s snow and today’s slush to find our hotel. Next stop, Georgia!