This diary was written before the recent incidents in Istanbul and Ankara. It is nonetheless a beautiful country – Let’s share some love.
I couldn’t pass up a recent invitation extended by The Tourism Office of Turkey to visit Trabzon in the northeastern part of the country. We found ourselves on the move in a coach and visiting more places (see map) than we had bargained for! Here is a day-by-day highlight of moments and places that struck me most.
We were quickly introduced to the well-known Turkish hospitality. The lunch they threw for us was my favorite meal of the whole trip. A group of ladies welcome and wait on us so warmly in a restaurant in the middle of nowhere. We had a feast of salad, FIG leaf, yayla çorbası (yogurt soup with mint) and much more.
As we work off the hefty lunch, we visited a small mosque right at the border next to Georgia. Many old mosques (like the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul) were once churches under the Ottomans. Its eclectic style of a wooden structure with Muslim motifs and fanciful lightings makes it all the more charming. Next we head off to the Karagöl (Dark Lake) near Borçka. We were unfortunately let down by damp fog, and could only imagine how scenic it must be on a clear day.
We were taken to Zil Kale up in the mountains. The landscape actually reminded me a lot (except for the ocean) of Switzerland. It was like Switzerland with another people and culture! Our hosts also planned something more active than just sightseeing and I had my first experience of rafting! It was great fun and easier than I expected. That was probably because they put us on the “senior” route.
I woke up in my teeny-tiny room in Yukarı Kavrun, in a hotel offering only the bare necessities – bed and shower. Yet I loved it. The peaceful setting high up in the mountains is invigorating and more than makes up for the lack of amenities. It was also a day of contrast as we then head down to the beach – the only day we got to swim in the sea and catch a good tan.
Along the way, we visited the Zil Kale castle and a tea factory. We ended the day at Uzungöl (Long Lake) for an overnight stay. The image of a mosque by the lake against the mountainous backdrop is so unusual for me and will no doubt stay in my memory.
We went to visit the Greek Sümela (black mountain) Monastery. I was impressed by the sight of this huge structure literally built into the side of a rock cliff. It was a shame we couldn’t go inside as it was undergoing a year-long restoration to strengthen the facades and to prevent rocks from falling on to the building. The authorities are hopeful that it will be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The end of our tour took us back to Trabzon where we then had to chance to walk about in the city and check out the markets.
A little rest in the morning on our last day before we headed back to Switzerland.
It was a tiring trip for the constant moving and long distances covered. On the other hand, it gave us a chance to see so much on a short stay. I found the experience more cultural and enlightening than fun in the vacation sense. My overall impression? It was Turkey I had never imagined! Now, I can hardly wait to visit Istanbul…for the first time.
By the way, wouldn’t you like to know what is happening at home while you are away? I am really paranoid about being burgled. That makes me to keen to find out how consumer wireless home security cameras (ie webcams with surveillance and security features) can bring peace of mind. It so happened that Logitech sent me the Logi Cam to test (hey, they read my mind). I found it very easy to set up – you just download the app and follow the simple instructions. Once done, you can watch live what’s going on at home (or indeed anywhere you want put the webcam) or play back the recording. The webcam has a microphone and speaker, so you can also listen and talk to someone at home (including the burglar) from your smartphone. The Logi Cam has other smart tricks up its sleeve, including night vision, filtering, time-lapse recording, and sharing of your recordings.