Eastern Turkey & Black Sea
July 24 - Aug. 06, 2004




Wish tree along
the highway

Day 06  Thursday July 29, 2004
Dolishane,Yalniz Cam Mountains,Ardahan,Cildir,Kars
Submitted by
Jack Mayers jmayers@earthlink.net

29 July - my birthday. In Artvin, over another tasty breakfast, Ruth handed me a present - the journal task for the day. Around 8:20 AM we bid good bye to Adrienne as well as some bikers from Ankara who were staying in our hotel (and who we would encounter later) and hit the road for Kars with many intermediate stops in between.Almost immediately our route paralleled some major hydoelectric dam construction that extended for miles and were somewhat saddened over the impact the construction was having on the spectacular mountain scenery along our route. (Fortunately, as compensation, before the tour was over we were treated to hundreds of other miles of unspoiled and breathtaking mountain scenery.)

Later in the morning we arrived at our first major stop,
the village at Hamamli with its 10th century Georgian church
of the Dolishane. The village and church were delightful but it turned
out that the highlight of the stop was the kids. The bus barely ground
to a halt when boys and girls, about 11 or 12 years old, started
appearing from everywhere. It turned out that they were attending
a summer class at a mosque adjacent to the church. The day's
classroom subject happened to be oral hygene but the class came to
a quick halt when our tour bus arrived and disgorged ten much more interesting subjects for them to investigate - i.e., our tour group. Soon the imam made an appearance and, since he was responsible for it, told us about the church. Then he invited us, along with the kids, into the mosque for a general discussion and question and answer session. Turkish imams are civil servants with many diverse duties which include classes for children on health and other social topics. I think I can speak confidently for the group that we were extremely impressed with the kids Among other deserved superlatives, they were bright, well groomed, attentive, pleasant, polite, well spoken and ambitious. There we were way out in the sticks where we might have expected country bumpkins. he kids were anything but; they aspired to be doctors, teachers, soldiers and nurses, intent on accomplishing something with their lives. There was no doubt in our minds they would succeed. With this high note, and after many photographs, we resumed our journey.

The imam and his students
received us at their mosque
with big smiles



True to the tour itinerary, much of the morning's touring took us through evergreen forests and alpine
meadows. Picturesque view after view unfolded made perfect by a bright, sunny day and fleecy white
clouds. We stopped for a delightful trout lunch at the Laset Restaurant. (The meals kept getting
better and better. Could this possibly continue? (Indeed Yes!)) 

After lunch we crossed over a summit at 8580 feet and
arrived at Ardhan. 
The forests disappeared replaced by endless hay
fields and pastures with horses, cows, sheep and ducks.
Yes, ducks as well as geese - just like the tour itinerary
said we would encounter. And, also like the itinerary
said, we were also introduced to the dung economy. 
This time of year, in rural turkey, village inhabitants
 are busily drying mixtures of water, cow dung and
straw into pies for winter fuel. Stacks of dried and drying
dung were piled high in every village. It was said that
two cows produce enough dung to heat a dwelling housing
four people all winter long. Sometime in the future, natural
gas is supposed to replace cow dung. In the meantime, people are industriously making pies - lots of them.
 In winter it gets cold in Eastern Turkey and the snow lies deep.There were a few other notable
 introductions during the afternoon. 
It seems the local people like to write a
wish and hang it on a tree branch for
the wish to come true. In Eastern Turkey,
 trees sometimes are scarce. We passed
one lonely tree along side the road festooned
 with "wishes". We also started to observe
many bee keeping operations. Apparently bee
keepers take their hives out in the countryside
during the summer and camp while moving the
hives about. We also hit a new first (low?) for a
comfort stop - a bunch of rocks! Well, if you
gotta go, you gotta go.Then, around 7 PM, having
had a full and interesting day, we arrived at our comfortable hotel in Kars. The next morning
I passed the scribe's quill to Larry


Bee Hives

Stumping wool with the villagers

a fish cought in the headwaters of Euphrates as tall as Meli


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