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2008 
      BLACK SEA & EASTERN TURKEY

Lake Van in Eastern TurkeyThe people who have left their homes in Eastern Turkey to find better jobs in Istanbul return to their grandparent's villages for the summer vacation and at least for couple of weeks they live, dance, dress like their ancestors did. The villages in the Black Sea part of Turkey are full of joy during the first half of August. The sound of bagpipes echoes off the steep cliffs of the green mountains. The clouds might allow you to see the top of the mountains maybe for a couple of hours a day. But the rain will not be a problem because there is always enough sunshine above the clouds where most of the villages move to above 5,000 feet. The silk road bridges do not only connect the two sides of the rushing rivers but they also look like a connection from the past to our time. The Eastern Turkey tour has been on our agenda for a long time. But some of you might have been worried about the unstable condition in the East and have been postponing your visit to the Eastern part of Turkey. We have done many tours year after year and have only wonderful memories of the time we spent in the East. Now that, thank goodness, terrorism is finished, this is the best time to explore this part of Turkey before it gets overrun by tourists.

As you will see from the itinerary, Eastern Turkey offers a great variety of historic, ethnic, and geographic diversity to make this educational tour not have a dull moment.

THE EASTERN AND NORTHERN TURKEY (THE BLACK SEA)

The tea bushes and the hazel nut orchards grow so fast that you will feel that if we stay long enough we too will turn into a tea bush. The clouds will always cast shadow over the damp soil. The rain tree forests will be a great contrast to the bare mountains of the Eastern Turkey.

To punish Prometheus for stealing the fire, Zeus decided he should be taken to the high, unreachable mountains where no one can rescue him. The mountain where Prometheus was bound is now the border of North East Turkey. To save the living from corruption, God ordered Noah to build an Ark. Noah's Ark landed on Mount Ararat, which was above and beyond the flood. Mount Ararat is now the eastern border of Turkey.

The mountains of the eastern part of Turkey cast their grand shadows over the fertile valleys of the "Garden of Eden." The rivers Tigris and Euphrates continue to nourish the "Tree of Life" in this land where the people of all different ethnic identity: the Kurds, the Georgians, the Arabs, the Turks, the Assyrians experience a new present and a hopeful future in the changing world.

The colors of nature and diverse cultures compose the most wonderful symphony. Give 1,001 painters all the colors they want and ask them to paint the colors of the Eastern part of Turkey during a day. By the sunset, they will be out of breath but they would still not be able to get all the colors that you will see and experience in one day.

Tour Dates

Monday 28 July, 2008 ISTANBUL - Sunday 10 Aug, 2008

Cost of this tour is US$2,800. See below for details.
Single Room Supplement US$ 450.

Reserve seats on any tour without obligation.
PLEASE READ THE TOUR HAND BOOK FOR MORE DETAIL
Please read journal for Black Sea and East Turkey tour

  TRIP JOURNAL

Itinerary

Day 1 - Monday, 28 July , 2008 ISTANBUL
The tour starts with a group meeting in Istanbul in the lobby of Hotel Ayasofya at 5:00 PM.
Visit the Blue Mosque and have dinner at a nearby restaurant . Overnight at Hotel Ayasofya

Day 2 - Tuesday,29 July 2008 TRABZON
Early morning flight to Trabzon.
Drive to Sumela Monastary Sumela, also known as the Monastary of the Virgin. It has been said that it is neither on earth nor in heaven. Carved on the slope of a mountain, it looks like a nine story high building hanging down from the clouds and sitting on the top of the forest. A short hike through the rain forest will leave no question in your mind about where you are in Turkey, The Black Sea Region.
Visit the city of Trabzon in the afternoon.
After the crusaders invaded Constantinople in 1204, Trabzon became the capital of the Byzantine empire for a short time. Longing for the grandeur of Constantinople, in Trabzon, they imitated the Churches of their beloved city in a smaller scale. St. Sophia of Trabzon though much smaller will leave with you the same sense of religious devotion as the original one in Istanbul.
Overnight at Horon Hotel Trabzon

Day 3 - Wednesday 30 July 2008 AYDER
Once we leave Trabzon and drive East, our bus will look like it is caught between the Black Sea and the steep slopes of the mountains. The scattered houses in the villages on the green slopes of these mountains look nothing like the architecture of the rest of the country. We will make a few house visits to get a better understanding of their lifestyles.
The village that we are heading to today is known for an excellent spa. We will enjoy the natural hot waters with the locals. Watching the locals dance and sing tonight will probably be one of the highlights of the tour.
Overnight at  a family run bed and breakfast place . The whole family will be trying their best to make your stay a very memorable one.

Day 4 -
Thursday 31 July 2008 RIZE
The people of the Black Sea have villages on at least three levels of the mountains. During the winter they live by the sea. During the early part of the summer they move up higher where Ayder is. Later in the season they go literally over the clouds. Such places are called "Yayla." Today we will drive up to the yayla of Ayder. If you are a lover of nature you will say that this day alone gives you your money's worth of this tour. Since our bus can not go beyond Ayder we will be driving both ways in small mini-buses. Those who are interested in hiking can walk down hill to enjoy the nature more. To avoid spending two nights at the very basic hotel we will go all the way down to the shore and stay overnight in Rize. Our lunch today will be very special. In the mountains a mother and a daughter cook as they have learned from generations before. You will love their KUYMAK- Corn flower based cheese dish.
Overnight at Rize at Asnur Hotel

Day 5 -Friday, 01 Aug 2008 ARTVIN
Drive to the Georgian Border.
For 75 years the communist regime of the Soviets banned people from going outside the boundaries of the Iron Curtain. Since the fall of the Communist Soviet Empire, this border has been very busy with people trying to get into Turkey to sell everything they have. Along the way, we will see what is called the Russian Markets and there, we will be able to see the falling economy of the former Soviet people and how desperate they are. Americans can go to Georgia with out a visa. Those of you who might want to put their feet in Georgia and spend an hour or so at a cafe by the black sea .
Over the mountains of the Black Sea we will leave the last sight of the sea behinds us and drive south to the highest city in Turkey. Artvin looks like an eagle's nest. Overnight at Hotel Karahan, Artvin

Day 6 Saturday 02 Aug 2008   KARS
Once the Caravans of the Silk Road used the road that we will take toward Kars via the Lonely Pine Forest . This is the name of the forest and the name is very appropriate for the location of this wonderful region at an altitude of 7,000 feet. By sunset, we will be driving by a lake which will be catching the last rays of the sun as we drive into Kars . Overnight at Hotel Sim-Er.

Day 7 Sunday 03 Aug 2008 KARS
Kars is farthest eastern city of Turkey on the Armenian border. This city with its imposing fortress cries out that she has been a frontier city for all ages. Visit the bridge that was made to survive centuries with egg white in its mortar.
Drive 23 miles to the border town of Ani , the 10th century capital of Armenia . The city walls of red stone will make you feel like you might be walking into a movie set. But when you see the cathedrals, churches, temples dedicated in Zoastrian deities, caravansarai and the Silk Road , you will realize that you are actually walking in the time tunnel of hundreds of years.
Visit the village house closest to the border of Turkey. Find out how one can live by raising ducks.

Day 8 Monday 04 Aug 2008   ERZURUM
Leave Kars after Breakfast and drive southwest to Erzurum. Of great interest will be the villages of stone houses and black sheep on green meadows. Of even more interest will be the time we will spend with the villagers visiting their homes to find out what it means to be living in those mountains.
Arrive in Erzurum in the  late afternoon. overnight at Oral Hotel

Day 9 Tuesday 05 Aug 2008   ERZURUM
Visit a nearby village. See a hay, duck and dung economy. People in Erzurum are very loyal to their cuisine. Lunch will give us an opportunity to taste what the people of Erzurum have been eating for hundreds of years. Visit the 12th century Medrese (a Seljukian School ). Talk with the imam at the 12th century Mosque and enjoy the ethnographic museum. Visit an old caravan stop where the local black stone is mounted in silver and gold by the local artists in the most aesthetic art form. Dinner at the hotel.  Overnight in Oral Otel

Day 10 Wednesday 06 Aug 2008  DOGUBEYAZIT
Free time in the morning. leave the hotel at 09:00 Drive east from Erzurum to Igdir then south to Dogubayazit. Have a picnic lunch at a spectacular site. Arrive by Mount Ararat to enjoy its grandeur before sunset.
Dinner and overnight at Hotel Simer, Dogubeyazit

Day 11 Thursday 07 Aug 2008 VAN
As the sun rises over the planes of Iran, Mount Ararat catches the light of the new day before you can see the sun. The halo on the peak will be a spiritual experience as you sip your coffee on the balcony of your hotel. ( Getting up at 04:30 is optional) Leave the hotel at 08:00 Visit Noah's ark. See a village which for hundreds of years lived with Mount Ararat as a backdrop. Mail your post cards from the eastern most post office that you can find in Turkey on the Iranian border. See the miles of petrol tanks coming from Iran to put the economic reality of the region in a different perspective. After lunch visit a palace which is like an experiment model for an architect trying to put the architectural features of all those who had run caravans on the Silk Road. Iranian gateways, Ottoman domes, Baroque harem rooms, Armenian stonework, Georgian reliefs will be captured in your pictures as a proof of synthesis of civilizations. Drive south to Van. Dinner and overnight at Hotel MERIT, Van

Day 12 - Friday 08 Aug 2008 VAN
Drive to a meadow to watch local folk dancers. Have a picnic lunch with the dancers and talk to these Kurdish students. In our private boat, sail to the island in the middle of Lake Van and feel the excitement of the masons carving the scenes from the Old Testament and the New Testament on the walls of this church 1,100 years ago. With the snow in the mountains and blooming almond trees, try to understand how the word white can have different meanings. Swim in the clear waters of the lake.
Return to Van to see an amazing Kilim and Carpet collection - the richest in Turkey.
Dinner and overnight at Hotel MERIT, Van

Day 13 - Saturday 09 Aug 2008 Istanbul
Fly from Van to Istanbul.
Free time in the afternoon.
Farewell dinner.
Overnight at Hotel Ayasofya

Day 14 - Sunday 10 Aug, 2008
The tour will be over after breakfast.

AFTER THE TOUR OPTIONS:

  • The next Melitour tour is to Mongolia . The tour will start on the 14th of August. If you have time you can fly from Istanbul to Mongolia with Meli.
  • You can continue your trip in the South East
  • Or return to Istanbul by land from Van via Cappadocia

Tour Price
The tour price of $2,800 includes the following:

  • 13 nights hotel, double occupancy
  • The flights from Istanbul to Trabzon and from Van to Istanbul
  • All meals
  • All entrance fees
  • Tips at the hotels and the restaurants
  • All transportation
  • Guide

Single Room Supplement

The single room supplement is $450.
 

Arrival Suggestions:
  
  VISA
US citizens need a visa to travel in Turkey. You may obtain this visa upon your arrival at the Istanbul airport. The fee is $ 20 in US currency for the USA citizens. The visa is valid for three months.
When you come out of your plane please proceed to the Visa  Booth. They only accept cash.
  
 POLICE CHECK AND LUGGAGE /
    MEETING MELITOUR REPRESENTATIVE FOR TRANSFER
After paying for your visa please proceed to police control. Baggage claim is immediately down the ramp after the police check. If you need a cart, you will need to pay one US dollar cash to a person who stands by the carts. It will be nice if you have a change. The Melitour representative for transfer to the hotel will meet you out side the custom area. Look for a MELITOUR sign as soon as you leave the customs gate.

 
EMERGENCY INFO FOR TRANSFER
In case of unexpected delay or change of your  flight, should there be a problem in meeting the person who should be waiting for you at the airport please call Hotel Ayasofya at 0212-51694-46 or take a taxi to Hotel Ayasofya. Your taxi fare will be refunded.

Hotel Ayasofya
Kucuk Ayasofya Mahallesi
Demirci Resit Sokak
Sultan Ahmet Meydani Alti

PRE TOUR ARRANGEMENTS
If you plan to arrive a few days before the tour to get over jet lag we can reserve a room at Hotel Ayasofya (Single US$60, Double US$85)

We can suggest itineraries for those who want to explore on their own or with a guide before or after the tour. Simply send us an e-mail with your request.

The Hotel Chart : All rooms are double occupancy, all with private facilities.

Location Hotel Style of Hotel Phone/
FAX
Istanbul Hotel Ayasofya Renovated old Ottoman house a/c 90 212 516 9446
90 212 518 0700
Trabzon Horon Hotel 3 star hotel 90 462 326 6455
90 462 321 6628
Ayder Vesile Hotel The best available family run small hotel 90 464 657 2002
90 464 657 2002
Rize Asnur Hotel 3 star hotel 90 764 214 1751
90 464 214 0397
Artvin Otel Karahan 3 star hotel 90 466 212 1800
90 466 212 2420
Kars Hotel Sim-er 4 star hotel 90 474 212 0168
No FAX
Erzurum Oral Hotel 3 star hotel 90 442 218 9740
90 442 218 9749
Dogubeyazit Simer Hotel 3 star hotel 90 472 312 4842
90 472 312 4843
Van Van Merit Hotel 5star hotel 90 432 214 9923
90 432 212 0868


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