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> Eastern Anatolia in October?
nipitiri
post Oct 6 2009, 02:48 PM
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Hi there!
I have to visit Turkey soon because of a conference, so I thought to hang around an extra week or so (very short time, I know, but...) and I'd like to visit the eastern part: Ani, Georgian Valleys etc. Is it a very stupid idea to go there on the last week of October? Unfortunately I can't choose the time... Will it be even more stupid to rent a car and drive around there alone? Will it be snowing? There isn't much information in the internet about this part of Turkey.

+ an off-topic question: did the recent flood do much damage in Istanbul?
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starlagurl
post Oct 7 2009, 03:12 PM
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I found this from Wikitravel:

The southeastern region near the Syrian border has a desert-like climate, temperature is constantly above 40°C during summers with no rain. Snowfall is occasional in winters.

And about the flood, I don't know if that is still true but:

Due to the damage on rail track caused by the recent flooding, as of Sept 17, 2009, all train service between Istanbul and Europe has been temporarily suspended.


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nipitiri
post Oct 7 2009, 05:12 PM
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Thanks. I'm more thinking about the northeastern part though. Near Georgian and Armenian border. Weather info shows below zero in the night there already now...

And now are they rioting in Istanbul. What am I getting myself into? blink.gif
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manzara
post Oct 8 2009, 06:03 AM
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QUOTE(nipitiri @ Oct 7 2009, 05:12 PM) *

Thanks. I'm more thinking about the northeastern part though. Near Georgian and Armenian border. Weather info shows below zero in the night there already now...
And now are they rioting in Istanbul. What am I getting myself into? blink.gif


Notheastern Anatolia is yet another place on our 'must visit' list. Given the choice we probably wouldn't travel there this late in the year. It's getting close to the snowy season! However, although as you say night time temperatures are currently zero or just below, daytime temperatures are still fairly acceptable.

With internal flights to Kars, the region has become much more easily accessible in recent years.

Ani should be on anyone's itinerary if travelling even remotely close to this ruined medieval site, once the capital of Bagratid Armenia with, as I am sure you know, the region's largest concentration of Armenian castles and churches. There's much more information here: Ani

When visiting this region, I would certainly consider renting a car; much the best way to travel round the area. The people of this region (which is often referred to as saklı cennet - secret paradise) are considered the country's most hospitable.

The rioting in İstanbul was extremely isoloted in the Taksim Square area. Initial calm protests against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings turned into clashes between police and protesters. Around 5,000 people gathered in the square late Tuesday morning to protest the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank being held in Congress Valley near Taksim. The meetings ended yesterday.

You'll have a great visit. Do tell us all about your journeys when you return.


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nipitiri
post Oct 8 2009, 03:16 PM
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Thanks for the info and the link. I'll take warm clothes smile.gif
I'll fly from Istanbul to Erzurum and am currently trying to find a car there (and maybe a guide, if this fits in my budget).
Maps of the area are probably available in Istanbul? And it seems I won't be robbed and killed, if I go there just by myself.
Anyway, I'll tell you what happened after I return wink.gif
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nipitiri
post Nov 8 2009, 05:51 PM
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Hi, I'm back, and as promised, here's a little summary of what happened.
The first four days I spent in Istanbul and had despite the conference some time to visit Pera museum, Istanbul Modern museum, Chora church, church of the Bulgars and walk a bit in Fener and around Golden Horn. Since I was staying next to the Taksim square, I decided to leave the "must sees" to the end of the trip.
From Istanbul I took an airplane to Diyarbakir, got a car from there and started south. The aim was to visit Deyrul Zaferan and Mor Gabriel monasteries. I got the idea from reading William Dalrymple's "From the Holy Mountain". Deyrul Zaferan is nicely restored, but in the nineties it was still an operating monastery, while now it is just a museum. Mor Gabriel, on the other hand, is still functioning. Since I got there late in the afternoon, I had very little time there, but I witnessed the evening ceremony, which I guess, is held in Aramaic language (the language that Jesus spoke). Two old men with gray beards were singing with a bunch of young boys and it was beautiful. Both of these monasteries belong to the Syrian orthodox church. The cities Mardin and Midyat on the way looked nice, I stopped in Mardin for a fresh pomegrenade juice.
For the night I managed to get to Hasankeyf, which is a nice village on the banks of the Tigris river. There's only one basic motel and while waiting for somebody to arrive there, I got to know lots of locals, including a restorant owner. So I had dinner afterward next to the dark river. Next morning I had some time to look around, there's a castle and some ruins, where a tomb is still standing (Zeynelbey türbesi).
I continued east, towards lake Van. Didn't find the way to Nemrut Dagi unfortunately (not the one with the giant heads), but visited seljuk tombs in Ahlat. Amazing place, really. Nice views to the lake as well, all the way.
For the night I reached Dogubeyazit, visited the Ishak Pasha palace the following morning and for my surprice discovered some Estonian-language information there. It seems that the first one to climb Mt Ararat was a professor from the Tartu University, named Friedrich Parrot, in 1829. I countinued north, along Iranian and Armenian borders, and since the area seemed to be heavely guarded, I dropped the idea to look for the Beshkilise ruins somewhere near Kars. So I went to Ani instead - picturesque ruins of ancient Armenian capital, which was badly damaged in an earthquick somewhere in the 14th century. The four hours before sunset were clearly not enough for me there. Sun sets really early, at least this time of the year.
Next day I drove around the Cildir lake, visited Seytan kalesi (Devil's castle), where there are very impressive mountains. The weather was clouded, so it looked like a suitable place where devil could reside. Nice views countinued on the way to Tbeti church. Before reaching Yusufeli for the night, I stopped to climb to Porta monastery. I'm not sure, if I found it or it was just a stone looking like a house. The views from the were nice, though.
From Yusufeli I went to see Dörtkilise church near Tekkale. Luckily, there was a sign to mark the place of the ruins, otherwise I'd probably missed it, because the ruins are high above the road and on this narrow mountain road you tend to keep your eyes fixed on the
road and the holes in it.
From Tekkale I drove to Erzurum, visiting Tortum waterfall and Öshkvank church on the way. Well, in October there of course was not much water in the waterfall, but I got to see the colorful rock, which is probably hidden behind water in the spring.
Ulu mosque in Erzurum was the first mosque I visited in Turkey. A nice peaceful place. And Erzurum Evleri restaurant is a nice place to eat. In Erzurum I parted with my car and flew back to Istanbul.
The final two days were for seeing the Blue mosque and Aya Sofia. Blue mosque is beautiful, but it kind of felt a bit too crowded after eastern Turkey. It was also annoying to see these thousands of plastic bags thrown away there every day. And probably after visiting Iran, it is not so easy for a mosque to impress me... Since it was raining, I went underground and saw the Basilica cistern and after that visited Cemberlitas hamam. The last one was an interesting experience. Very touristic, but still interesting.
There was still time for me to visit some more places, so I opted for Sülemanyie mosque and Rüstem Pasha mosque. Rüstem Pasha is very nice, but Sülemanyie was unfortunately closed for renovating. After a "compulsory" visit to Spice bazaar and Grand bazaar, I'm home again. Safe and sound.
I can recommend Saruhan hotel in Istanbul, nice family-run place.

Some general remarks, in case someone is planning to to something similar, because it wasn't easy to find information about the region in the internet:
- the roads are mostly very good and there was only little traffic, so driving is easy. Small roads between villages are not so good and very narrow, of course.
- gas is expensive.
- there aren't many signs around, especially if you're looking some not so often visited place. While you can get lost with Lonely Planet, the descriptions from RoughGuides, that I used, were very accurate. The map I managed to buy from Istanbul, wasn't of much help (it was a 1:1 200 000 map, LP maps are better). It can be tricky to find your way out of a town smile.gif .
- English is not spoken everywhere, I helped me a lot to know some Turkish (learned some before the trip from www.turkishclass.com and other similar websites).
- most of the places were empty of people, but there is still garbage everywere. It's not only Turkey, of course... And lots of "modern additions" to ruins.
- although nothing serious happened, I probably would not do it again and I'm not sure, if I'd recommend a similar trip for another solo woman traveller. Turkey was the first place in the world where I didn't feel safe (exept for South Africa) and I have travelled some places before and not always with a companion. Most people were friendly and nice, but not everything I experienced, was equally nice (and I do not wear revealing and/or thight clothing, while travelling, also I tried not to go to eateries where I spotted only men etc).

There are some pictures in my blog and on my flickr-account (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nipitiri/sets...57622636139497/), if anyone's interested.
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starlagurl
post Nov 10 2009, 09:13 AM
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Welcome back! Glad you had such a great time.

Why didn't you feel safe though? Did something specific happen, or was it just a bad feeling?


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nipitiri
post Nov 10 2009, 04:21 PM
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Well, I'm usually not frightened and do stuff that my friends say are crazy. So I felt pretty free and careless at first also in Turkey, but after two unpleasant incidents that happened on the same day, I didn't feel so comfortable anymore.
Of course, maybe it was just good luck until now or bad luck this time, but it still ruins one's impression of a country. You can also always say that it's the bad influence of western media/movies or negative behavior of some tourists that makes some locals imagine that all western women are alike, but this, too, doesn't save the holiday...
I'm not saying that all Turkish men are aggressive and you can definitely meet a$$(*!@s everywhere, I just happened to meet them in Turkey smile.gif

After that I kind of started noticing extremely sharply how big gap there is between European attitudes and Turkish way of thinking. Like those funny questions about where is my guardian or the one who's responsible for me biggrin.gif Maybe someone from Turkey can comment on this?
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starlagurl
post Nov 10 2009, 04:32 PM
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Ooohhhh, so you met an "aggressive" man... what happened exactly?


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nipitiri
post Nov 11 2009, 01:44 PM
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I met two, to be exact. Unfortunately for them, I'm able to defend myself, so they must have an equally negative memory of the encounter...
And they were not "aggressive", they were in fact aggressive. One of them came to talk to me in Ahlat by the seljuk tombs, tried to touch me and escaped with a blue eye or something. He was aged 15, so I managed him while holding my camera with one hand. I also found out that screaming helps to scare the attacker away (something I've never done before...). And, right away there appeared two guys who started to follow this boy and wanted to call the police. Which was nice of them, although not necessary.
The next episode was in the evening in Dogubeyazit, where a guy came after me on the street, said something I didn't understand, and reached his hand, but since I was faster, we didn't even make physical contact and after some loud words of not so pretty English he backed off and I walked away. It seems that they are afraid of noise.

So, these were not some "white-girl-flirting-with-a-man-while-on-holiday-and-getting-an-indecent-proposal"-situations.
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starlagurl
post Nov 11 2009, 01:46 PM
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Oh my gosh, that's terrible! Glad that nothing terrible came out of it. Good on you for defending yourself.


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manzara
post Nov 12 2009, 04:13 AM
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I am so sorry to read of your unfortunate experiences in Turkey, a country we have lived in now for over 12 years having abandoned the UK Rat Race 1n 1997.

We have always felt perfectly safe here but then we usually travel around as a couple. However, we are well aware that the behaviour, dress code and attitude of some foreign tourists can give the impression to young Turkish men that all women are easy prey. Although you were travelling in Eastern Turkey, an area untouched by mass tourism, many young men from the east travel to the main tourist areas on the south coast for work in the peak summer months and therefore can encounter visitors giving out the wrong vibes.

Unfortunately in a minority of cases this view can extend to those like yourself who dress modestly and act responsibly. I am particularly ashamed that in one resort area, British tourists (male and female) are considered the most troublesome visitors and, in extreme cases, those causing serious problems can be banned from returning to Turkey for five years.

I am not defending the actions of people behaving as those you were unfortunate enough to encounter. Their behaviour is inexcusable but I fear that the development of tourism in Turkey has created the undesirable side-effect of some young local men wrongly categorizing European women. We do know, as you discovered, that shouting is an excellent defence! There will be people around who will be ashamed and embarrassed at the behaviour of their fellow countryman and even in a quieter location, your shouts should sent the guy running for fear of possible police intervention which I can assure you would be a most unpleasant experience for them.

In contrast, we live in a small fishing village hardly touch by tourism and the locals have welcomed us warmly and refer to us not as "foreigners" but just "not Turkish"! Unless, a local man (acqaintance or tradesman) knew us extremely well, he would not enter our house if I were not there and Elaine was alone in the property.

We have found Turkey one of the safest and most hospitable countries we have visited and I am so disappointed and saddened that your recent experiences have coloured your views of the country.

I am pleased, however, that you did experience some enjoyment from your trip and I was most interested in reading you post after visiting areas which are still on our 'must see' list - but we did enjoy Mardin!


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nipitiri
post Nov 12 2009, 10:02 AM
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Thanks for your comment.
I have traveled and seen the behavior of different tourists enough to understand where do these stereotypes about western women come from, so I do not think that all Turkish men are chauvinist or something. We all share a collective burden of guilt smile.gif
And I met a lot of very nice and friendly people as well. For example, in some places I was invited for tea and breakfast and wasn't allowed to pay for this. In couple of places I asked for directions and people drove with me to point me the right way etc. At the same time, I also felt insecure when somebody started talking to me, because I wasn't sure how this is looked at. On one hand, it feels kind of silly to walk away and sit alone and I am curious to talk to locals while traveling. On the other hand, if talking to strangers is interpreted as indecent behavior, it could get me into trouble... It was a difficult balancing between being polite and not looking like "easy prey".
Like the guy who came to show me around in the ruins in Hasankeyf, claiming he was an archeologist working there and at some point started to say compliments in Turkish. He wasn't aware that I understand what he's saying, so I quickly left, but there what started as a kind and neutral hospitality gesture at first (at least for me) could have ended badly or at least was interpreted differently by him.
I try not to make any "final judgment" about Turkey on general out of this and just took it as a warning to be cautious. That's why I mentioned it here too, to draw attention to where it leads, if people irresponsibly take their own customs into another country and do not stop to think what it looks like from another perspective.
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manzara
post Nov 13 2009, 03:10 AM
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I am pleased you have some happy memories of your time in Turkey. It is certainly not ususual to be invited into a house for a glass of tea or even to share a meal - even with obviously poorer families who can ill afford it.

QUOTE(nipitiri @ Nov 12 2009, 10:02 AM) *

. . . if people irresponsibly take their own customs into another country and do not stop to think what it looks like from another perspective.

I think your observation above is so important and relevant. It expresses a view of other cultures and customs which too many others appear not to appreciate or accept

I sincerely hope your future travels involve less troublesome experiences. Enjoy them!


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