Published: June 7th 2012April 1st 2012
Upon the arrival from Azerbaijan back to Turkey, we were overly excited. Couple days or so, and we are going to pick up our Iranian visas to set off to the country full of mystery. The news were scarce and hopeless. We need to stick around and stir our uncertainty with a good dose of patience. Our feet needed a bit more of action, and we still had some desired spots on Turkey’s map. Sumela monastery was one of favorite ones, so soon we mounted another truck and headed towards another snow storm. Our driver with a fatherly look in no way wanted to let us off somewhere in the middle of fields with trees like ghosts. ‘There are wolves out there’ he mimed the aggressive animal mouth.
The fields indeed were full of silence, solitude, and heaps of snow have immediately hidden our knees. The first our experience to pitch a tent on the snow at that level. We quickly pressed it with our feet and backpacks, and the white carpet got a bit more obedient. The warning of the wolves surely gave us a bit of a shiver, and we briefly pictured the way out of the situation if the hungry ones will come to share our dinner.
Hope - Erzurum (kelias � road)
The morning sunshine wanted to look in the mirror of every single snowflake. The road seemed utterly neglected, and few drivers surprisingly gave us a look as we would be aliens appearing from nowhere. In fact it wasn’t far from truth, we were standing in the middle of vastness trying to hitch a lift further up to Macka. Soon in our passport of experience we got another stamp – we hitched a snow cleaning vehicle. Sitting nearly on each others shoulders in a small cabin, we observed a car work as it would be a ship leaving the waves of frozen water.
When we finally reached Macka, everyone showed us ‘chock kar’ (‘a lot of snow’ (tur.). The cars were a lonely beast to be caught. When we finally got one, it nearly fell of the slippery road. Fortunately another one passing from opposite end decided to give us a lift another 7km or so.
Sumela monastery hanging high on the cliffs froze our already slightly frozen faces. Its mystery and beauty was obvious. Soon a couple dogs decided to lead us up the top, helping us to press the snow. The view was magnificent: sleepy fir trees under the feathery blankets, somewhere the creek reminded of its existence under the snoozing rocks, calmly listening to the watery lullaby. Soon the twilight cuddled the arches of Sumela, and so it was the best time we arrived up on the top. At first instance we thought to use the romance of the rocks and arches to host us for a night, but we found another luxurious ‘hotel’ – a decent clean female toilet. Soon we fixed the broken window with our tents, put the stove on to boil some hot water and dinner, and the hand dryer should serve us as a heater. Karolis used bits of paper to produce some motion, so the dryer would continue its work till the room will be filled with some warmth. A place of comfort – we had ready toilets, frozen sinks, and the room ready to host our dreams.
Sumela vienuolynas. � Sumela Monastery.
The morning promised us a superb day. The tops of the trees were all dressed in a sunny code, ready to work for beauty the entire day. No need though – only a few dare to come when the snow and ice stop the vehicles of getting here. The stunning views still come back to our dreams of that day walk. The joyful morning creeks, the rocks with frozen waterfalls, the white dressed trees all shared their tranquility with us. So egoistically pleased we drank the beauty in full cups.
A geography teacher got us to Trabzon, a town near the Black sea. Hagia Sophia, a used-to-be temple near the seashore, now turned into a museum, was free of tourists, and we gazed at the frescoes with damaged faces, listened to the hum of doves livig high in the vaults in a solitude. I dared to let the song in the rocky church, where the echo returned my voice back to where it came back from.
Rize, another town at the sea, meant to be the capital of the tea. There the tree leaves collected as well as many bright yellow painted factories placed. We decided to finish the day off on the shore, at the park where perhaps in summers families in the daytime and lovers at night walk to breath in some sea air. We found there a restaurant looking straight into the big blue waters. The rocky shore could not offer us a soft surface, hence such a closed for a winter cozy place promised us a romantic view and comfortable sleep. Meanwhile the masterpiece of pasta was bubbling on little stove, we sipped hot herb tea and watched for the depth of the dark sea. It all meant to be overly fluffy till the moment when Karolis announced ‘bad news. A rat just tried to get into our bags’. The feast based on our bread was over for our little enemy. We hanged our food high on the ceiling, and soon our bags like massive pigs were spinning slowly hanging down from the ceiling too. We barricaded our cozy shelter with green plastic tables. Our unwanted guest did not think it was a big issue. It acrobatically trying to reach us at night. I fortunately did not hear a sound till the early morning where the waves waked me up and invited for a sunrise.
Hagia Sofia baznycia. � Hagia Sofia temple.
Our humble breakfast surrounded by not humble views lead us into another day of waiting. Reaching Erzurum was successfully fast but brought us no good news again. Authorization code has not arrived. There are some issues with gmails, and so it has not reached the consulate as yet. Our patience supplies reached the bottom, and we urgently needed to fill it up somewhere warm. Mediterranean sea was the option, and our imaginations quickly pictured us laying on the hot sand and swimming in the semiwarm waters. With this only image we started off the journey from Erzurum, leaving temperatures below -23.
Uzungul ezeras. � Uzungul lake.
The road meant to lead us through the mountains where the spring will perhaps not come for another month or so. The blizzard was harsh, and the car driver suffered highly by not being able to see where on earth he is going. Another instance or so, and we received a massive snow portion into our faces as the driver for some reason left the window open. The car hit the massive snow pile, and we ended up with a bit of it inside the car. Another car has nearly brought us over the mountains. Even the chains of the tires did not help, the composed driver had to return, as the cars heading in front warned us : the road is closed. Back to Genc, one of the Kurdish towns. Soon our company joined a policeman. Another instance, and they brought us to a hotel. As a rule we sang our usual song ‘we are going to stay in a tent, no hotel’. ‘Your passports’ strictly commanded the policeman. He quickly had few words with a driver, and in another instance we found ourselves in the police office. At the door we passed few so-called criminals, and by police command we placed ourselves near the radiator. One smiling policeman swayed in with a tray of bardaks of chay (glasses pf tea). We were calmly putting to dry our gloves and a range of thoughts what on earth we are doing in the police station if we have not done anything wrong. Maybe Arabic scarf? Or maybe being ‘off season tourists’ in a land of instability. ‘When did you eat?’ they asked us after bringing us to an interview room. Soon another kind uniformed gentleman brought in a tray with cheese, olives, ekmek (Turkish bread) and chocolate spread. We wiped it clean. The dinner followed by a long chain of policemen coming in and questioning why we are here and where on earth we are heading to. The amazement by the means of traveling have not left any of their faces. At one instance the sleeve of one my arms rolled up a little bit revealing the variety of bracelets on my wrist. Their eyes immediately froze on one of them – my aunt’s hand made tri-colour Lithuanian friendship gift. ‘PPK colours’ they announced. Karolis basketball t-shirt with a flag surely was another tease and mystery. How 3 coloures can signify different things in the countries separated by seas and lands.
The enigma of our prolonged stay in the police office eventually was revealed. A hospitable policeman wanted to host us in his flat. Soon he showed us their police flats – fortress, we chatted about traveling, cultures and surely terrorists. With army binoculars he showed us the well lit hills where potential terrorists might show up. The danger is by no means imagined. The attacks on police, army and even civils are frequent. The reality of fighting for what you believe is harsh and sad. Our non-violent approach to problem solving left us discussing how on earth this problem could be solved.
The breakfast in the police office, and we quickly had to rearange our plans. No sea for this time as the roads are still closed. Shall we hitch to the eastern part. Another half a day, and we already near the Van Kallesi, castle of Van, built near the huge lake. We were about to have a look around after the darkness descended on its walls, when we heard a shout in turkish. After a few seconds of scattered thoughts, we turned into the source of that sound. A man without much talking walked into the coffee shop ready to sleep another cold night. We followed him, and soon we sat down around to cuddle a stove. Cups of tea, the silence and just freezing a moment.
Restorane prie Van Pilies. � Cafe next to Van Castle.
We filled ourselves with a decent supply of warmth and were about to leave the place, but the security guys who shortly arrived with a big gun on the shoulder (good we came down on time) showed us a cooking dinner on the stove. It meant something like ‘how you would dare to leave us right now’. So we stayed for a dinner. The blizzard did not promise anything nice. Our tent might have end up under the snow soon. The cook, who brought us to this humble coffee shop, quickly dressed up, and soon we were going through the yard all covered in snow. He showed a little security guys shelter, which had to serve us home tonight. The good night sleep followed by a peaceful morning at the castle and lake.
On the way to Erzurum the sun was rolling firstly on the ripples of Van lake waters, later on the tops of the immaculately white and clean mountain tops, where it hid. ‘The red light is flashing. I need to stop and stay overnight’ – our plans to reach Erzurum that night collapsed. The cold bite our legs, and we quickly had to find a place to stay overnight. THe tent pitched up, but it didn’d help much to fight the lowest temperature. The night of warming up the feet went slowly. The morning sunrise helped us to defrost the fingertips, but the feet resembled bricks rather than bones and flesh. Fortunately the tiny road restaurant was open and we could warm up drinking hot tea and soup.
Ararato kalnas. Turkijos-Irano siena. � Mt Ararat. Turkey-Iran border.
Shortly we reached Erzurum expecting our visa process to finally get moving, but sad news again. IranianVisa agency was mumbling something about the mixed application forms and Teheran Foreign Ministry delays, in other words – six weeks of processing and still no light in the end of a tunnel. If it wasn’t the fantastic Erzurum consulate staff that helped us that day, we would have waited for the visa for another year or so. They decided to make the authorization number and visa themselves for some ridiculous $75 in two days giving us a 15 days of sun in the land of Iran. Next moment we hit the road for another adventure.