Proud host of the 2011 Winter Universiade
Arriving at the north east corner of the big rectangle that is Turkey, the most direct path to Istanbul is of course along the Black Sea coast. But when you find yourself in that north east corner of Turkey, it is hard not to be tempted to see a bit more of this vast country, and so I decided to loop through it in a big U shape until I finally reached Istanbul.
Three things strike me about Turkey:
First, how diverse this beautiful country is: from the Georgian Valleys in the far east to the mountainous area around Erzerum, from the moon-like landscape of Cappadocia with its astounding churches built into the rock to the sea side resort of Amasra, from middle east like Urfa to cosmopolitan Istanbul. And I haven't even seen half of the country..
Second, how incredibly and unconditionally hospitable Turkish people are. I have met many kind people from many nice places along this trip, but here in Turkey I feel like people are ready to drop everything instantly just to make sure that you are well fed, have a place to stay, and know which bus to get on. In Van, an
Best skiing in Turkey apparently!
army colonel took me to the officers dining hall in his barracks and fed me a feast before driving me to my hotel. In Amasra, a group of 18 year olds bought me chocolate, took me for tea, invited me to an open air concert, and wouldn't even let me pay for my bus fare. I can't say I have come across an army colonel or a gang of 18-year-olds back at home that are so overwhelmingly friendly to a complete stranger..
Third (and anyone who has been to Turkey can skip this outburst of enthusiasm for public transport), is how amazing the coach system is. You can get from anywhere to anywhere anytime. The coaches look brand new. They are spotlessly clean. You stop every few hours to stretch your legs and have a snack. Not just all that, but they serve you free cups of tea on board. Could there be a more civilized way to travel?
Turkey: 10 out of 10.
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