East Turkey & Georgia (former Soviet Republic)

Past World Cycling Tour - 2007

I flew into Diyarbakir, ancestral capital of the Kurds in eastern Turkey. There had been a ceasefire for several years, which broke down just before I arrived - and limited my informal camping, as I was advised night patrols could misinterpret my presence.  

But what an area, incredible history, ancient architecture, great food, really friendly people, and tough, excellent riding. I finished by crossing a mountain pass at Posof into Georgia, a new nations now independent from the old USSR.  A surprise and delight.

Below is a map, showing the location of Eastern Turkey & the Georgia in the world, and the area I did my ride. With neighbours like Iran and Iraq, this has long been a complex and troubled region, but the trauma of Syria in recent years has amplified the instability. Below that is a slide show from this incredible experience, and at the bottom of the page is a route map and some comments.  Have a look.

World location map | East Turkey & Georgia | cycle touring
Diyarbakir
Diyarbakir

I flew into Diyarbakir, east Anatolia, ancestral centre of the Kurdish people, population ~750,000, To this day, it is surrounded by a crumbling 6km fortifying wall, first built by the Romans.

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Market treats
Market treats

In Diyarbakar. There had been a ceasefire with Kurdish separatists in place for several years, but unfortunately it was breaking down when I arrived.

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Trabzon, Black Sea port
Trabzon, Black Sea port

This is Turkey's major city and port along the NE Black Sea. I flew home from here. Fans of historical fiction may recognize this as ancient Trebizond, a last Christian enclave amidst the Ottoman Empire after the fall of old Constantinople. Dorothy Dunnett put this in my imagination in her fine book Spring of the Ram, set in the 1400s.

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Diyarbakir
Diyarbakir

I flew into Diyarbakir, east Anatolia, ancestral centre of the Kurdish people, population ~750,000, To this day, it is surrounded by a crumbling 6km fortifying wall, first built by the Romans.

press to zoom
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Check out the SLIDESHOW

If you hover over the picture below, you'll see forward/backward arrows for navigating.  Click on the slide to open in viewer mode (good to see text when viewing with small mobile screen). Some of the comments were packaged after my visit, and may no longer be current.

Eastern Turkey & the Republic of Georgia

Seemed like it was time for me to absorb a good dose of history. The troubled Kurdish insurgency in East Anatolia had been quiet with a ceasefire for several years (which, alas, was breaking down when I visited). On this trip, there was grand, jaw dropping history all around, with so many highlights, but I'll call out Nemrut Dagi, a long lost pantheon of god statues atop the highest mountain in the region, and Ani, the long deserted, thousand year capital of ancient Armenia, with only the shells of great stone cathedrals still standing, dotted about a haunted plain. 

I flew into Diyarbakir, ancestral capital of the Kurdish people, and headed west to Nemrut Dagi, before looping south to Sanli Urfa, glorious city of pilgrims. Then east along the Syrian border to Mardin, short listed for a World Heritage site. NE to Van Lake then on to Dogubayazat, in the shadows of biblical Mt Ararat, at the Iranian border. Continuing north to Kars, site of Orhan Pamuk's famous novel 'Snow'.

 

(continued after map)

Cycle tour route map | East Turkey & Georgia

I crossed into Georgia at the remote mountain crossing near Posof, and made my way east to Tbilisi, the capital, a welcome break amidst European comforts. Then back east to Batumi, along the coast of the Black Sea, home of the mythical Golden Fleece. A final tremendous riding stretch SE along Black Sea to storied Trabzon, which Dorothy Dunnett (wonderful author of historical fiction) had lodged into my imagination long ago with her memorable book Spring of the Ram.