To Yuzen Ada and Solhan.

After waiting fifteen minutes at the main road, a man from Istanbul stopped his car and drove me into the centre of Solhan. The man had been on the road for fifteen days taking orders for kitchen electrical goods in Bolu, Ankara, Kayseri, Sivas, Malatya, Elazig, Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van. He was now returning home and hoped to arrive in Istanbul about 1.00am or 2.00am. He picked me up at about 1.00pm, so was suggesting he would get home in twelve or thirteen hours. I thought this unlikely, even though he drove to Solhan at great pace. For most of the way the car exceeded 120 kph.

The main road between Solhan and Mus.

The main road between Solhan and Mus.

I returned to my hotel room briefly, then went to take a few photos around the town. The streets were top-heavy with men and boys, but everyone was very friendly. It looked as if I was in an overwhelmingly Sunni area where segregation of the sexes was the norm. Opportunities to talk with women were non-existent other than if they were encountered as employees in the hotel or some of the town centre shops. But few women benefited from such roles and the conversations had to be brief and business-like. Lots of women wore loose-fitting black garments from head to toe and some covered their faces. Girls aged fourteen or more wore headscarves that covered their hair and ears. Only a very few women defied Sunni conventions about what would be called appropriate female dress. Depressing? Very depressing.

I walked around the small pazar, identified where minibuses left for Elazig, located the small otogar serving towns and villages in the surrounding hills and mountains, visited a shop selling locally-produced honey, watched a man ride a horse bareback along a road leading over the river and out of town, met four supporters of the HDP and admired the bunting along the town centre’s main thoroughfares. I then took someone’s advice for a good meal and walked up the stairs leading to the Saray Restaurant which overlooks the main street.

Solhan.

Solhan.

Solhan.

Solhan.

Solhan.

Solhan.

I liked the Saray as soon as I entered its clean, spacious and female-friendly surroundings. Food is prepared in two different areas, one being devoted to grilled meats, salad and bread and the other to hot plates. Because I had had a few grilled meat dishes already and knew I would probably have more in Elazig and/or Diyarbakir, I went to the hot plate counter and ordered tas kebap, bulgar pilaf and a warm yoghurt dish with a mild pepper sauce and vegetables, the latter cooked so well that they melted in the mouth. I knew that bread and a salad would probably arrive free of charge, but when the waiter came to serve me I was also given a small bowl of lentil soup, a stuffed pepper, macaroni smothered in yoghurt, ayran and four different salads. I took my time and managed to eat almost everything I was given, partly because the quality of the food was so good that the meal was the trip’s very best so far (indeed, not even an Adana kebap the last night of the trip in Diyarbakir could quite exceed in quality what I ate at the Saray in Solhan, a town most Turkish citizens would regard as in the middle of almost nowhere). But the most remarkable thing of all? For a meal worthy of a bill of at least 30TL I was charged only 10TL. Yes, less than £3.

Saray Restaurant, Solhan.

Saray Restaurant, Solhan.

At the end of the meal I shook hands with almost every member of staff as well as that of the owner and promised that the Saray would get a rave review on the internet, then continued my walk around town. In a back street I came across a Belediye dustcart with a picture on the side of a small lake with some floating islands about 8 to 10 kilometres from Solhan. I had forgotten about the lake and its islands, known locally as Yuzen Ada, but, because it was just after 3.00pm, knew I had a good chance of getting there and back before nightfall.

I walked west along the main road, then came across a minibus with a few passengers in it. I did not expect the minibus to be going all the way to the lake, but asked the driver if I could be dropped at the appropriate junction. Amazingly, the minibus was going to the lake, but it had first to pick up more passengers around the town. We drove to a large school to collect some middle and high school students (it was Friday and pupils and students who had been boarding in Solhan during the week were being driven home to nearby towns and villages in lots of minibuses), then stopped at an apartment block to collect an elderly couple and their sacks of food. The sacks were so full that the food would last well over a week.

We drove out of town and, after about 4 or 5 kilometres, turned right onto gently inclined pasture with a small, seemingly deserted village inhabited only during the hottest months of the year. The road entered a valley and began to ascend more steeply. There were cliffs, rocky outcrops, wild flowers in the meadows and mountains in the distance. At the highest point the road crossed undulating upland reminiscent of the North Pennines in England, then the road descended a short distance into a small village. The minibus dropped off a few passengers in the village, then drove another 1.5 kilometres to the lake itself, which has attracted a few facilities such as small wooden chalets to stay in overnight and a café and lokanta.

Yuzen Ada.

Yuzen Ada.

Meadows with wild flowers and rounded hills and mountains enclose the lake and its facilities, as does a footpath covered with a wooden roof. The lake itself is very small, but three flat, near-perfect circles of grassy land do, indeed, float on the surface of the water (it would appear that the roots of grass, flowers and trees hold the soil together. The islands were once attached to the land enclosing the lake, but erosion eventually detached them and gradually reduced them to the shape they currently have. The best view of all can be acquired from a path that leads to a viewing platform on a hillside about 20 metres above the lake’s surface. From here you can also see almost all the facilities that the lake has spawned, but I did not find them in the least oppressive because they are dwarfed by the grandeur of their upland surroundings. A few families were eating large picnics in the fresh air beside chalets they had probably hired for the weekend. Two powerful motorbikes had been parked by a couple who were drinking tea in the café. The couple looked as if they were Turkish.

Yuzen Ada.

Yuzen Ada.

View south from Yuzen Ada.

View south from Yuzen Ada.

I was very glad I had visited the lake, not least because it got me for one last time into the mountains. I walked back to the nearby village and chatted with some men and women before making my way onto the upland area that resembles the North Pennines (there are even some dry stone walls that make the comparison with England even more convincing). The road began to gradually descend and I entered the valley with the cliffs and rocky outcrops. A meandering stream tumbled over rocks and, briefly, I could have been walking beside the Wear or the Tees in west County Durham. By now it was almost 5.00pm and the visibility was excellent.

Between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

Between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

Between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

Between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

I made no attempt to flag a lift because I was enjoying the walk and wanted to look at the village not far from the main road. The village has a few houses to the west of the road overlooking the river, but most are a little higher on the hillside to the east. I was almost correct; all the houses but one or two were empty (two donkeys tethered near one of the houses to the east of the road confirmed that some people were around, but I saw no one the half hour I was in the village). The rest of the houses awaited the families that would live in them from early June until about mid-September.

The village between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

The village between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

The village between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

The village between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

Some of the houses are made with stone, some with breeze block and some with what appears to be breeze block covered with a thin layer of plaster. All the houses have a square or a rectangular ground plan and spread over only one storey. Liberal use is made of corrugated iron and flat sheets of metal to patch holes or improve insulation, especially on buildings for livestock or the storage of food. Every roof is pitched and covered with corrugated iron. Such roofs looked quite new and on the houses made with stone probably replace flat roofs of log and mud. The pitched corrugated iron roofs are much lighter than log and mud roofs and are therefore popular in areas prone to earthquakes. The walls of some of the stone houses have courses of wood designed to absorb the shocks when earthquakes occur. Yes, Solhan is in an area prone to earthquakes.

The village between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

The village between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

The village between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

The village between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

Many of the houses have storage space immediately below the corrugated iron roofs and, nearby, penfolds in which they can put their livestock at night. Most of the penfolds have dry stone walls and are square or rectangular in shape. They are usually located next to a house so family members can quickly respond should a problem arise.

The village between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

The village between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

The houses of the village lie on undulating pasture with many wild flowers. To the south a ridge of mountains had patches of snow where the sun could not easily reach. To the north-west, lots of beehives had been arranged on a gently inclined slope leading to the river. I was having quality time in the mountains, so much so that, even though it would be the last time I would be in such surroundings, I did not mind. All good things must come to an end.

Between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

Between Yuzen Ada and the main road to Solhan.

I walked to the main road and it was not long before a young Kurdish couple stopped their car to offer me a lift to Solhan. The driver was the male, of course, but the woman did not wear a headscarf, which suggested that she and her partner were not devout. The man drove to town very fast, no doubt keen to impress his partner with his motoring skills. We drove past two or three camps for nomads in which the tents were made of felt, as in the old days.

It was now almost 6.00pm and the visibility excellent. I walked around the town centre streets stopping every so often to chat with friendly men. The very last pupils and students in Solhan’s schools were making their way home in minibuses and, although some women walked around in small groups, they did all they could not to draw attention to themselves.

Solhan.

Solhan.

Solhan.

Solhan.

I returned to the hotel, washed a few items of clothing and left for one last walk around the town. After looking at the river south of the centre where it is confined within stone walls and banks of rubble, I walked around a small but attractive cemetery close to a large playground where children were engaged in noisy games. A little later, not long before meeting some men outside a tea house in the pazar playing a game that looked like a cross between chess and draughts, I was stopped by a police officer in plain clothes. The police officer asked what I was up to and examined my passport. I was briefly worried that I might have some difficulties with him, but, suspicious at first, he soon came to realise I did not pose a threat to anyone. He invited me to have a glass of tea, but I explained I wanted to take some photos before the light faded altogether.

Solhan.

Solhan.

Solhan.

Solhan.

I would have liked to return to the Saray Restaurant for an evening meal, but the late lunch had been so substantial that I could not justify the extravagance. I fancied something to eat and drink, however, so called at a small supermarket to buy a chocolate pudding, a bar of dark chocolate, a packet of Ruffles Original Crisps and a litre of apple juice. Back in my room I had some crisps, the pudding and the apple juice and soon felt full but refreshed.

Solhan.

Solhan.

Solhan.

Solhan.

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To Cemisgezek and the Termal Hotel.

Being dropped off where hills, a river, trees, pasture with wild flowers and lots of beehives presented an image of rural bliss, I decided to wait until a lift arrived and, after only twenty minutes, a small open-topped lorry drew to a halt. The driver already had two men in the cab and on the back of the lorry were two cows. I was lucky: the men and their cattle were going to Cemisgezek. The two passengers shuffled along to make room for me and, just over an hour later, we arrived at our destination. While the driver said almost nothing the whole journey other than to reassure me that my presence was not a problem, the two passengers chattered incessantly in Zazaki, a language that I understand even less well than Kurmanji. I got the feeling they were gossiping about people they knew and about whether such people could be trusted when transacting business, because every so often sums of money were mentioned.

Between Hozat and Cemisgezek.

Between Hozat and Cemisgezek.

The journeys to and from Hozat and to and from the Armenian church had been remarkable, not least because the roads along which I travelled were usually high up so the views were extensive, but I think I enjoyed even more the journey to and from the junction where the lorry picked me up. When meandering along the valley floor, not once were we confined by a narrow gorge. Along the rivers the trees and small fields provided intimate counterpoint to the grandeur of the upland surroundings. However, a lot of time was spent high among rounded hills. The views were uninterrupted and took in distant mountains and the Keban Reservoir. Along the road and in the middle distance pasture was everywhere, in some instances covering the summits of the hills and mountains themselves, but the pasture was not quite as good as further north and east in Dersim. Consequently, sheep and goats were much more numerous than cattle and the flocks were in some instances enormous.

After about 40 kilometres of stunning upland scenery we arrived in the centre of Cemisgezek, which itself lies above a river in a deep gorge with cliffs and mountains around it. By now it was 3.00pm and, when I explained that I had to return to Pertek that evening, the driver and his two companions expressed some alarm because minibuses did not travel the whole distance, only to the ferry a few kilometres to the south-east to take a short cut to Elazig. I felt confident I could hitch to my destination, however, but, to increase the chances of getting to Pertek before nightfall, decided that I would try to confine a look around the town to just over an hour.

Cemisgezek.

Suleymaniye Camii, Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek is large enough to have a vibrant commercial heart and a small pazar, the latter largely confined to a narrow street devoid of motorised traffic. Although modern structures of limited architectural merit outnumber old buildings, enough old buildings, houses in particular, survive to make it a detour well worth undertaking (day trips from Elazig should be considered, given that minibuses run most of the day. Cemisgezek does not seem to have a hotel worth staying in). Although some tooth-like rocks and a few traces of masonry reveal where the castle used to be high above the river in its gorge, other monuments from the past are of greater interest. Yelmaniye Camii dates from 1400 (it has a portal with interesting carved ornamentation and a bright and attractive interior with a mihrab with a deep niche) and Suleymaniye Camii has a very impressive minaret from the Selcuk period. The town centre also has two hamams and, some distance outside, a turbe and a bridge with a single pointed arch.

The pazar, Cemisgezek.

The pazar, Cemisgezek.

Yelmaniye Camii, Cemisgezek.

Yelmaniye Camii, Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Overlooking the town from the west are some caves in a cliff. One of the caves has some Armenian graffiti which Sinclair dates to the late 19th century. Sinclair also says that the caves were lived in until 1938 by Alevi Kurds who took part in “the Dersim revolt”. After a general pardon for prisoners, the Alevi Kurds that remained alive were given yaylas behind Yilan Dagi (“further up the valley of the Cemisgezek Su”) and “enough money to buy flocks, even to build houses”.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

While it would be fair to say that all the monuments just listed make it worth a detour to Cemisgezek, the old houses are the town’s most remarkable feature (this said, the town seems to be predominantly Alevi and everyone is very friendly, so this is another reason to visit a settlement a little off the beaten track). Many of the old houses survive as two-storey terraces along cobbled streets. The houses are timber-framed and the mudbrick walls encased in plaster. People like to paint the walls a rich variety of colours, some of which have attractive shades reminiscent of pastel crayons and ice cream. The narrower streets are overhung by the balconies of the upper storeys and in some streets the ground floors are a little below the level of the road.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

I asked someone where the cemevi was located and was directed through the commercial heart of the town and onto a road leading to the north, which ascended into an area that quickly becomes overwhelmingly residential. In this area some old stone houses survive, some of which spread over only one storey. I asked a woman for further directions and was urged to look down into a depression more or less constituting the northern extremity of the town. I looked over a wall and there lay a modern cemevi among some of the town’s newest houses. I was told it is called Kirklar Cemevi, or Forty Cemevi. For Alevis and Bektashis, the number forty has special meaning. For some Alevis and Bektashis it refers to the forty “saints” Muhammad is said to have encountered during his nocturnal ascent to heaven/paradise, and for others it refers to the forty levels that constitute in far greater detail the four gates, or major life stages, that make up the Alevi and the Bektashi spiritual path (this path is usually identified by the Turkish word “yol”, a word commonly translated to mean “road”).

The cemevi, Cemisgezek.

The cemevi, Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Because Cemisgezek has so much to enjoy I stayed considerably longer than an hour. Just as I set off to walk out of town to find somewhere from where to hitch a lift, I was stopped by three young women, all second year university students. We chatted a while and, although two of the women wore headscarves, photos had to be taken before I could resume my walk. Here were yet more friendly people, in this case female, and two were conventionally pious Sunni women willing to risk criticism for chatting with an unknown male. Mind you: Sunni women could get away with such unconventional behaviour in Dersim where gender equality and the empowerment of women are the norm. Such behaviour would be much less likely to manifest itself in Elazig or Erzincan.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

Cemisgezek.

I had walked about a half kilometre out of town when a tractor stopped and the driver let me climb aboard for a lift of about 3 kilometres, which not only took me far beyond the last buildings of Cemisgezek, but also well into the delightful countryside to the south. I stood beside the road and five minutes later a man drove me to the northern edge of Akcapinar, the first village from Cemisgezek. By now, of course, the sun was beginning its descent to the horizon so visibility was improving all the time. At the point I was dropped off I looked down toward Akcapinar across gently undulating fields and pasture, and beyond the fields and pasture was the Keban Reservoir with water a deeper blue than at any point during the day. Hills and mountains dominated the distance.

View south from Cemisgezek.

View south from Cemisgezek.

No more than ten minutes later a lorry drew to a halt and who should be in the cab but exactly the same three men who had driven me to Cemisgezek earlier in the day! I was surprised to see that both cows were still on the back of the lorry, but it turned out they had simply been to Cemisgezek to undertake business that did not involve the livestock. Both cows were destined for one of the men’s small farms near Hozat.

Because the sun was behind us and the visibility so good, the journey to the junction for Hozat was even more enchanting than it had been when we drove to Cemisgezek. I identified about a dozen places where I wanted to stop, sometimes to photograph the scenery alone and sometimes to photograph shepherds and their large flocks of sheep and goats in their natural surroundings. Some unusual farm buildings existed beside and not far from the road. When we finally arrived at the junction for Hozat, I wanted to give the driver some money for helping me fulfil most of the second part of the day’s programme with little difficulty, but he would not accept the notes in my hand. We were now friends even though we would probably never see each other again.

I walked a short way along the road toward Pertek, then saw to my right a small, ill-stocked supermarket occupying the ground floor of what was a large house or small apartment block. The building stood alone, but I could tell that the supermarket sold ice cream and beer. I called in for an ice cream and a chat with an Alevi male, the owner of the supermarket, who was a retired guestworker who had made his money in Germany. He told me he owned the building that contained the supermarket.

I walked a little further along the road, then a lorry stopped and the driver and his companion offered me a lift all the way to the ferry that departs from near the Termal Hotel. Once again the scenery through which we passed looked delightful, especially as it was now about 6.00pm and the shadows were lengthening.

The two men in the cab were Kurdish Bektashis. It did not take long before discussion about the forthcoming election shifted to criticism of the Sunni majority in Turkey that has always oppressed Alevis and Bektashis. One of the men grew unusually animated as he described past injustices. His anger subsided only when we passed the turning for Dorutay where I was told that some turbes are pilgrimage sites for Alevis and Bektashis.

The Kurdish Bektashis who gave me a lift to the ferry terminal, Pertek.

The Kurdish Bektashis who gave me a lift to the ferry terminal, Pertek.

I stayed with the men until we arrived at the terminal because I wanted to take some photos of the castle and the ferry in the excellent early evening light, then I went to the hotel, showered and changed my clothes. I walked toward the roundabout with the large peace sign in the middle knowing that, before I got there, I would arrive at a small roadside bufe selling beer and snacks. I bought a beer and a packet of crisps, which, along with a boiled egg saved from a breakfast in Tunceli two days earlier, and a packet of salt left over from a THY meal at the start of the trip, was all I could consume given the excellent lunch and the ice cream earlier in the day. On the way back from the bufe the setting sun filled the sky with vibrant colours. I lined up some trees so they stood in silhouette in front of the reservoir and the multi-coloured sky and clicked away. A little later I walked beside the large jandarma post near the hotel so I could take photos of the castle from beside a small jetty. One of the men on guard duty in a tower overlooking the reservoir reminded me not to point the camera toward the jandarma post.

Pertek Kale and the ferry.

Pertek Kale and the ferry.

Sunset, Keban Reservoir, Pertek.

Sunset, Keban Reservoir, Pertek.

Sunset, Keban Reservoir, Pertek.

Sunset, Keban Reservoir, Pertek.

The ferry, Pertek.

The ferry, Pertek.

I examined the photographic results of a brilliant day’s adventures as I consumed my evening meal in my very comfortable bedroom. One thing I noticed was that there were not as many wild flowers – in total number or in variety – as in the parts of Dersim visited the two previous days, but there were certainly enough to make it worthwhile to arrange beehives on the hillsides and along the valley floors. In fact, at one point I had seen what was to prove the largest single collection of beehives in one place, a number far exceeding a hundred, and the beehives belonged to the same two or three men.

Termal Hotel, Pertek.

Termal Hotel, Pertek.

To Asagitorunoba.

I left Ovacik’s cemevi to take a few more photos of it and the grassy plain on which it stands. I was putting my camera away when a car drove past, drew to a halt about 50 metres down the road and backed up. The driver asked, “Where are you going?” I said, “To Asagitorunoba.” The driver had three companions with him and discussion followed before the driver said, “Come on. We are not going to Asagitorunoba, but will take you as far as we can.” I got into the car and a bottle of Efes Malt was offered, which I took gratefully and consumed far more quickly than politeness required.

Between Ovacik and Asagitorunoba.

Between Ovacik and Asagitorunoba.

The men were going to a wedding in a village to the west of the road to Tunceli and, to access the village, they had to cross the Munzur Cayi on a rather dilapidated suspension bridge before ascending a dirt road for a few kilometres. Predictably, I was asked to join the wedding party, which would have been a wonderful experience because it involved Alevis (segregation of the sexes, so often encountered in Sunni Muslim weddings, would probably have been frowned upon, as it should be), but, had I done so, there would have been problems getting back to Tunceli and I would have had to give up on Asagitorunoba. I politely declined the kind invitation, but thoroughly enjoyed the company of the four men, albeit briefly (three men described themselves as Turkish Alevis. The fourth said his grandmother had been Armenian, but he described himself as a Kurdish Bektashi). When we arrived at the bridge leading to the village, only the driver remained in the car to drive it across. His three companions walked.

Between Ovacik and Asagitorunoba.

Between Ovacik and Asagitorunoba.

Not long after waving the car and its passengers off to the wedding, and only about 500 metres further along the road, a minibus appeared and I flagged it for a lift to Asagitorunoba. Because the minibus was crowded I was ushered to a stool between two fixed seats. I found myself beside two female students in their last year at high school. One of the young women was very pretty and the other handsome, and the handsome one had an unusual example of metalwork piercing her nose on the right-hand side. Dressed in European or North American clothes and without headscarves, it was obvious they were Alevi, but I was still surprised when they introduced themselves and initiated a conversation. I think most of the other passengers must have been Alevi as well because no one thought what they did was in the least improper; in fact, I think they were glad the young women had such self-confidence because it meant they found out a bit about someone who was, by local standards, a somewhat exotic individual (foreign tourists are still very rare in Dersim in general and Tunceli in particular). Interestingly, we shook hands at the beginning of the conversation and when I left the minibus at my destination. Moreover, the driver refused to accept any money for the ride.

As I waved the minibus off, I thought about how different the journey would have been had most passengers been Sunni Muslims. Males and females unknown to one another would have sat apart, they would have ignored members of the opposite sex and, in all likelihood, the journey would have passed in silence unless a baby or young child had been present and ill or in pain or distress. During the journey just completed, males sat next to females they did not know, people chatted with total strangers, a relaxed atmosphere prevailed and men and women who had never met before could make physical contact without anarchy breaking out.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba is a small, dispersed settlement that spreads over a gently inclined grassy bank just below quite a steep hillside on the north side of the river. Two bridges cross the river, one of which carries a road that leads to a nearby village to the south. Beside the road bridge is a suspension bridge no longer suitable for motor vehicles. Although the old wooden decking is in a state of disrepair, I could not resist walking across it. Another road leads into the hills to the north of the river where two more villages exist.

In all, there are only twenty or so houses in Asagitorunoba and a small, abandoned jandarma post. The houses are a mixture of old and new, and the old ones outnumber those of more recent construction. Most of the old houses are single storey and have flat roofs. They are constructed with a brown stone that has a hint of red and I assume the stone was quarried locally. However, there is a stone house with rooms spread over two storeys. A veranda at ground level on the south-facing façade is crowned with a balcony above. Tall wooden columns rise from the floor of the veranda to support the balcony and from the floor of the balcony to support the roof. These features and the size of the building itself suggest that the house may have been built for a relatively wealthy family, by local standards at least, although the building’s current shabby appearance implies a poor family lives in it now. In fact, none of the houses in the village look as if they now shelter anyone wealthy.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Beekeeping is popular. When I saw some wooden beehives resembling long, slim barrels indistinguishable from beehives I have seen before in the Hemshin area not far from Rize, I asked some men and women sitting around a table on the veranda of an old stone house of one storey if I could take a few photos. I was encouraged to shoot to my heart’s content, after which I was invited to join them for glasses of tea.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

There were seven people altogether, five men and two women aged roughly thirty to seventy. Both women wore headscarves, but in the way that was becoming increasingly common the more time I spent in Aleviland: the headscarves were arranged loosely on top of the head like a hastily tied turban and no attempt was made to cover the ears or all the hair.

Both women smoked cigarettes. If a woman smokes cigarettes in Turkey, many pious Sunni Muslims regard the habit as one that hints at extreme immorality, perhaps of a sexual nature, but to the great majority of Alevis and Bektashis all they see is a woman asserting her right to do as men do. Put a little differently, when a woman smokes a cigarette, Alevis and Bektashis see a female asserting her independence vis-à-vis males.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

I had assumed I was in the company of Alevis, but things were not quite as they appeared to be, someone who still has a lot to learn about the region’s ethnic complexity. The women and four of the men were Kizilbash and the fifth man was Armenian. I confirmed with my companions what was obvious from the evidence of my eyes, that the Kizilbash regarded the Armenian as their good friend and vice-versa, and then we chatted about how everyone made ends meet economically. The Kizilbash concentrated on making honey and growing crops in fields and orchards, but the Armenian reared sheep and goats for the meat market. A little later I saw the Armenian driving his large flock of sheep and goats along the road leading to the two villages to the north. About half a kilometre from Asagitorunoba he drove them off the road and onto pasture on a hillside overlooking the river below.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Turks, Kurds and (albeit a very small number of) Armenians living together, as do Alevis, Sunni Muslims, Kizilbash and people with no religious faith, and as do speakers of Turkish, Kurmanji, Zazaki and Armenian. Dersim is my kinda province.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

I walked up the road leading to the two villages north of the river, primarily to secure views over Asagitorunoba and the glorious scenery that encloses it. A man stopped his motorbike and kindly carried me a little further into the mountains from where the views are even more spectacular. By the time I got back to Asagitorunoba I had seen the village and the Munzur Cayi from high above, the hills enclosing the valley and the more distant mountains with their forest and smudges of snow. Wild flowers grew everywhere and most of the sky was blue. It was now late afternoon and the visibility excellent.

View south above Asagitorunoba.

View south above Asagitorunoba.

View west over Asagitorunoba.

View west over Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Small though Asagitorunoba is, I spent another half hour examining some of its houses, small gardens and beehives, then chatted with a young man who lived in a house with his parents at the easternmost extremity of the settlement. I was reluctant to leave because, as so often happens in Turkey, I had found a dot on the map that had worked its way under my skin. And why had it got under my skin? I was in one of the most beautiful areas of a country with hundreds of beautiful areas, and the ethnically mixed people I had met were reassuringly liberal and inclusive. This said, Tunceli shares with Asagitorunoba exactly the same qualities, although it is obviously much larger. Was I on a winner? Of course I was.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

Asagitorunoba.

I began walking along the road to Tunceli knowing a minibus to my destination would eventually catch me up, but, after about fifteen minutes spent beside the river mostly in the shade cast by mature trees, a car stopped and the driver offered me a lift. The driver had two male friends with him and they were in a hired car they had picked up a week earlier at Elazig Airport so they could tour Dersim, the region from where all three originated. They had a 9.30pm flight to catch to Istanbul where they now lived and worked. The driver of the car ran his own company in the town of Gebze not far from Istanbul’s second airport.

Leaving Asagitorunoba.

Leaving Asagitorunoba.

Two of the men were Alevis and one was Kizilbash. They considered themselves Turkish by ethnicity. They were very pleasant company, but all of them had the usual concerns about Sunni Muslims, Erdogan and the lack of minority rights. They came across as gentle but perceptive and reflective individuals, individuals who have known what it means to suffer discrimination and oppression because of their identity.

Eski Erzincan.

Following a devastating earthquake in 1939 that claimed many lives, what is now Eski Erzincan was almost completely abandoned. Most of modern Erzincan is a city that has developed since that tragic year. This means that modern Erzincan has very few buildings more than eighty years old and, as a consequence, feels more like a concrete jungle than most Turkish cities because of the absence of anything of substantial age. Despite this, and despite the fact that conventional Sunni piety shapes a majority of the population, I had enjoyed my last and only other visit to the city. The city’s shabbiness has an oddly endearing quality, the pazar is very good and the railway has a substantial presence. Also, the mountains that enclose the city are very attractive, although in a somewhat austere manner. With excellent places in the region to visit including Kemah, Tercan and Altintepe, the latter an Urartian fortress with a temple, palace and tombs, there are many worse places to spend the night. Moreover, the northernmost edge of Eski Erzincan is only 3 kilometres from the main square in Erzincan’s city centre.

As I walked to Eski Erzincan along the main road bound for the airport and Caylagan, one of the city’s many stray dogs, one about the size of an Alsatian, befriended me and we became companions for about an hour until it developed an interest in two dogs of similar appearance to itself. On the way to Eski Erzincan we crossed the railway, passed a large cemetery which I looked at later and walked beside a very depressing zoo where animals were in small and sterile compounds in which food and water were provided intermittently.

The railway, Erzincan.

The railway, Erzincan.

The cemetery, Erzincan.

The cemetery, Erzincan.

The first structure we came to was an old hamam, a long, low building with stonework in very poor condition. The hot room is at the north end of the structure. Externally, only two of the domes can be identified and both are made of brick. Part of a chimney rises from the roof. Sinclair thinks the hamam is Ottoman, but suggests it “could conceivably be medieval”. Because part of the building is now used as a store and the doors were locked, I could not examine the interior.

The first hamam, Eski Erzincan.

The first hamam, Eski Erzincan.

The ruins at Eski Erzincan now lie among trees and long grass, the latter decorated with wild flowers in late spring and early summer, and two or three houses are near the next structure I went to examine, a gatehouse about 100 metres away. To reach the gatehouse I walked among some trees where two men were looking after beehives they had arranged in lines in a small sunlit clearing among the trees.

Beehives, Eski Erzincan.

Beehives, Eski Erzincan.

A sign beside the ruin identifies it as Kale Kapisi, or Castle Gate. Sinclair reveals that:

This gatehouse, of smooth, well-finished masonry, is Ottoman, but it is almost certainly built on foundations of a previous medieval gatehouse. Its rectangular chamber extends behind the line of the wall. Either side of the wide doorway project two diminutive bastions: these have five faces, as if coming from a cut-off octagon, but the five-faced figure is added to the front of a short rectangle rather than directly to the front of the city wall. The purpose of this rectangular block of masonry is to support the wide arch, which acts as a kind of porch, against the front of the gatehouse’s wall. The facing stone has all been pulled from the gatehouse’s s. wall and also taken at the base of the n. tower. The back aspect is also generally shoddy. Both doorways have been narrowed with breeze blocks.

The family living in one of the nearby houses uses the gatehouse to store things, food for animals included.

The gatehouse, Eski Erzincan.

The gatehouse, Eski Erzincan.

By now my companion had attracted the attention of three large dogs protecting one of the nearby houses, but the man who owned the dogs said they would not attack me; they were interested in my companion instead.

Near the gatehouse is the ruin of a tower with a hexagonal ground plan which, as Sinclair indicates, projects:

from the first angle on the w. corner (of the city wall) to a present height of one storey, but must originally have risen further, perhaps only enough to allow a crenellated defensive wall, less probably enough to allow a second covered storey. One side of the hexagon is accounted for by the back wall, which contains the entrance. The two sides adjacent to the entrance project from the city wall… These two sides are longer than the others to accommodate a lobby immediately inside the doorway. In the five outer faces, arrow slits with deep, wide embrasures. The masonry is of big, bossed blocks. Fragments of 14th-15th century decoration, very likely Islamic, on the n. face, mean that the tower was probably rebuilt in the 15th century.

The hexagonal tower, Eski Erzincan.

The hexagonal tower, Eski Erzincan.

 Immediately south-east of the tower are short sections of the city wall and more sections of the wall exist after turning through a right angle so you are now facing north-east. A flat ditch about 10 metres wide provided additional protection along some of the city wall. The ditch is most readily identified where the wall along the south side of the city runs in a south-west to north-east direction. Here, the edge of the ditch opposite the city wall is in places 2.5 metres high. The slope of the ground precluded a ditch in front of the wall facing south-west. The wall was built along the top of a bank which gets lower as it leads to the north-west.

Part of the city wall, Eski Erzincan.

Part of the city wall, Eski Erzincan.

I lost my companion as I examined the ditch, after which I crossed the road to the airport and Caylagan to spend some time in the pretty cemetery. Very few of the tombs or gravestones in the cemetery are old, but a few notable Muslims have been buried there and their turbes reflect the high esteem in which they were held. The cemetery is kept in good condition and many flowers including poppies, pansies and irises were in bloom. Some simple wooden kiosks with seats have been erected among the tombs, so I retired to one to have a rest. I ate half a simit and a nectarine, both survivals of my visit to Tamdere.

The cemetery, Erzincan.

The cemetery, Erzincan.

The cemetery, Erzincan.

The cemetery, Erzincan.

I returned to the road leading to the airport and Caylagan, then took a left onto the ring road avoiding Erzincan’s city centre. I knew there was more to see in Eski Erzincan and that it lay just to the north of the ring road, which did not exist when Sinclair visited the site in the 1980s. Thankfully, construction of the ring road does not seem to have destroyed anything of great importance.

I crossed the ring road and, behind a wire fence, saw the remains of a large hamam benefiting from a major restoration programme. Thinking I would not be able to examine the remains close up because of health and safety concerns, I took a few photos before intending to make my way back to the city centre. However, by following the fence I came to a gate and the gate was unlocked. I knew already that the workmen were not on site, so I went inside hoping dogs were not on guard duty or living nearby in a feral state. There were no dogs, so what followed was a delight. I walked around the whole hamam, which is already in an impressive condition. I came away with the impression that the restoration programme will result in a monument not done up to an excessive degree.

The second hamam, Eski Erzincan.

The second hamam, Eski Erzincan.

The second hamam, Eski Erzincan.

The second hamam, Eski Erzincan.

Sinclair notes that:

The disrobing chamber with high dome is to the n. It is in good condition, both inside and outside, apart from the debris on the floor. The masonry of the walls is of the same bossed blocks as on the large octagonal tower. The dome is brick. The recess with pointed arch to the r. of the door (e. side) seems to have been for a cesme. Squinch and blind arch support for dome, set low in the usual manner. At the back of each squinch is a sloping triangle of rows of blocks set, toothlike, diagonally to the triangle’s face.

The second hamam, Eski Erzincan.

The second hamam, Eski Erzincan.

The second hamam, Eski Erzincan.

The second hamam, Eski Erzincan.

The second hamam, Eski Erzincan.

The area between the disrobing chamber and hot room is arranged unusually, and the series of rooms in question extends to either side of the rectangle implied by the disrobing chamber and hot room. A door leads into a chamber which must have been the cool room. This takes up only two-thirds of the slim space lying strictly between the disrobing chamber and the hot room. Off it, to the w., leads a passage to the lavatory, which projects to the w. end and to an extent lies alongside the disrobing chamber. S. of the corridor is another slim room, the w. end of which is domed. To the e. is a room adjacent partly to the cool room and partly to the hot room: it can only be entered by external doors to the n. and e. The hot room is of standard type, with small domed chambers in the corners, iwan-like rooms on the axes (though that communicating with the cool room is domed) and a central domed space. Furnace along whole s. side of the hot room.  

Beside thoroughly enjoying the hamam for its size and unusual features (part of the floor had been lifted to reveal where the hot water used to flow to keep the hamam warm), I was intrigued to find that the workmen’s clothes and tools, even a small battery-operated torch, had been left inside and outside the hamam as if they had suddenly deserted the site merely to have a meal nearby. Among some trees and bushes were bags of rubbish, cushions, water bottles, glasses for tea and other liquid refreshments, a teapot and a small wood-burning stove to boil water. This was clearly where the workmen had their breaks during the working day. There was also a hastily built loo with breeze block walls and a hole in the ground for human waste.

The workmen's camp at the second hamam, Eski Erzincan.

The workmen’s camp at the second hamam, Eski Erzincan.

A short distance from the hamam, but slowly being lost to view as the grass and the wild flowers grow against and over the remains, is what may be a medrese, although today you would be hard-pressed to know it was such a structure unless relying on Sinclair. Sinclair says that the ruin:

has not been inspected properly, as it lies just north of the main dumping ground for waste from the city abattoir… Roughly 20 metres n.-s., 15 metres e.-w. None of the walls survive to any great height. To the s., where the much-mortared rubble fill is exposed, there is a projection from the middle of the wall. Inside, and near this projection, lies a fragment of masonry which was part of a dome or pendentive… To the e. the masonry, much of it grassed over, is non-descript. In the w. wall is a series of five doorways: their bottom halves are buried in earth, but they are too wide in any case for windows. Each doorway has a stone lintel with rounded brick relieving arch above… The row of doorways looks as though designed to lead into a courtyard. On the other hand, Ottoman and medieval Turkish medreses are normally entered by a single doorway. These doorways, in fact, are the part of a building which defies explanation. Other possible guesses for the building’s purpose are a church with courtyard and, conceivably, a caravansaray or bedesten.

The medrese (?), Eski Erzincan.

The medrese (?), Eski Erzincan.

 It was now about 3.30pm. I walked through an area of small sheds and compounds where, at the appropriate time of the year, large numbers of sheep and goats are killed for Eid-ul-Adha or, as the Turks prefer to call it, Kurban Bayram, the Feast of Sacrifice. I then walked around the exterior of part of the wholly inadequate zoo before visiting the railway station and its marshalling yard. A westbound passenger train from Kars, the Dogu Ekspres bound for Ankara, was due quite soon and about twenty passengers were waiting for it, but it was running about fifty-five minutes late.

The railway station, Erzincan.

The railway station, Erzincan.

The railway station, Erzincan.

The railway station, Erzincan.

The railway station, Erzincan.

The railway station, Erzincan.

After reminding myself of just how attractive the station is, two men invited me to have tea, cheese, bread and olives in a building where railway employees have their offices, lockers, rest rooms and storage facilities for tools. It was interesting to see the interior of the building because, although there is a sense that it is much larger than modern-day exploitation of the railway network requires, its construction and facilities, as in the nearby station itself, confirm that, when built, the railway was very much part of Turkey’s progressive and secular future, a future that inspired in many a feeling of unbounded optimism. Transportation by road and air has done much to erode the importance of the railway network, but, especially in large urban centres such as Erzincan, facilities associated with the railway are kept in very good condition, perhaps in the hope that current investment programmes will revive its fortunes. The introduction of high speed trains in the west of the country, where the roads are far more cluttered with traffic than in the east, have certainly attracted people back to the trains.

The footbridge at the railway station, Erzincan.

The footbridge at the railway station, Erzincan.

To Sebinkarahisar.

It was the day I had the most concern about in so far as I hoped to get to Sebinkarahisar in Giresun province, by far the trip’s longest single hop and one that, if done the most direct way, would be for quite some distance along roads with light traffic and no minibuses. However, if things went to plan I would travel via Sincan, Bolucan, Zara and Susehri. Minibuses should exist from Zara, half way to Sebinkarahisar, but I had first to negotiate a long section of road with no minibuses. But the roads went through mountains, so, if nothing else, the scenery would be enjoyable.

The Belediye Hotel provides guests with a buffet breakfast, but, as I had expected, it is a very conventional one with not one item that lifts the spirit by being unanticipated. However, the tea was very good and I ate two boiled eggs and lots of bread just in case I was stuck in the middle of nowhere without a source of food. I also had a boiled egg in my rucksack for emergency purposes liberated from a breakfast a day or two earlier.

I walked to the road for Sincan and Zara and started flagging lifts not far from the railway station. A few cars passed and their drivers indicated that they were turning off to the left to the large steel works just north of Divrigi. After waiting twenty or so minutes a car drew to a halt and the driver, who worked at the steel works, gave me a lift as far as he was going, a distance of about 4 or 5 kilometres. I walked about a kilometre with the railway and the steel works to my left, the latter belching out noxious fumes from chimneys rising high above large mounds of grey-black spoil, then a tractor stopped and its driver gave me a lift to where the road to Ilic and Erzincan heads into a pretty valley to the east. Again I had to wait about twenty minutes, then a small lorry stopped and the driver and his companion gave me a lift to where a road goes to the west to Kizbeli and Kangal. The driver and his companion, both Alevis, were going to a market in a settlement west of Sincan where they would set up their stall for the day, one selling all sorts of processed foodstuffs. At one point during our time together, the driver asked his companion to confirm they had packed some raki for the night. They had, two bottles in fact. When I was dropped at the road junction, the driver pressed on me a big bag of crisps which, as will soon become apparent, proved most helpful, but not for me. Once I could no longer hear the sound of the lorry, the call of cuckoos filled the silence.

The steel works, Divrigi.

The steel works, Divrigi.

The steel works, Divrigi.

The steel works, Divrigi.

The journey as far as the road junction, which was just beyond the small settlement of Sincan with its jandarma post, was only 30 kilometres, but, once past the steel works, the mountainous scenery through which we drove was delightful. The road meandered as it ascended and descended. The land at low levels was green and fertile, the rivers were full of water and, quite unexpectedly, we passed a coal mine.

The point at which I was dropped turned out to have very little traffic going my way, so I walked about a kilometre before a car stopped. The driver gave me a lift of about 3 kilometres to where, in a meadow close to a river lined by mature trees, he and a friend had set up camp for the summer to tend their many beehives which had been arranged in lines in the long grass. I declined the offer of glasses of tea because I could tell that getting to Zara was going to prove a bit of a challenge. On the dashboard of the car was a box that once contained Romeo y Julieta cigars from Cuba. Honey, cigars, a love for the fresh air in upland locations: the man had taste. And he was another Alevi.

Beehives, a few kilometres north-west of Sincan.

Beehives, a few kilometres north-west of Sincan.

I walked another kilometre or so, then sought shelter from the sun among some trees beside the road. Big gaps in time now existed between each passing car so I walked another 4 or 5 kilometres, stopping every twenty minutes of so to rest. The good thing was that it was only 10.30am, but the bad thing was that I still had about 65 kilometres to go to Zara. This said, I was high in some beautiful mountains, my water bottle was full, I had some food in my rucksack, many wild flowers prospered in the long grass, lots of trees grew along the banks of a meandering stream, and bees and butterflies provided added visual interest.

North-west of Sincan.

North-west of Sincan.

North-west of Sincan.

North-west of Sincan.

At last a car drew to a halt and a large man with a male companion gave me a lift even higher into the mountains, a journey of about 12 kilometres. We drew to a halt where a cesme in a wonderfully exposed situation with magnificent views in every direction stood just below the road. While the stone and plaster surround of the cesme had suffered the attention of graffiti artists, the hills, the snow-smudged mountains, the pasture and the wild flowers looked sublime. We were just south of a pass through the mountains at 1,810 metres above sea level and the driver’s companion walked across the gently inclined meadow to the east to look for mushrooms. He had been away for about ten minutes when he shouted, “I have found some. They are very big.”

The cesme between Sincan and Zara.

The cesme between Sincan and Zara.

Demir Aydogan, muhtar,

Demir Aydogan, the muhtar of Curek.

By now I was low on water so I filled the bottle at the cesme, drank over half the contents and filled it again for later in the day. The water tasted very good and was naturally chilled.

The driver of the car was Demir Aydogan, the muhtar, or headman, of Curek, a village on the road between Divrigi and Sincan. He said that he and his friend had come to the cesme knowing that mushrooms grew near it at this time of year.

View from the cesme between Sincan and Zara.

View from the cesme between Sincan and Zara.

Demir said he would stay with me until he was sure that I had a lift, and his way of getting a lift was very direct: he waved down passing drivers to ask them where they were going. The third vehicle, a very large lorry struggling slowly up the hill to the pass, stopped, as the two previous ones had, and the driver said he was going to Giresun via Sebinkarahisar. I could not believe my luck. Although the mountainous roads to Sebinkarahisar meant that the journey would be a slow one, I knew I would eventually get to my destination.

I thanked Demir, shook hands with the lorry driver and off we went. But off we went very slowly because the road was steeply inclined to the pass and the lorry, although a new one with automatic gears, was heavily laden. Until we arrived at the summit we did not once get above walking pace. I was in for quite a slow ride, but, where the road was level or gently inclined downwards, the lorry could rattle along at about 70 kph with little difficulty.

Because Turkey is such a mountainous country, and because most of its large rivers run roughly from east to west, it has always been easier and faster to travel from west to east and vice versa than north to south and vice versa. It is no accident that a majority of Turkey’s most important roads and its few railway lines incline toward the horizontal rather than the vertical, as it were. Despite massive investment in recent decades, roads from north to south are still, as a general rule, narrower than those running west to east and, of course, the mountain ranges that lie between the easier west to east routes have not gone away. Although going only as far as Sebinkarahisar and therefore missing out on yet another mighty ascent and descent between that settlement and the Black Sea at Giresun, I was now in for a remarkable journey in the cab of a lorry high above the road that brought home to me just how challenging it can be to navigate a route south to north in Turkey, even in 2015 when the country’s road network has never been so good.

The scenery was not as spectacular north of the pass as south of it, but hills and mountains, even if somewhat in the distance, are always a pleasure to the eye. Moreover, since we descended almost all the way to Zara the journey was relatively quick. The driver, Cengiz Sahin from Samsun, was a quiet man, which made a nice change from the almost constant babble of chatter that breaks out if a foreigner is given a lift in Turkey. Of course, I wanted to give Cengiz something for kindly helping me out and saving me quite a bit of money by Turkish standards, but knew an offer of cash would be rejected, perhaps with a hint of anger because I was manifesting disregard for his hospitality. Then I remembered the big bag of crisps given to me earlier in the day. I pulled it out of my rucksack, opened it and placed it between us. Cengiz began eating the crisps immediately and, although I had some, he was still nibbling them as we drove into Sebinkarahisar a few hours later.

Just before entering Zara we drove briefly along the very wide west to east road connecting Ankara with Yozgat, Sivas, Erzincan, Erzurum and beyond. The road looked as if it had been subject to substantial up-grading only quite recently. We then drove through the centre of Zara to connect with the road to Susehri. Zara looked overwhelmingly modern, but it nestles against the next ridge of mountains through which we had to drive. Beside the road were a succession of large, modern schools painted in bright colours. Zara must meet the middle and high school needs of lots of the surrounding settlements (most villages in Turkey have an elementary school nowadays so children can receive their first few years of education in a safe and secure environment in which they are familiar). Most pupils and students probably board in Zara during the week and are taken home on Friday afternoon for the weekend. I imagine most pupils and students are driven to Zara in the same minibuses early on Monday morning.

I had travelled along the Zara to Susehri road once before and knew it to be scenically rewarding for most of the way. The hills, the mountains, the rivers, the trees and the wild flowers in the long grass (some of the grass had the first hints of yellow because the ground was drying out as summer fast approached), all contributed to my pleasure, as did the blue sky smudged with puffs of white cloud. Beside the rivers were trees and some of the trees had been polled. But the lorry struggled to reach the pass at 2,010 metres above sea level and, when I looked across at Cengiz, he wore a very bored expression. Driving lorries long distance in Turkey can be extremely tedious because you are invariably alone and very often make very slow progress. To some degree, automatic gears, although they make your job easier, increase the boredom. Cengiz, who had set off from Divrigi that morning about 7.30am, did not expect to get to Giresun before 8.00pm at the earliest. Despite the often breathtaking scenery through which he drove, tedium characterised his very long working day.

We eventually reached the summit, turned a corner and were confronted by snow-smudged mountains to the north. We began to descend into a beautiful valley, one that reminded me of the one you drive through when leaving Gumushane for Trabzon north of Zigana Pass. This said, the valley we now entered was much less populated, which only enhanced its appeal. About 25 kilometres from Susehri we were surrounded by forest and snow-smudged mountains. We entered the small roadside village of Aydinlar where old stone houses that have grown in stages have large corrugated iron roofs. Although somewhat neglected, the houses looked very interesting, not least for being positioned directly below steep rock cliffs from which rocks must fall every so often. Briefly, the lorry reaches 80 kph.

We were now in a meandering canyon for a few kilometres and at one point entered a tunnel to avoid a vast barrier of rock. A fish farm beside the road had attracted some customers who had stopped in their cars.

A few kilometres before Susehri we stopped for the first time since leaving the cesme. We pulled into a roadside tea garden with a water feature and wooden kiosks for people in which to relax. Cengiz needed a rest for about half an hour and wanted also to recharge his phone. We had three teas each and, when he went to the loo, I settled the bill, which is most unusual if you are someone’s “guest”. Cengiz was not best pleased.

Cengiz relaxing at the tea garden.

Cengiz relaxing at the tea garden.

Before we sat down to consume the teas, Cengiz opened a storage compartment between the lorry’s wheels. Inside was a large butane gas cylinder and a puppy. The puppy had been asleep and came around slowly. Cengiz reached into a second storage compartment and poured milk into a plastic bottle he had cut a section from so that, although the mouth remained intact and could still be secured with the screw cap, the puppy could drink from what was in effect an improvised bowl. After the puppy had drunk two portions of milk, Cengiz attached a string to its neck and tied the other end to a bar on the lorry. The puppy played in the dust and ran around as best it could while we relaxed in one of the nearby kiosks. Before we set off again, Cengiz fed the puppy another portion of milk. It seemed that the puppy provided a diversion from the boring work routines with which Cengiz is afflicted.

Cengiz and puppy.

Cengiz and puppy.

Back in the lorry’s cab, Cengiz produced a packet of sunflower seeds which we shared as we made our way to Sebinkarahisar. Cengiz told me that he would eat nothing but the crisps and the sunflower seeds until arriving in Giresun much later that night.

We resumed the journey and arrived at the next really large road running roughly west to east, on this occasion one from Amasya to the large road already mentioned from Ankara to Erzurum and beyond. We by-passed Susehri and drove north-west along the road to Amasya for about 10 kilometres, then took a right turn for Sebinkarahisar. The journey was only about 35 kilometres from the junction, but so steep and winding was the road for most of the way that it took almost two hours to get to our destination. This said, the first few kilometres were beside a reservoir that has been in existence long enough to look in parts like a natural lake, and very pretty it is. However, as we ascended into the mountains the scenery became even more beautiful and spectacular, so much so that I thought that the section of the journey from Susehri to Sebinkarahisar was probably the day’s best. But no section of the journey was other than attractive or interesting, even when in the vicinity of the steel works near Divrigi or crossing the gently undulating farmland leading to Zara.

One of the most interesting parts of the journey from Susehri to Sebinkarahisar is where the road enters rounded hills composed of red soil which the rains easily wash into the nearby streams. The streams feed into the river at Susehri, by which time the water is very silty. Also near Susehri is a flooded area where dead trees rise from the water. I assume the flooding has been quite recent and in all likelihood due to the creation of yet another reservoir.

Protected by a shepherd and at least one large dog, flocks of sheep and goats grazed the pasture around the reservoir and someone local had utilised the reservoir to open a large fish farm. Later on snow-smudged mountains lay in the distance, but hills and undulating farmland dominated the views closer to the road. Fields mingled with pasture, the latter generously littered with wild flowers, and birds both large and small prospered in the fertile conditions where food of many kinds must be plentiful. There were lots of trees, streams carrying red silt and villages in very pretty surroundings.

Between Susehri and Sebinkarahisar.

Between Susehri and Sebinkarahisar.

It was about 4.00pm as we approached the outskirts of Sebinkarahisar and I could not believe what I saw ahead. The relatively small town is surrounded by hills and mountains and two of the most prominent peaks overlook it from the west and the east. The mountain to the east is crowned with the extensive remains of the citadel, a citadel which, when intact, must have been very large. Part of the old town nestles directly below the citadel on the slope facing to the west and, even from a distance, looks very attractive. The modern town, which unites with the old town with what is largely a mixture of houses and small apartment blocks, lies along the road between Susehri and Giresun and spreads every which way in the manner typical of Turkish settlements subject to rapid population growth. But, from the more open south end of the town in particular, you can easily escape from Sebinkarahisar to enter undulating countryside with small settlements surrounded by fertile farmland. I was in for a treat and decided immediately to stay for two nights.

Cengiz stopped the lorry on the main street near the town centre. We shook hands and I offered to get him some more crisps, but he laughed and said he still had some left in the packet in the cab. Rarely have I felt more grateful for a lift through Turkey’s mountains, so I asked for his address so I could send a few photos to remind him of our time together. I might have got to Sebinkarahisar more quickly by trying to flag lifts in cars from Zara onwards, but, by going so slowly along the roads, my affection for the mountains was enhanced. Once home examining the photos taken when away, those of the day’s road trip inspired in my mind a desire to return, particularly to spend more time between Susehri and Sebinkarahisar.