During my adventurous days of Tour Leading, The Gallipoli Artist had the unforgettable experience of taking people to the easternmost regions of Turkey. The region is so rich with history and past cultures that no trip there could ever be forgotten.
Due to the climate of high steppe, no fences, wild horses, jackals and amazing remnants of Georgian, Hittite and Ottoman civilizations, a journey there is best made from May of each year, not because it is simply nicer weather for the long journeys but because of the enormous variety of wildflowers in bloom.
This journey of discovery takes in some of the most beautiful mountain and steppe scenery you will ever see.
Day 1, ISTANBUL
Met and transferred to our hotel in the Sultanahmet historical area. Tonight you’ll meet The Gallipoli Artist along with our guide and Art Tutor. After a briefing of our amazing 13 days together we’ll head out for a lovely dinner.
Day 2, ISTANBUL
Big day ahead as we take in the historical heart of Istanbul. We’ll visit Aya Sofia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. We also have some special out of the way locations in the old city that involve old Ottoman Hans and rooftops!
Day 3, ISTANBUL /TRABZON
Free morning to explore the area and maybe get a bit of practice in on the paints or camera before we transfer to the airport for our evening flight to Trabzon. We’ll get a bit along the way somewhere.
Day 4, TRABZON
This morning we’ll discover the history of this former capital of the Trebizon Empire, we’ll visit the frescoes of Kucuk Aya Sofia and spend the rest of the day free to explore this nice town.
Day 5, SUMELA MONASTERY
Not far from Trabzon, located in the mountains is the Sumela Monastery. Built in 386 AD the building is often surrounded by clouds and appears to be floating above the ground. The surrounding area is pristine forest, rivers and waterfalls. We’ll take the walk to the monastery itself and discuss the iconography and frescoes inside. You are free to take your time photographing or painting from the monastery, however the best views of the monastery are from the valley floor looking up. We’ll enjoy a picnic barbeque lunch and spend the entire day at the location. Our Art Tutor can advise you on the best locations, colours and techniques. Late afternoon we will drive to the village of Ayder and sleep in a traditional wooden mountain house.
Day 6, AYDER
Ayder, situated on the slopes of the Kackar Mountains. It is also the Laz heartland. The Laz are a peaceful race of people with their own distinctive dialect, dress and culture. This time of the year they return from the coast to farm in the Ayder Valley so chances are we’ll witness their amazing Horon Dance and my favourite all time dessert ‘Laz Borek”!!! We’ll stay in a wooden mountain house for the night and for those who wish there is a hot spring spa in the town. The wildflowers in this valley contribute to this being one of the most beautiful places in Turkey.
Day 7, SAVSAT – KARAGOL
Another picturesque mountain retreat close to Karagol (Black Lake). Tonight we stay as guests of a local family and enjoy the hospitality of their homestay. There’s plenty of time for walking some of the trails around the lake. Perfect for tripod and easel and not a bad sunset!
Day 8, SAVSAT - KARS
An incredibly beautiful journey across steppe country, through the Corum Valley where we may see Transhumant Nomads returning to their stone villages for the Summer grazing, their wheel-less sleds dragged by oxen. The countryside littered with many ruined churches and basilicas, ancient ‘donkeyback’ bridges and also cable suspension bridges like something out of an’ Indy Jones’ movie across raging rivers and streams. This time of the year the wildflowers are in bloom and the myriad of colours are as if somebody sprayed the countryside with different coloured paint as far as the eye can see. It has to be seen to be believed!
We arrive in Kars, the town has a somewhat dour reputation due mainly to the inclement weather and the old buildings made out of black basalt. This has been an outpost on the Silk Road for thousands of years and was occupied by the Russians until the 1920’s.
Day 9, KARS/ANI
This morning, after securing our special permits we will drive away from Kars for the ancient city of Ani. This place was once the Armenian capital city and rivaled cities like London, Paris and Damascus in population and size. Marco Polo wrote of Ani in his journeys. The city was once known as ‘The City of 1001 Churches’. Ani has been depopulated and it’s inhabitants slaughtered so many times that eventually it was deserted. We’ll spend the entire day here photographing, painting and drawing the city and it’s monuments. The place is an ‘artist’s treasure trove’ and not soon forgotten.
Day 10, DOGUBEYAZIT
This morning we leave Kars and drive south towards the remarkable biblical mountain of Mt Ararat. Situated on the trade route between Turkey and Iran this mountain with it’s twin summits dominates the scenery with its snow covered peaks and wildflower covered sides descending like Mt Fuji to the plains. We’ll visit the nearby Isik Pasha Palace which has a commanding view of Dogubeyazit, the plains and the mountains beyond. In the afternoon we’ll watch an amazing sunset helped along with some wine and local cheese. Tonight we fly back to Istanbul and transfer to our Sultanahmet base.
Day 11, ISTANBUL
Today is your last chance to find that great bargain, paint that last watercolour, photograph streetlife or maybe take a cruise along the Bosphorus. Or just find an old café and sketch photograph the locals enjoying a ‘nargile’ waterpipe.
Day 12, ISTANBUL and HOMEWARD BOUND
Today is your chance to say goodbye to your new friends and travel companions. You leave with life-long memories as well as the results of your artistic endeavours. Something to show your friends and family.
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