Buying a ticket to Dogubeyazit, I was assured the trip would be on one bus, no changes. In Agri, some 85 kilometres from Dogubayazit, driving into the bus station, I was told I had to change to another bus. Rushing, the second bus was in fact already driving when I threw my luggage in the hold just before the attendant closed the shutters, I forgot the book I was reading in the first bus.
No women, but only tanned younger men with dark blond hair on the bus. Up till now, when someone spoke Turkish to me, I generally wouldn't understand, but would be able to repeat it or write it down phonetically, whatever help that might do. Now, after boarding, several people started talking to me but all I heard were sounds like the growls of a sleeping dog who doesn't open his mouth.
My sudden being roused from sleep did have the result I was able to enjoy the landscape. Very, very pretty. Rolling hills, sweeping vistas, wide rivers, green pastures, snow capped mountains, banks of fog sliding down the hills into the small villages dotting the scenery.
A few scattered clouds, nothing special, until I noticed mount Ararat coming up in the distance, with a ring of clouds actually around the top. The truly majestic mountain with its head above the clouds.
Taking it in
I had hoped on arranging a tour, visiting the wonderful Ishak Pasa palace, a structure beneath the ice on the mountain supposedly the ark of Noah and a few other things. Not so, not enough tourists to fill a car. Now where did I hear that before? Hanging around the tourist agency, I ended up chatting with a local celebrity with whom I might just travel to Tabriz tomorrow. As these things go.
So I'd only visit the palace where, actually, I saw more tourists than in my three days in Trabzon. Taking a dolmus (a minivan operating as a shared taxi) up the mountain and, much later, a six kilometre walk back into town.
The scenery around Dogubayazit and around the Ishak Pasha palace is outstanding. Very much like central Asia: rugged mountains, grassy plains, bright blue skies, crispy air. I took the distant gunshots for granted.
The Lonely Planet calls the palace 'one of Turkey's prime attractions' (and anyway, it could have been even better: the impressive gold plated doors were taken by the Russians to the Hermitage in St Petersburg). I'm not sure I would go that far, but combined with the scenery it is indeed spectacular. A real life Prince of Persia set with, among others, Seljuk, Persian and Georgian architectural influences. Nearby, a fortress built onto a rock face is thought to be up to 3300 years old.
Dogubayazit is a frontier and border town in one. There's not much to do, even though there's 35000 to 70000 people living here, depending on who you believe. But also, there's a series of hotels catering to the, supposedly, many cross border travellers. The feel of the town is much more Asian. Mostly small concrete buildings, kids pushing carts selling fruit and bread, men idling around, smoking. Is this the Turkey conservative Europeans are afraid of?
In the evening, in one of the towns exclusive internet cafes (20 large LCD screens), I started talking to a Scot who turned out to be something of a born again Christian. He didn't use that term, but he simply couldn't stop explaining everything in life as part of God's plan and he -was- her as a self-financed missionary. And God's plan ranges from disasters following the (Roman Catholic) pope around as he'd move from one country to the next, to the misfortunes of Islam being the results of their heathen religion. What was interesting was that at the same time he was also a very likeable guy.