The going rate for a taxi to and return from Ishan is 100TL. It being a slow day and late in the afternoon, we were charged 80Tl. Ishan is 29 Km away, off the main road between Kars and Artvin, onto a turn off and up a dirt road. It's impassable in bad weather. It was quite a climb up the mountains passing some spectacular views of a very rugged countryside. It's mind boggling to think how the monks could build such a beautiful church at Ishan. It's hard to imagine, going up those rugged mountainside that there is this beautiful village up there next to this gorgeous church. I was a little scared as the taxi began the climb, not knowing what to expect. All I read was there is this gorgeous church there and it was well worth the effort to reach it. That was all I had to go on and that was really all I needed to know.
Yusufeli is a little village some 9 Km from the main road between Kars and Artvin. From Kars the original plan was to go to Artvin to see some more Georgian churches. I was scared of the transportation problem of how to get to Yusufeli from the main road and that was why it was not on my initial itinerary. A chance meeting with the local guide mentioned in Lonely Planet persuaded us to go to Yusufeli. I thought when we get dropped off by the bus we can hitch our way to Yusufeli. So onward to Yusufeli for a night's stay. We fell in love with Yusufeli and ended up staying 2 nights and forgot about Artvin. No sooner has we arrived that we heard the roar of the river. People come here to go river rafting. The place is rugged and quite inhospitable except by the river banks the locals planted a veritable garden of Eden and Yusufeli is so laid back and pleasant that one could easily stay forever. This was the river beside our hostel. The roar of the river is constant from our room which is right above it.
Across from our hostel and on the other side of the river is this restaurant. This picture is taken from our room. This hostel is so laid back, they didn't bother to take our information down.
Our room is above this restaurant and the food is so good. I love Yusufeli, its cheap to stay too.
When we got dropped off, 3 other French people were with us. I asked one of them as to how to get to Yusufeli. he said, 'hitch'. Just then some local guy in a van said, ' Yusufeli 5TL'. Some guy is operating a shuttle service between the gas station and Yusufeli for 5 TL per person. We didn't have to hitch or walk after all. As we drew closer to Yusufeli we saw how beautiful it was, fruit trees everywhere, we decided we're staying another day.
The Kars castle can be seen from the town center and this was our first hours in Kars. We headed up to Kars castle. In the foreground is the beautiful Armenian church, church of the Holy Apostles, a beautifully asymmetrical building of black basalt, a testament to the ingenuity of Armenian architecture. It was converted to a mosque but is now locked up and the new mosque is just across the street from it.
The carvings are of the Apostles. On my last day I went over to sketch it while some Turkish kids were bothering me, asking for money. I ignored them but as I was leaving they threw rocks at me.
A view of Kars from the castle window. It's been a lovely visit.
The Russian Orthodox church built when the Russians were ruling Kars but was converted to a mosque after the Russians were driven out. It is now a mosque.
Russian style architecture are seen throughout this area of Kars. We asked to be dropped off here after our visit to Oguzlu. It was raining and our spirits were sort of dampened. We walked back to our neck of the woods where our hotel was. It was our last day in Kars and we spent the rest of the afternoon in an internet cafe.
This was at the turn off from the main road on our way to Oguzlu. I made a mental note of it, I told myself to remember to tell the taxi driver to stop here on the way back to Kars. This patch of wild flowers was so beautiful and as soon as we turned back on the main road, we saw these donkey carts. It's been an incredible drive out to the grassland to see the church at Oguzlu. I love Eastern Turkey.
The beehives, honey is a huge industry in these parts.
Click on the pictures for a larger view. This is so spectacular. I'm so glad I came in spite of warnings about the PKK and my own trepidation about not knowing the language. Most of our communication was about money, about how much. This we were able to resolve by writing on a piece of paper, the amount in Turkish liras. I get confused sometimes because I have 3 currencies juggling in my head, US$, Turkish lira or Euros.