Part III - Some days spent with the
kind mountain people and a last cup of tea
From Yusufeli across the border to Georgia, back to Ayder
washing off the dust of travel
By Heidi Trautmann
We stayed in the area for another day knowing that we
might not see the area again the way we saw it; although people are aware what
is coming they go on building, for example the hotel we were staying in is
brand-new. We spent the day visiting another church high up in the mountains
with a breathtakingly – in the true sense of the word - steep and narrow road
to follow, I saw nothing but a deep void when I looked out of my window. On
this Georgian church intensive restoration work was carried out, a praiseworthy
decision. This church is part of a village getting its water from a mountain
spring creating a green paradise amidst the stone desert all around. The rest
of the afternoon we spent at the Tortum waterfall joining the many people for
the Saturday picnic who settled in the shade of big trees with their families.
Inspired by the Georgian churches we have seen, it is the
intention of the programme to pass the border for a short visit into Georgia/Batumi,
provided the conditions of crossing are not too difficult, so we leave Yusufeli
at 7 am to be there early enough. We were warned not to take anything with us,
as electronic ware or photo cameras, would have to be entered into the
passport, etc. but still, there was a huge crowd waiting to pass and it took us
about 30 minutes each way. What a great place Batumi is. Another bus awaited us
on the other side and we were taken on a tour to the famous Botanical Garden
and later on a tour through the city centre with its beautiful old but
renovated classical hotels, squares, monuments – for example a giant Medea with
the Golden Fleece, as we were in the antique Kolchis, you remember. But also
the extreme in modern architecture, weird constructions reminding me of Walt
Disneyland, overtowered the city with the big cranes of the industrial harbour
in the background. An old elegant seaside resort for the nobility in the old
days. A lovely beach promenade and I even saw some beach activity.
For the next two days we went to Ayder up into the
mountains again, the area where the Hemshinli are living, a special ethnic
group of Armenian descent who converted to the Islam in Ottoman times. They are
a friendly people with their own traditions and costumes. The place is known
for its hot springs and on weekends the place is overcrowded by people coming
from the coast. On the way up we encountered young people with their rafting
equipment living in tents , and the fish restaurants along the road were full,
and the grill places alight. The fog was descending fast and when we arrived in
Ayder, the fog nearly touched the grass in front of the hotel. Higher up are
the alpine pastures the farmers bring their cattle up to in summer with the
typical houses of the area, a stone infrastructure and wooden beams on top with
wooden roofs. That one morning up at 2300 m with snow covered mountain peaks of
4000 in the far distance, spring flowers around our feet, that was a day of
absolute bliss. In the mornings the fog is usually dissolving but returning in
the afternoon. It gives you a feeling of having left all the burden of life
behind and to breathe the fresh air so close to heaven. Perhaps for this reason
some rich people have wooden cabins here and share the simple life of the
farming people coming up here for the summer. In the afternoon back at the
hotel we visit the hot springs, a hamam sort of with big pools of 20 m length
and 5m width. The atmosphere of a traditional hamam, white marble floors and
benches along the walls, women clad in pieces of cloth or swimming suits, red
in the face from the heat, the water has 47°, then relaxing on the benches,
washing themselves or each other and pouring cold water over their heads. I did
the same and washed down the dust of travelling.
On our last day, and on the way to the airport in
Trabzon, we visited the Tea Institute in Rize, as the whole area is famous for
its tea. Even Japan is a good customer and praises the quality of Turkish tea.
The green velvety cushions of tea cover entire hills and it is said that the
quality improves with the height and the clean mountain air and the moist
sea/mountain climate do the rest. The Food Engineer of the Institute, a nice
lady, told us the story of the tea and took us to their plantation of
experimental research. What rich
material tea will offer me to write about in one of the next issues.
We invited the kind lady who said that tea is her life –
and I believe her – should she ever come to North Cyprus we would be happy to
have her with us for a nice cup of tea.
Thus we parted from the Black Sea Region….with a promise.
We thank Kaleidoskop Travel Agency, Girne, for the
excellent programming of the trip for a group of eight, and the transmission of
profound knowledge of history which was so expertly done by Fatih Bilircin. The agency is known for the personal touch and
they are available for the English and German speaking clientele.
For more photos please refer, as usual, to my website www.heiditrautmann.com.