We go behind the green mountains that we have seen 2 years ago from the other side of the border (Georgia-Armenia), to the deep valley shaped by Chorukh river. We take a minibus from Trabzon to Borçka and our adventure begins.
We learn that the last minibus towards Karagöl has gone and we have 25 kilometers to go before the sunset. After buying some warm bread from the bakery, we start waiting by the side of the road to find a vehicle going towards the way the Chorukh flows. Someone greets us. “Hello brother,” “Yes, we are going to Karagöl.” He is hitchhiking also to go to his home in a village and we get in a car together. When we reach the place where our roads divide, the car stops in the middle of the road; whoever goes to the same way with us, cannot pass without taking us. We get on a pick-up truck and reach the road to Karagöl. Even without making an effort to wave our hands to hitchhike, we are in where we want to be. We start smiling and cannot stop for the following ten days.
We intend to walk for a few kilometers but it goes in vain. After just a few steps we take, another person takes us into his car. A motorbike lover traveler-spirit; he says that he combined his passion with his occupation and traveled a lot while working for a company. In this way we meet Sefa and have a companion for 2 days.
There is a facility serving mainly for excursionists and 25 TRY is asked to camp in the area just beside the lake. It is pretty cold at night even at the end of Jun, the altitude is around 1500 meters. There are various plants growing in the forest around the lake including pines and chestnut trees.
The second day, Sefa takes us to Maçahel. In Camili village at the border of Georgia, there is both beekeeping and bull rearing culture.
We listen to the history of the region from the villagers we meet. We learn that after the region joined Turkey with a referendum held in the first period of the Republic, the border is drawn and the village was divided just from next to the house of an old lady who wanted to stay in Russia (USSR). The border is normally closed for civilians, but in emergency the locals are allowed to go to Batumi, which closer than Borçka. And we see Maral Waterfall, decided as Biosphere Reserve Protection Area by UNESCO.
There are accommodation opportiunities in the village but we go back to Karagöl in the evening and spend another night there.
The following day, we go to Borçka first, and then by minibus we follow the Chorukh to Artvin. While looking at Artvin, we dream about living in one of the houses at the top of the hills and think about our glasses that fall and roll down until Chorukh River.
When we go to highlands, to Kafkasör, we are welcomed by beautiful people again. After being invited to the special dinner of Ramadan, we talk to Devrim beside our fire and listen to silence while looking at the beauty around us. But cement trucks going to Cerattepe breaks the silence. In Anatolia, both Cerattepe and Ida Mountains and Alakır Valley are trying to be covered with concrete. But each tree continues to tell its story even while it is burning.
After Artvin, we say farewell to the Chorukh, and hit the road towards another Karagöl. Şavşat welcomes us with cittaslow signs, but we don’t feel slow because of the traffic, except the minibus delay going towards Karagöl.
Karagöl Sahara National Park consists the most famous Karagöl among many around. After going to the beginning of the road to Meşeli village, we start walking under heavy rain. But we are lucky again and people in a car that has just left Karagöl take us and they go back to Karagöl for us.
There is a facility with accommodation opportunity and it is possible to camp for 25 TRY. This place attracts more visitors and had more human intervention as it is more popular than Borçka Karagöl. But the lake keeps its mystic atmosphere.
Everywhere is wet when arrive, because of the rain, and we make an arbor our base and have a friend who waits next to us for three days, every night.
In our second day here, on Jun 21, the nature presents us a rainbow for celebrating the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and Ebru’s birthday.
The goldfish, carps and frogs are living in the lake, surrounded by pine forest of thousand flowers. After three days, the rain stops and after a short trip in the lake with the boat, we start going towards Çıldır Lake.
Before leaving Black Sea Region, we enjoy the mountains and the forest for one last time on observation terrace just after the Şavşat city.
Between Artvin and Ardahan, after the pass on around 2000 meters, the scenery changes dramatically and mountains become plains, forests become pastures.
Thanks to Bilgehan, who took us to his car while going to Çıldır Lake, we visit Şeytan Kalesi (The Devil’s Castle) which we didn’t know about. The castle is thought to be built by Urartu civilization and it is located in a deep valley on the way from Ardahan to Çıldır.
We camp in the woods after Doğruyol village on the east bank of Çıldır Lake and spend the night there. Another woodland around Çıldır Lake is located in the peninsula next to a village called Akçakale in the province of Ardahan. The lake is surrounded by grassland and farm fields.
The next day, we go to Kars by hitchhiking to go to Ani. There are shuttles of İl Özel İdaresi for two times per day. Round trip costs 14 TRY per person but as the minibus may not be in service when there is no traveler, it is advised to call for reservation. (+90 474 212 88 81/212 21 79/212 14 18). Another way to reach Ani, which is around 50 kilometers away from Kars, is to use minibuses to Ocaklı village. And of course, hitchhiking is another possibility.
8 TRY per person is asked to visit Ani, and Museum Card is accepted. In Ani, an important residential and religious center founded around the 6th century, some part of the city walls with several churches, mosques and caves still stand.
Akhurian (Arpaçay) River flows in the valley around Ani, drawing the border of Armenia and Turkey today. We send our wishes to the flow of the river; a world in peace and friendship, without borders.
We like the valley down the south cliff of Ani and when we start walking to make camp in the evening, a villager woman approaches and gives Sezgin a stick asking him to bring the calf feeding around. In return, his son called Ismail shows us the best places to pitch tent in the valley and where the water spring is. And, he meets us to one of the rats living around.
As there is no wood to burn around, we make a fire with dry cow patty (turd). At night, we sleep under billions and billions of stars.
On our last day, we go back to Kars and explore the city. The whole city is seen from the Castle of Kars.
When we start walking in the streets among wooden and stone Russian style buildings from the beginning of the 2th century, we feel like we have travelled in time in our own journey and feel like we are visiting a small city in Eastern Russia.
On the 10th day, our 24-hour journey begins when we get on the train (Doğu Ekspresi) with the memory of all the beauty and the smiling people we have encountered.
We look at the birth and the flow of the Euphrates through the little window of our little compartment. Each tunnel we pass through feels like it ends in a different place. Each tunnel is like the empty space between two film frames and the window is like the screen; we watch Anatolia from one end to another, from mountains to steppes.