Dogubeyazit (Eastern Turkey)
We drive east to Dogubeyazit today, only 35 km from the Iranian border and spend the night. Perhaps on to Van tomorrow. It is a very pleasant morning. I am amazed at how close to the fields we are. It really has the appearance of a small town. The top of the hotel is the seventh floor. There is a good view from here.
We buy cevezli Sucuk (nut sausage) and Erzurum Honey and are off.
Agri, a very poor town. Reminds me of a town in North India. I am surprised at the scenery along the route from Erzurum. Much of it is quite flat. The drive is quite nice, however. We make good time. The peasants are evidently “backward,” around these parts. That is, in terms of agricultural modernization. The road is not bad here, but somewhat rough. There is a police check, just outside Agri. Very underdeveloped. Perhaps it is the mentality of the people, more than anything. The houses too are quite primitive. Perhaps it needs devastation, like happened in Erzincan with the earthquakes. The villages are full of big cakes of manure that they use for fuel. It is called tezik. There are no trees on the hills, just the poplars that they have planted in villages. One sees many horses and carts in the area. The shops are very poor.
There are no trees at all on the road. We drive down a small road through a village. It reminds one of a North Cypriot village. On the north edge of the village in a sort of pasture. We make a picnic. I drink a cold Tuborg beer. There are cows. We take our cooler and blanket near the trees. A light rain falls and then the sun comes out. It is quite hot in the sun, but pleasant. There is a small stream.
Mid-afternoon. Dog Biscuit. (Dogubeyazit) We made it. We get a hotel. Ortadogu Hotel, room 305. Middle East Hotel. Good enough for Government work! The rates posted are $50 for a double, but we are staying for 25 million Turkish liras which is one-third of that! About $15. In the end, we will pay only 10 million.
Mount Agri is just to the north. It is quite cloudy over the mountains, but we could see some of the peaks as we came into town. The rest of the drive was pleasant, almost flat, through a big valley. Part of the scenery is dramatic, moonscape, more dramatic than Utah. Bare white and gray peaks, completely bare. I am surprised that none of these mountains have trees in this part of Turkey and some are just absolutely bare of vegetation. The weather is quite fine, but there are clouds around the mountains.
Soon it begins to clear around Ararat Mountain. I can see almost the whole mountain. I take pictures. We have a great view to the north from our balcony. There is little to see except for the mountain. We look for smuggled Iranian goods.
The street is lively down below, quite traditional. There are many people with push carts in the street, and some crazys around, really crazy. One person went down the street calling and acting crazy, maybe on drugs? Another guy across the street by the Algida Ice Cream Shop seems to be crazy. There was a rain just as we were coming into town, it was flooding in a couple of places on the road, from the water coming off the hill. I just drove through it slowly. It was OK.
It is a fine view of Ararat now. Agri. One can see the whole mountain. Very nice.
My wife is taking a rest. I feel like I need to get out and walk around. I saw an internet cafe coming in.
We take a walking a trip outside. There is a brisk trade in liquor smuggled from Iran. About one-third of the price in Ankara. I think the policy is to turn a blind eye to it. We bought two things, Cognac and Rum. I think the big bottle for 45 million, about $25. I think it is about as cheap as duty free in Dubai. If one wants good booze, can’t beat an Islamic Republic. I guess that must be the lesson. There is one bazaar around Hotel Agri that sells many smuggled goods. Some come from Egypt. Many small cigarettes from Iran. They sell them on the streets in other towns in Turkey.
This town is full of many hotels, many quite down scale. A lot of people are humping to make a living here. It is a poor place, but developing.
We stopped and had tea at a small place along the way. There are small streets, small shops. There are sheep. I hear them from the hotel window, on the main street here. Bleating. We had tea there.
We saw three places to change money. The guide book is not correct to say that there are no places to change money. There are plenty. The Iranians are using them as there is Farsi written there.
We met a small boy, shining shoes, about ten years old or so. We talked to him. He was a nice kid. Wanted to shine my shoes. So we asked him to come to the tea garden with us. It was a rather defunct place in a hotel. It had been meant to be a nice swimming pool and tea garden, but it was all collapsed, no customers, and no water in the pool. All the plants were dried up. Reminded me of some defunct places in India. There was a great view of Agri from there too. The boy was named Adam. He shined my shoes and my wife’s too.
He told us his story. He has three or four brothers and his father is working in construction. “He makes walls.” His friend, another shoe shine boy, told him, “you have hit the Milli Piyango,” (state lottery) getting rich people (like us) to work for. Of course, in relation to them, it is true that we are rich.
He said some rich people are very mean because they are rich and they act bad. My wife asked him if he would like to come to Ankara. He said if there was work there, he would be ready to come, but even men cannot find work there. We gave him tea and biscuits and he told us that his father has a debt of 250 million and is working to pay it off. They have to pay 250 million rent. He was not born here, but they came from Keyseri. He and his brothers work to help the family. His brother moves loads on a cart for people. He is trying to save money for his school, for next year, something like thirty million and he said he is saving it in his socks. He seems to be a very bright kid. I gave him five million for his school and 250,000 for the shoes. The poor kid only takes 100,000 to shine shoes and he makes one million in a day. That is when he works hard and has some luck. It is a tough world for kids like that. There are many small boys on the street that are trying to shine shoes. They must have similar stories. His pants were all stained with shoe polish.