For our trip through eastern Turkey, it was the first time that we consulted the travel advice of the EDA (Foreign Office travel advice Switzerland), Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office travel advice Germany) and Foreign travel advice (UK). Since the institutions did not agree in their recommendations, we followed the travel advice of the EDA. This recommends avoiding the South East of the country, especially the border area with Syria and Iraq.

Aktiviere Karte Deaktiviere Karte

Our final major destination in Turkey was the ruined city of Ani, which is located at the Turkish/Armenian border. On the way to Ani we visited the cities of Tunceli, Erzurum and Kars. In between we traveled through almost endless steppe-like agricultural area at an elevation of 1500-2500m above sea level.

In the mountain villages hay and straw bales were piled higher than the houses. Instead of wood, cow dung is collected, dried and cut into blocks. These blocks are used as heating material in the long and cold winter, when the average temperature drops to 10°C! Herds of cows, sheep and geese are herded and guarded by shepherds across the vast fields. The many grain fields are mostly harvested by machines, the straw is piled up by tractor, horse rakes or by hand and pressed into bales.

On the road we met many harvester drivers, who thresh grain on contract as a team of 3. Depending on the crop season, they move their equipment (TürkTraktör Harvester, tractor and car/pickup) about 550km from south to north. As it happens, we used the same sleeping places as such teams several times and drank tea together.

One evening we were allowed to spend the night in the field next to a gas station and pitched our tent a safe distance from an abandoned combine driver’s camp. We were already asleep when suddenly there was a growling in the immediate vicinity and it became as bright as daylight… a TürkTraktör had parked next to us. No sooner had we laid down when the second combine maneuvered around our tent. We were almost asleep again when a third machine approached our tent, not noticing us until David waved furiously. The threshing beam had missed us by only a few inches…
The following invitation for tea and dinner David could refuse with the tongues of angels 😉


After a 600km ride we reached Ani, the capital of the Armenian kingdom around the year 1000. With its huge cathedral, countless churches and a population of over 100’000 persons, Ani was an important city of the old Silk Road. The decline of Ani began with the Seljuk conquest in the 12th century and the Mongol invasion in the 13th century – large parts of the population were slaughtered. When earthquakes devastated the city in 1319 (and again in 1605), the nomadic Mongols had no interest in rebuilding Ani. Under the Ottomans, Ani was an insignificant farming village and the (still) intact buildings decayed. We were fascinated by Ani not only because of its harmonious architecture, but also because of its location in the middle of the barren steppe.

We had planned to visit the site together. However, according to two policemen responsible for access control, we were not allowed to leave our bicycles unattended in the (very spacious) yard. Because of a bunch of begging children we did not want to lock the bikes outside the fence. I had stayed behind with the bikes for the moment, when one of the policemen suddenly offered to look after our material for one hour. When I came back, our bikes were surrounded by the policeman and the children. Until David was back, I had to restrain the children, who touched and tried everything possible… 

Leaving Ani, it was not far to the border of Georgia. We left Turkey after 46 days, about 400 glasses of tea with 1.2kg of sugar dissolved in it and many great encounters and experiences richer. The warmth, openness and curiosity of the people as well as the good (road) infrastructure made Turkey a very pleasant travel destination for us.

In the meantime, we reached the Georgian capital Tbilisi and are eager to see what awaits us during the next two months in the Caucasus.