Our last two few days in turkey take us to Artvin, a mountain town that resembles mountain towns everywhere, but then being completely different from all the places I’ve been to so far. The ride up here took us up along the Black Sea for a while, the weather getting steadily better.
We’d picked a route that would lead us through Yusufeli and many hopefully beautiful mountain roads. We make it up for about three quarters of an hour before we are stopped by a police road block. Heavily armed but friendly they inform us that the road we are on will not take us to Artvin, why is somewhat of a mystery to us, either because of the language barrier of because they are being intentionally shady about it. We speculate it could be that they are doing secret army exercises up there, or maybe just something as mundane as the pass being snowed in. Several days later we’ll conclude that whatever was going, on the pass would most certainly have been closed by snow.
The ‘Grand Artvin Hotel’ tries but fails to live up to its prestigious image. It is grand, and from the lobby you see up all the way past all the floors to the top. It seems like someone did a decent job copying a well designed building. But this design allows all the warm air to rise accumulate at the top, the air-conditioning is disabled because we are ‘out of season’ and the rooms are like saunas. Which, I suppose, is good because the spa with sauna is closed, if it exists at all. The pool at the top floor is a nice touch, in theory, but it’s empty, we assume this is because it’s is probably leaking, like the sink in the bathroom. But, again, the staff is very friendly, which scores them a solid grade if we ever get around to leaving references online for all the places we’ve been to.
On our way out of Turkey, another amazingly beautiful mountain ride, we are confronted with the circumstances that lead us to belief the pass to Yusufeli was most like closed indeed. We chose a slightly more adventurous path, ignoring a sign we couldn’t read anyway and rode deeper and higher in to the mountains, through stunning gorges and quant little villages. Snow was getting more frequent and plentiful as we got higher, people looked and waved at us, probably already knowing they’d see us come back down soon enough. And surely, at around 2300 meters the snow stopped being just banks along the road but was piled over it, as far as we could see, several hundreds of meters at lease. So, what that police roadblock a few days before was about, we’ll never know, but I’m quite certain that if we would have continued up, the same fate would have awaited us. Our ride back down was hardly a punishment but the delay would cause some issues later that day in Armenia.