Holding hands in a circle, while a sparkly bagpipe-like instrument (a tulum) blared away with a pretty catchy tune, I was reminded once again that I was born with a very, very subtle sense of rhythm. Our Turkish hosts were attempting valiantly to show us a few of what I’m sure were the simplest traditional dances they could think of, and it wasn’t going well. Fun, but not pretty, would be an apt description.
Avoiding support posts and beams in the small dining hall as went ring-around-the-rosy-style around the room, with intermittent stomps, yells, and arm waving, couldn’t have been a more effective ice breaker.
The Eastern Black Sea Development Agency invited three board members from The International Ecotourism Society (TIES – www.ecotourism.org) to tour Turkey, especially their relatively unexplored northeast corner of the country. A secret they’d like to share a bit more, but in a sustainable way. Accompanying me was Hitesh Mehta, (h-m-design.com) the pioneering ecolodge designer, and Masaru Takayama, Executive Director of the Japan Ecolodge Association (japan-ecolodge.org).
The Turks were asking for our expertise in developing their style of travel to Turkey and sharing ecotourism experiences with the growing number of travelers looking for a deeper connection with the places we all visit. We were joined by writers and travel company representatives, all focused on experiencing places by connecting with local people and learning about local customs and daily life as part of a more meaningful form of tourism.
The view of the Kaçkar Mountains from a sleepy village speaks volumes about the natural setting in Eastern Turkey.
A late flight into Istanbul and the resulting missed connection to the coastal city of Trabzon, the main city in Turkey’s northeast, had us up the next at 4 a.m. and on the highway east right away. Visually, the surprise as you leave Trabzon and head into the surrounding mountains is how green this region is, everywhere. Mountains, valleys, rivers, waterfalls and coastline with dense forest spread as far you can see, broken only by small villages and the occasional town.
My longtime interest in travel to Turkey centered on the history and culture. While the east is full of diverse and living cultures, the verdant natural landscape is different than what I’d envisioned. The roadblock of a lounging goat herd or a woman leading her flock along a mountain pass was much more in line with my expectations.
Standing a few feet away from the Turkish-Georgian border, which is actually fairly porous due to some complicated negotiations with the locals in both countries, we waited for the rest of our group who hadn’t missed flights. A few steps up the hill was the first place our Turkish hosts wanted to share – a wooden mosque built in 1855. A flurry of photography quickly gave way to a peaceful, meditative moment in a unique space, designed and cared for with an eye for simplicity and peace. See out the window below…
A Turkish Roadblock
Read More on Days 2-10 soon!
Wooden Mosque from 1855 on the Turkey-Georgia Border