We added Turkey to the itinerary primarily because there was supposed to be a new train line running from Tbilisi, Georgia to Kars, Turkey. The plan was to visit the "ghost city" of Ani in eastern Turkey and then ride the famous Doğu Express train to Kayseri (Cappadocia). Once I realized the new train was not going to be operating any time soon, I set out to find a bus. Two different guides told me there was a bus every day between Tbilisi and Kars and after several visits to the tourist information office and the bus station, we finally found the elusive daily bus to Kars. It turns out that the bus runs from Tbilisi to Tehran and happens to make a dinner stop near Kars. We had a long but comfortable ride and an easy border crossing.
Ani, the ancient capital of Armenia, was spectacular and the Doğu Express definitely lived up to its reputation. The views were amazing and the train was very comfortable - our compartment had a free non-alcoholic mini bar and slippers. Luckily the hour I spent on the phone with US Bank trying to straighten out an issue with my house sale occurred at night so I didn't miss any of the scenery. Our hotel was nice enough to send someone to pick us up at 2:30 am and the next day we set off for Goreme and the very special Kelebek Special Cave Hotel.
Ani - former capital of Armenia
|Scenery from the Doğu Express|
I had been to Goreme in 2015 so I hung out in town, did some walking, spent an afternoon hanging out at the pool and had another long conversation with US Bank. We spent a wonderful morning having breakfast at an organic farm owned by our hotel - some of the best food we had the entire trip.
|Me on my way to the organic farm - I did not take this picture|
From Cappadocia it was off to Istanbul for two and a half days highlighted by breakfast with our cousins and even more amazing food.
Seen on the streets of Istanbul:
The food was outstanding everywhere. In Georgia we ate lots of khachapuri (cheese pie), khinkali dumplings, sour plum sauce, beans in a pot, ajika (chili paste), amazing bread and all sorts of eggplant dishes with walnuts. The food in Armenia was also good, especially at our guesthouse, and Turkish meze (best described as small dishes, kind of like tapas) is my absolute favorite thing to eat. I had a list of food I wanted to try and I was able to find almost everything.
|Sulguni -- a seemingly never-ending cheese dish in Georgia|
|Tashmujabi - mashed potatoes with cheese from the Svaneti region of Georgia|
|Jengyalov Hats - flatbread with herbs and vegetables from Armenia|
|Breakfast jams - from the Casanova Inn, Dilijan, Armenia|
|Fermented watermelon salad with basil and walnuts - Poliphonia Restaurant, Tbilisi|
|Tavuk Göğsü Tatlısı -- chicken breast milk pudding|
- Great idea -- these kiosks are found pretty much everywhere in Georgia. You can pay utility bills, purchase bus tickets, buy lottery tickets and place bets all in one convenient location.
- I would visit all three countries again.
- Even though the tourist infrastructure is not great in Georgia and Armenia, we had no trouble finding someone who could find someone to take us where we needed to go.
- My favorite mode of transportation -- 1975 Russian Volga with 621,000 miles.
- Most often heard phrases:
UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list
We were the first country to (insert accomplishment here)
- Read this for an explanation of chicken breast milk pudding: Chicken pudding