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East Turkey Road Trip Part 6 – To Kars And (Almost) Back Again

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In our two days on the road in the east of Turkey we’d seen so much, observed so much, realised a couple of ambitions – it was all bordering on the overwhelming; just amazing – and now it was time to head to Kars to get some food before driving back to Patnos. Let’s recap where we’ve been and what we’ve done so far:

We can’t tell you much about Kars, unfortunately. It really was just a stop off place to fuel ourselves for a long drive back.

Kars, East Turkey
Kars Citadel

Kars would have been the final stop on the train line when we caught the Doğu Express from Ankara to Erzurum. There’s a historic mediaeval castle – which we only saw in the distance – and, as Kars is at the juncture of Turkish, Russian, Kurdish, Armenian and Georgian cultures, there’s a whole variety of architecture.

No, we can’t do any justice to the actual city of Kars in this post and it’s certainly still on our travel wishlist for another time.

But we did know one thing about Kars and you’ll not be surprised to discover that our smidge of knowledge centres around food. Because we knew Kars is famous for its cheese; Kars Gravyer Peynir.

Kars Gravyer Peynir
Kars is famous for its Gravyer cheese

Back in 2011, we wrote about our sampling of Kars Gravyer Peynir. That was bought from our local supermarket and we knew no better. Nice enough. But this is Turkey.

“You must try the real thing from Kars,” was one comment from another blogger and, before we knew it, there was a courier knocking on the door and handing us a package containing a hefty hunk of Kars Gravyer Peynir that the blogger had actually sent from Kars. We were blown away (as you can imagine) and you can read about that in the post we wrote about it; The Kindness Of People In Turkey.

So, we wondered whether we would see any of this cheese when we actually arrived in the city of Kars. The photo above shows you we did find some – it was difficult not to find. Our road trip buddies wanted to buy some as gifts for relatives and we were more than happy to tag along and hover in the cheese shop, enjoying the slithers of various cheeses the owner was passing around to us for sampling.

Kars Gravyer Cheese
A wheel of Kars Gravyer cheese

We’d been enthusing about Kars Gravyer Peynir to our friends (think strong Emmental cheese) so they were looking forward to trying it. And this is obviously where people’s taste buds differ. We tasted cheese after cheese. “Mmmm, isn’t the gravyer peynir lovely,” we said.

Discussion between the rest of our group and they plumped for the kaşar cheese. All the way to Kars and they plump for a cheese you can buy anywhere in Turkey. Obviously kaşar flavours and textures differ from region to region, but it’s not our favourite Turkish cheese. Each to their own…

After eating, it’s announced a shortcut back to Patnos has been spotted by way of a very feint line on the map so we decide to give it a go.

Now, dear reader, we mentioned about this to you in our driving tips for an East Turkey road trip. We ended up thousands of feet up a mountain track, we barely got out of first gear and, eventually, we hit a spot where the rain had washed the road away.

3 point turns, in the dark, on a narrow track with a sheer drop below you (which fortunately we couldn’t see in the dark) are not fun. We’re hours into our journey home to Patnos and we have to turn back, we’re tired…and we end up calling it a day and spending a second night in Iğdır, the city we’d left that morning.

Moral of the story – don’t take shortcuts in East Turkey. Stick to the main roads and you’ll have the drive of your life.

This is the last post in our 2-night East Turkey road trip, but we’re not done with driving East Turkey just yet. The day after our return to Patnos, we set off again for a long day out. We’ve got posts about a drive along the shores of mesmerising Lake Van to come…

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Thursday 1st of May 2014

Good to know as I would like to explore eastern Turkey. I think you'd have to blindfold me even in the dark on a narrow mountain road. I can be such a wimp.

Turkey's For Life

Saturday 3rd of May 2014

East Turkey is really well worth as much of your time as you can afford to give it Leigh - just stick to the main roads! ;)

budget jan

Thursday 1st of May 2014

I totally agree with the don't take short cuts in Eastern Turkey Rule. We took the D050 from Ispir to Yusufeli which we thought looked quite a good road on the map only to find it disappeared totally in places. We too were worried we might have to turn back, but thankfully it went all the way and we got there eventually. :)

Turkey's For Life

Saturday 3rd of May 2014

Well glad you made your short cut in East Turkey, Jan. Our was completely impassible as the rain had washed a whole section of the road away. :) All part of the adventure. :)

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