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 showed you the map of our East Turkey road trip.
- In part 1, we drove from Patnos to Muradiye waterfalls.
- Part 2 of our road trip took us onwards to the fabulous Ishak Paşa Sarayı.
- From Ishak Paşa Sarayı, we headed to Iğdır for the night and met the ‘local constabulary’.
- Part 4 of our East Turkey road trip was our unexpected stop off at the Tuzluca Salt Mines.
- And then (was this la creme de la creme – can’t decide), we headed towards the lonely ruins of Ani.
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 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.
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.
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…