Tag Archives: black sea

Otogar to Otogar

It’s a big, ol’ country, Turkey. In contrast to much of the mashrutka-hopping I engaged in for the last couple of months, I seem to be spending considerable periods of my day on the road – 5 hours to Trabzon, 8 hours to Samsun, 7 hours to Ankara tomorrow – which leaves little scope for general hilarity on the road.

I can’t even complain about the state of the roads, my offensive mashrutka-mates or questionable cuisine. I’m in Turkey and the livin’ is easy, my friends. Find the otogar, jump on a clean, new, streamlined vessel replete with air-con, coffee machines and wireless internet, zoom down the motorways until you reach your destination. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Fine – so one bus had a few issues somewhere between Trabzon and Sinop, necessitating a pause of an hour or so, during which we were fed, watered, and encouraged to have a stroll along the beach. Slightly more convenient than this series of multiple breakdowns in Kazakhstan.

The realities of the Turkish road network mean that I’ve now peeled myself away from the Black Sea coast which I have been following since crossing the border from Georgia. It’s a wonderful drive – dropping in and out of small seaside resorts where old men sit under pines in the parks drinking tea looking out to the sea. If you lived in one of these places you’d be drip-fed ice cream and no doubt feel that life was one non-stop holiday. Fantastic.

With the “utilitarian” city of Samsun behind me, I head on towards the Turkish capital, and finally across the Bosphorus to Istanbul.

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On the Black Sea at Batumi

Batumi: before the roadworks

Batumi: before the roadworks

Ah, I do like to be beside the seaside.

I’ve traveled thousands of miles through deserts, mountains and innumerable disgusting bus stations, and finally I find myself face to face with this charming east-west trending elliptical depression, perhaps more commonly known as the Black Sea.

Not quite the sandy paradise about which I had fantasised – the beach is a mass of huge black rocks on which hundreds of speedo-clad Georgians balance precariously, but at least all the rest of the paraphenalia is present.

That’s right. We’re talking overpriced cafes on the boulevard, ancient volleyball nets, curiously artistic sculptures and dog mess. As an extra added bonus, James Blunt blares out on the speakers wired up and down the ‘beach’, albeit a more chilled-out acoustic version, his heavier stuff clearly risked offending the more sensitive listeners.

So, this is last stop for Georgia, and it appears, last stop for Russian-speaking territory. Shame really – I have managed to acquire a fearsome restaurant vocabulary (thus breaking the stranglehold of shashlik on my diet – hah!) and my idle bus chit chat was becoming first class. How many children do YOU have, sir?

One final reason to press on: this part of Georgia – Adjara – is home to the most ridiculously greasy khachapuri of the lot. It tastes amazing – but you effectively age five years with every one of them you consume.

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