Overland to Bangladesh 1973 – Part 3: Istanbul to Erzurum

After weeks of immobility in Istanbul, suddenly I was moving east through Turkey. The coach drove through the night to Kayseri, arriving at 6.15am. We stopped once for tea, which two fellow passengers insisted on buying for me, and a second time when the coach clipped a lorry with its bumper when overtaking. ‘No great damage, but much shouting and half an hour’s delay.’ It transpired that this ‘direct’ coach to Erzerum entailed a 9-hour stop in Kayseri and a change of coach. Once again, the trunk became an inconvenience, as it had to be deposited in left luggage at extra expense. I wandered somewhat dazedly into town, looking for something to eat. There was a lot of new high-rise development and the only food to be found was some rather unpleasant soup. However, I did catch a glimpse of distant snow-capped mountains.


Company in Kayseri

In the new coach, I found myself uncomfortably on the back seat and did not sleep. A 12-hour journey brought us to Erzerum at 3.30am, only to be set upon by hotel touts. I was told the Tahran Palas, where the Butterfield group had stayed, was full and my trunk and rucksack were loaded into a horse-drawn taxi to the Asya Hotel, where I took a bed in a four-bedded room also occupied by two Turks. Next morning after a much-needed shower and shave, I walked to the Tahran Palas to pick up bus tickets which Ashley was supposed to have left there for me. Not only were there no tickets, but the hotel said the group had not stayed there. The only way of contacting Ashley was by telegram to Delhi, where the group were due to arrive that evening. I located the post office and sent an 11-word telegram for the enormous sum of 96 TL. I did not receive a reply.

Erzurum was a small but important city in the east of Turkey – it once would have been in Armenia – with few cars and large numbers of soldiers, as there was a military base nearby. The prime sight was the Twin Minarets Madrassa, which housed an ethnographic museum. This dated from the Seljuk period – around 1265 – and had an imposing brick façade with two tall minarets. Nearby I came across the Yakutiye Madrassa (1310) looking rather neglected but with a fine decorated minaret. They were the most exotic looking structures I had seen. Tourists and travellers were uncommon sights and, coming across a university teacher who spoke English, I found myself talking to someone at length for the first time in weeks. I went round the museum with an American and his guide. The company was welcome.


Yakutiye Madrassa, Erzurum


Yakutiye Madrassa, Erzurum


Yakutiye Madrassa, Erzurum



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About ihavedoneagoodayswork

I am a retired teacher of English as a foreign language who has worked in different parts of Asia - east, west and south.

2 responses to “Overland to Bangladesh 1973 – Part 3: Istanbul to Erzurum”

  1. Jerry Schmidt says :

    I enjoyed reading the blog of your trip to Bangladesh. I took a 15 month overland trip from London to Kathmandu in 72/73 and so many of your adventures, I can identify with, though I traveled in relative “luxury” in a converted VW Kombi. Am publishing a book above my adventure. Have you been back to Turkey and East since that trip? Would be nice to hear from you. Jerry

    • ihavedoneagoodayswork says :

      Hi, Jerry. Very good to hear from you and after such a long time. My wife and I have made a number of ‘expotitions’ In the region, the most recent being a Silk Road trip from Istanbul to Beijing. We have also travelled extensively in the Indian sub-continent. Your book sounds amazing and I look forward to seeing its appearance. It’s exciting to see a previously ‘undiscovered’ region opening up again. Unfortunately, my own travelling days are coming to an end with an unwelcome bout of cancer, but I take the opportunity to evaluate a wonderful period of travel and adventure and commit some of it to paper. Who knows?

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