Mule, local guide, and vehicle rentin g is possible in Altunay Pensiyon.

Tehere is a 10 room with common bath and toilet.

Also yopu can find baker and market possibilities in Altunay Pension

Contact with Ismail Altunay +90 466 832 20 01 tel

The Kackar Mountains are part of the Pontic Alps is the glaciated, granite mountain range which hugs the south coast of the Black Sea, extending from the Caucasus towards Istanbul.
Lushly wooded on the north, with pines succeeded at lower levels by chestnut,
hornbeam and beech trees, with tea plantations and hazlenut groves spilling down towards the waves.
The contrasting southern slopes are patched by summer pastures where black bulls graze.
Lakes, springs and streams are plentiful and clear.

The Kackar Mountains are part of the Pontic Alps is the glaciated, granite mountain range which hugs the south coast of the Black Sea, extending from the Caucasus towards Istanbul.

Lushly wooded on the north, with pines succeeded at lower levels by chestnut, hornbeam and beech trees, with tea plantations and hazlenut groves spilling down towards the waves. The contrasting southern slopes are patched by summer pastures where black bulls graze. Lakes, springs and streams are plentiful and clear.


The crown of the range is the Altiparmak (six fingered) and Kackar mountains, and Mount Kackar, at 3932m, the fifth highest peak in Turkey. Best points to arrive are on the south side of the range, which is exempt from damp rolling mists which clothe the northern slopes most afternoons. The locals say that if the north face has 5 clear days in a month, it's a surprise; if the south has 5 rainy days, it's amazing.

 

PEOPLE
AND
FESTIVALS

Once densely inhabited and highly productive, the valleys still ring to the sound of summer returnees from Istanbul or Germany. The women's clothing, a brilliant contrast to the dour chador of Erzurum, is multi-layered and brilliantly coloutrful. Devout Muslim observance, including temperance, has, within living memory, replaced equally devout Christian worship; rumours abound of residual Armenian communities abound.
The Pontic Alps have been occupied by Armenians, Georgians, Selcuk Turks, Mongols, Ottoman Turks and Russians. Individual communities of Laz and Hemsin flourished on the Black Sea side of the range.

Isabella Bird wrote in 1890:

"The road was enlivened by local as well as through traffic, and brightened by the various costumes of Turks, Greeks, Armenians and Lazes. The latter carry rifles and sabres, and two daggers in their girdles, one of which always has a cloven hilt. The Turkish Government has a very difficult time in ruling and pacifying the number of races which it has subjugated in eastern Turkey. I have met with Sabeans, Jews, Armenians, Syrians, Yezidis, Kurds, Osmanlis, Circassians, and Greeks, alien and antagonistic in creed and race, but somehow held together and governed by a power which is by no means feeble."

The first world war and war of independence saw vast population movements as the Russian advance reached Erzurum, and withdrawal drew many Armenians with them. Greeks left with the exchange of populations in 1923, and the area became almost totally Muslim. The valleys were for many years self sufficient, and cereals, cattle and honey was traded across the passes in the range. Now imported cereals have replaced home grown and only old folk remain in the huge stone houses of the higher villages.

The Pontic Alps are a formidable obstacle to travellers and conquerors, and have formed a refuge for many minority populations fleeing persecutions. North-west to south-east routes link the medieval entrepot of Erzurum, gateway to Persia and last defence against Russia, with the ancient Greek colonies on the Black Sea.

Travellers' Tales:
Xenophon was the first explorer to write about the area. In the 4th C BC, he brought his army of 10,000 Greek soldiers back from Persia, where they had been serving as mercenaries. After fighting his way across Kurdish territory in a bitter winter and losing many men to frostbite and hunger, he crossed the Pontic Alps by the Zigana Pass:

"When the men in front reached the summit and caught sight of the sea there was a great shouting. Xenophon and the rearguard heard it and thought that there were some more enemies attacking in front ...So Xenophon rode forward to give support and heard the soldiers shouting out 'The sea! The sea!' and passing the word down the column. When the all got to the top, the soldiers, with tears in their eyes, embraced each other and their generals and captains. They collected stones and made a great pile of them and put on top the shields which they had captured."

In early December 1890, Isabella Bird, a British explorer of Persia and Kurdistan, crossed the same pass:

"The snowstorm had lasted for nearly three days and the snow was from four to nine feet deep on the summit, and the thawing of its surface at lower altitudes had resulted in the production of slopes of ice, over which I had to walk for two hours as Boy (the horse) could scarcely keep on his feet. The early snow has a witchery of its own, and I was astonished at the magnificence of the scenery, and at the vast pine forests which clothe the muntain sides. Villages of chalets with irregular balconies and steep roofs are perched on the rocky heights or nestle among walnuts, with a blue background of pines above which tower spires and peaks of unsullied snow; ridges rise into fantastic forms and mimicries of minarets and castles; pines, filling gigantic ravines with their blue gloom, stand sentinel over torrents silenced for the winter; and colossal heights and colossal depths, an uplifted snow world of ceaseless surprises under a blue sky full of light, make one fancy onself in Switzerland, 'til a long train of decorated camels or a turbaned party of armed travellers dissipates the dream."

Churches:
A scattering of abandoned or converted churches, some dating from the heyday of the Georgian kingdom in the 10th and 11th C, recalls past glories.
The chief churches are:
Haho - Monastery and church dated 961-1001, built by David the Great, in good conditiona and used as a mosque.
Osk Vank - Ornate and beautiful church, also David the Great, with frescoes.
Ishan - 7th - 11th C church of the virgin; the roof has fallen, but an imposing dome remains.
Bana - 7th C Armenian - Georgian church, destroyed by the Russians in 1877; just the huge rotunda remains.
D÷rtkilise - 10th C, restored by David the Great, the twin of the Barhal church; deserted; some frescoes remain.
Barhal - Late 10th C, huge basilica church with steep pitched roof and minor carving; restored for use as mosque, then almost abandoned.
Dolishane - 954-958 domed church by Smbat 1, with minor frescoes and exterior carving.
Porta - 9th C monastery and 10th C church with holes in the dome and walls, with a separate cupola with inscriptions.
Tbeti - 10th C monastery church with a cross in square plan, some relief work but extensive damage to the cloister.
As well as the churches, many rocky outcrops have their own fortifications - ancient castles rear crumbling ramparts against the sky.

Access to the Kaškar region is from Erzurum or Trabzon
By Bus, several each day/night:
Istanbul - Trabzon: 17 hrs
Ankara - Trabzon: 12 hrs
Ankara - Erzurum: 14 hrs


By train (book a sleeper):
Ankara - Erzurum: 24 hrs (1 per day)

By Air (Turkish Airlines):
Istanbul - Trabzon: 3 direct flights daily
Ankara - Trabzon: 2 direct flights daily
Istanbul - Erzurum: 1 stopping flight daily
Ankara - Erzurum: 1 direct flight daily


Access to Yusufeli and beyond is by dolmus:
Trabzon - Artvin: 2 per day (4.5 hrs)
Artvin - Yusufeli: 4 per day (1.3hrs)
Erzurum - Yusufeli: 3 per day (3 hrs)


Yusufeli - Barhal:
4 buses daily, afternoons (1 hr)
2 go on to Yaylalar (3 hrs)

Access to Ayder and beyond is by bus/dolmus:
Trabzon - Rize - Pazar: several buses daily (2 hrs)
Pazar - Ayder: several buses daily, (1 hr)