Bahcesaray : A pleasant retreat into the mountains
Bahcesaray Travel Blog› entry 210 of 268 › view all entries
Tired and frustrated with your present surroundings? 'Yes.' Need to get away from the noise and chaos of modern city living? 'Yes.' Need to get away from Van? 'YES!' Then head for the hills. Make for the mountains my friend. 'Great idea. I will. I will!' I'm gonna head for the skies. Head for Bahçesaray.
Bahçesaray is a teeny mountain-tucked Kurdish outpost village that sits at a pretty healthy elevation, 110 kilometres from Van. It's hardly the place that Time forgot. But it's the place it can prove a hard time to get to some times of the year. Impossible in fact. Snow cuts it of from all vehicular contact at least 6 months in every year. And just for a little while today, I wonder if we are ever gonna get there anyway despite a bright dust-paddling sun and dry roads all the way.
It's quite a journey too. The mini-bus, jolting and bumping its way along the single road. The rocky, mountainous scenery erupting from dry grassy plains is sumptuous all the way. A beautiful ride. What would I give for it to be a snow-capped vista as it must be much of the time. That would be fabulous! But the rolling panorama impresses nevertheless. Having passed a tiny yellow and black arrow sign mocking my visa-less status with 'Iran' this-a-way written upon it many a small village slips into our dusty rear view mirror : Kizitas where the lads all step out for a half hour of midday prayer and a woman laboriously hand pumps water into a tub of her families clothes.
Prayer done. G*d happy. Stomach grumbling so Stevie less so. Back on the road. Higher and higher. You pass a maximum elevation of 2,985 metres on route. 'Cripes! That's higher than me!' More villages. Görentas where sheep kick up dust as they're driven across the land. Yukarinarlika and its cluster of roadside beehives. Honey a regional speciality. A clutch of naked kids play down in a stream as our van slips through Takumak.
Understatement is the order of the day in Bahçesaray. But this is what you should expect and come here for. Nothing more. Just a quiet, unhurried and friendly diorama of a one street, one mosque village-come-town cosseted away in one of Turkey's furthest Eastern throws. Far from Big Government.
A high street that can't be more than a functional 200 metres long with the town's one mosque sat at one end. Flanked either side with two short lines of roll-shutter fronted grocery and household necessities shops. The usual green-striped piles of jumbo water melons. The usual flighty smiles of hopeful shoe shine kids. The village old boys, middle-aged boys and not-so-old-at-all boys sit around on the usual four-legged, lattice-weave topped stubby stools chewing the fat.
Whilst a look to the upper valley flanks all about reveals the multi-storied story of many a new residence (and possibly hotel?) being constructed around Bahçesaray for purposes it's hard to determine, visitors/tourists here for now clearly remain the exception rather than a seasonal norm and I am a draw for much friendly greeting and attention. Kids and adults alike constantly wave me over and motion me to sit down for a chat. I am well used to, and enjoy these non-chat chats.
You can always assume the first few questions are 'What's your name?' and 'Where are you from?' which I hope you're qualified to answer. Beyond that, anything's possible and I just answer as my imagination dictates. So a multi-lingual observer could conceivably witness a conversation along the lines of 'So do you like Bahçesaray?' 'Yes, it's very pretty?' 'Have you tried our honey?' 'No I don't really like football so much these days.
Walking around the dusty slope lane peripheries of Bahçesaray is fun. Notable kiddie attentions as ever but, not so familiar with large numbers of people of the 'Tribe of Digital Camera' their approaches and interactions are a little less tempered by cynical 'munny-munny'isms. Bahçesaray is the only place in the whole of the Turkey I will visit where local women - the matrons of the society - appear happy to see and invite me, a foreign male, over for the usual non-chat chat. This is a rarity indeed. Trust me. Gwelnos, Aissa and Nazlihan, middle aged and covered in white cotton head scarves beckon me over as they sit chatting at their embroidery.
Kids flock to us too.
Such moments aside everything in Bahçesaray is enjoyable. In an understated way as I said. More strolling. More families, men and women, beckoning me to sit and chat. Non-chat chat. Or just sit and smile when the conversation peters out. Kids and grandfathers alike are keen to, and allowed to borrow my camera and snap away. Infinitely entertained. I head back to the high street and the 1km further out to 'Teacher's House' my rather peculiar accommodation for the night.
Lessons in tourism over for the day.
[ Info : the one mini-bus transport to Bahçesaray I am aware of departs from outside the Bahçesaray Çay Evi (Bahçesaray Tea House) at approx 11.30am. It's no more than 5 minutes walk from the main clutch of hotels that reside just south of Cumhuriyet Caddesi and near the Hz Ömer Camii mosque. I'd give you better directions but I've posted my lonely Planet Turkey Guide home 'Oops!' It costs 15TL/ £6.
Don't hit Bahçesaray as a super-speed day trip destination, mainly because of the ponderous transport connections. Be flexible with your time and plan to stay 1 night there. There seemed to be plenty more mini-buses heading back to Van the next morning (10.
The one riverside 'Guesthouse' referenced in LP doesn't seem in business right now so all visitors were directed 1km further through town to 'Teacher's House'. Literally the accommodation dorms within the local region High School. 20TL/£8 + 5TL/£2 if you wish to join in the 'school dinner'. Whether this arrangement prevails during term time I could not say.]