Kemaliye, Turkey: Always Obey Hilmi

Right now we're in a village called Kemaliye, located in a remote, isolated valley in eastern Turkey and there's not a foreigner in town besides us. Most of the Turkish "tourists" here are people in town to visit family. This is an amazing place. And we're not even supposed to be here! Our train ticket said "Final destination Erzurum", and Erzurum, near the Armenian, Georgian and Iranian borders, was where we were heading. But, when a really friendly 65-year old man named Hilmi invites you to get off the train 5 hours early and take an hour-long mini-bus ride over the mountains on a dirt and gravel road to visit his hometown with him, you simply do not say "no".

And after being invited into 4 homes during our first 24 hours in town and having such a fantastic first 6 days up till now, I think I can safely say that we definitely made the right decision. A basic rule of traveling: Always obey Hilmi. Trabzon, our original destination on the Black Sea coast will just have to wait.

Hilmi, who lives in Istanbul and is here for a summer vacation in Kemaliye, the village he grew up in, befriended us during our 2 days on the train, the Dogu Express. But he didn't invite us here to Kemaliye until just an hour or so before he was to depart the train. We had to make a quick decision about whether or not to abandon our original plans, but really it wasn't all that hard.

Situated in Erzincan Province, Kemaliye's old and/or Kurdish name is Ergin. And if you want to see the village, the surrounding valley, and the big canyon nearby, just check out these photos at our friend Alperen's website. They'll take a minute or so to load, but once they do you'll get a pretty good sense of just how beautiful it is here.

Alperen, by the way, is from Ankara and, like most of the young people we've met here, he's just in town for a few weeks visiting his grandparents during his summer vacation from university.

So, click on those photos, sit back and take a glimpse at this wonderful place. You might even want to visit it yourself someday, especially if Hilmi says you should

Mike Cowie (Oredakedo)
Wednesday, July 21st, 2004