New year revelers enamored by ‘white desert’ Çıldır in Turkey’s northeast
Didem Mercan - KARS
While people in big cities welcomed the new year of 2020 with parties, concerts and fireworks, dozens of others opted for a 24-hour journey to one of Turkey’s easternmost provinces.
“From my point of view, it is not only the journey, but also all the stops along the way, and your final destination of beautiful city of Kars with all its historic texture attracting people to make this journey,” said Sedat Cezayiroğlu, train driver of the Touristic Eastern Express, which carried hundreds of its passengers from Ankara on Dec. 30, 2019 to Kars.
“There are plenty of things to do in Kars, such as visiting the ruins of the ancient city of Ani, the town of Sarıkamış and Lake Çıldır. In winter, Lake Çıldır freezes over to a thickness of 80 centimeters and turns into a hypnotic white desert,” added Cezayiroğlu.
A newlywed couple also joined the train ride of 1,310 kilometers.
“We got married two months ago and wanted to make this dream trip a reality. It was really difficult to find tickets, we spent days finding,” said Gökçe Akdan, accompanied by her husband Sedat Akdan.
“Up until 10 - 15 years ago, it was scary and not appropriate for women to travel to Eastern Turkey on their own. Maybe we were prejudiced, however, today, we overcame this thought as the journey is both safe and enjoyable,” said Özden Aydın.
Social media and the desire to travel increased interest in the Eastern Express.
“There was no such demand until three years ago,” said Ali Köse, the chief of the train.
“The only difference is you can stop and take short walks and digest the views in 4 cities and towns on route of the Touristic Eastern Express,” he added.