Day 48. Friday, September 14. Rest day – Erzurum
We had perfect weather for our rest day in Erzurum today – a high of 22C and lots of sun. While most of us headed from our ski resort hotel down into the city, Warwick and Joanne went up to the top of the chair lift for bird-spotting and the view. They were rewarded on both accounts.
…and this Little Owl (aka The Owl of Minerva) roosts in the machinery house at the top of the chairlift.
Meanwhile, I was down in town trying to work out why it is big (400,000 people), newish looking (apart from its few surviving ancient buildings) and quite prosperous looking. Tourism (particularly winter sports) and Ataturk University (founded in 1950, with 40,000 current students) are the two biggest economic drivers, Wikipedia tells me.
The big investment in winter sports and tourism in recent years made me wonder how long the boom will last, given rapid climate change. So far, so good. Thanks to the city being some 2,000m high, its average daily temperatures are well below zero in December, January and February, with an average of 61 days of snow a year. But…
Disaster courses through Erzurum’s history, though of the political, warring, religious and economic kind. It was once a major city on a western branch of the Silk Roads but that trade withered long before the general demise of the Silk Roads in the mid-15th century.
The city still has a few buildings from that peak of prosperity, such as Yakutia Madrasa, a place of scholarship and theology, built in 1310. Visiting it today, I found it houses some beautiful artefacts such as the scribe’s inkstand below.
But the old is largely lost in the new across the city, redeemed by the backdrop which is always beautiful whether it is the mountains or the valley.
I did contribute a tiny bit to the local economy – at a pharmacy and a restaurant.
But that was the extent of my local travels today. I’m taking this rest day seriously. These are the five riding days we have ahead of us…