Past Bolu we turned onto the road to Kartalkaya. The white covering became quickly deeper as we climbed, but I only realized that the car chains hung up outside the small stalls on the road two kilometers back would be a good idea after all when the car began to skid. I decided to turn back. The chains were for rent, and the stall owners also offered to put them on and take them off. I was eventually grateful for such a service in this wild spot, and the villagers, who clearly had considerable experience of city folk getting themselves into a plight, could not help smiling behind their mustaches. With their help, the chains were secured and I set out again. Now the car had no problem getting up the snow-clad road, and I soon arrived at the ski resort. Here the snow was even deeper and the landscape even whiter. The gray smoky city seemed far away now, and I was in a new world, brilliantly fresh and beautiful. The air and view outside prevented me from resting in the hotel, despite my tiredness, and I headed for the peak straight away.
Kartalkaya is a winter sports center midway between Istanbul and Ankara, and just a three-hour drive from each city. In addition to some other best skiing in Turkey with its spectacular scenery and long ski runs, it has become an increasingly popular winter resort over recent years. It is situated at an altitude of 2000 meters in the Koroglu Mountains and is reached via a road which turns off from the main Ankara-Istanbul highway 10 kilometers east of Bolu. Those who take a coach to Bolu can get to Kartalkaya by the shuttle services provided by the resort hotels. Kartal Hotel has two ski runs 15 kilometers in length, served by two chairlifts and five ski lifts. Cafe Kartal and Tepe Cafe are used by both skiers and walkers to rest over warm drinks, and the hotel offers a wide range of indoor recreation, including a swimming pool, sauna, ten-pin bowling, disco, video room, and billiards. Dorukkaya Hotel has six ski runs 6 km in length and six ski lifts. There are also a further five public ski lifts, and all the lifts are free for hotel customers. This hotel has a swimming pool, gymnasium, and discotheque, and offers helicopter rides over the mountains and motorized sleigh rides. For those who want to see more of the vicinity than the resort itself, the first place that comes to mind is the mountain pasture of Sarialan Plateau (Yayla in Turkish) 8 kilometers away. Scattered over the great white expanse of the yayla are groups of wooden mountain huts used in summer by the local villagers. Here you can enjoy walking for hours, the crunching of your footsteps in the snow and your own breathing the only sounds breaking the profound silence. As you walk you rediscover the self which had been alienated in the mechanized rush of city life. But to return to my first day at Kartalkaya. Like everyone else, I had decided to start by climbing to the summit. Putting a few necessities in my backpack, I headed off towards the virgin snowy slopes above the resort. People of every age were skiing, including large numbers of children taking lessons. The luckiest of all, in my view, was a small child enjoying the pleasure of skiing at such a tender age on its mother’s back. Chatting with other non-skiers I carried on, and at the top took a break in Tepe Cafe, where for the first time I could drink in the magnificent panorama of this winter wonderland. I then walked on over the ridge to the southern slope of the mountain, and here was surprised by a view so enchanting that I could have gazed at it for hours. The only danger is forgetting the time. Darkness falls early in the winter months, and to get back in the last light and avoid freezing temperatures I set off immediately. It had been easier climbing up, and although several tumbles had their entertaining side, I also got wet and chilly. Back at the hotel, my numb feet were grateful for the warmth, and some hot drinks got my circulation going again.
Although I went to bed thinking that I would give walking a miss on the morrow, I awoke after a deep and refreshing sleep with far more energy than I had had the previous day. The winter season at Kartalkaya begins in December and continues through to mid-April. For both winter sports enthusiasts and those who just enjoy walking in beautiful surroundings, it is simply perfect. Here is nature at its wildest, combined with all the comforts of civilization. When I returned to my humdrum daily life I found that my short winter break had left me with a new zest for life, even in the gray smoky city.
* Text and photos Erdal Yazici
* Erdal Yazici is a photographer
If you are already a competent skier and want skiing until late May, then Palandoken in Turkey’s eastern province of Erzurum is the place for you. A resort which is top of the list for experienced and professional skiers, Palandoken figures on the international circuit. Conditions here are suitable for winter sports into June, and at 7 kilometers Palandoken has Turkey’s longest piste. Total ski slope length is 30 kilometers, situated between 2200 and 3176 meters. There are two chairlifts in the ski area and Dedeman Hotel has a ski lift. Palandoken is just a 5-minute drive from Erzurum and 15 minutes from the airport, a convenience matched by none of Turkey’s other winter sports centers. Dedeman Palandoken Ski Resort has enlarged its capacity with additional buildings this year, and its facilities include an indoor swimming pool, fitness salon, games room and children’s club.