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SARIKAMIŞ

Battlefield town                                                 Population: 18,000

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The setting, in the winter of 1914-15, for a truly terrible military disaster in which some 60,000-80,000 men lost their lives, Sarıkamış in the far northeast of the country never seems to have been able to rise above its sad past.

Today it's a small, rather grim little town with little to attract visitors although the surrounding mountain and forest scenery is superb. 

The statue of a skier hints at its one real advantage which is the Kayak Merkezi (ski resort) a little apart from the main town.

But just as you think all is lost you spot a sign pointing to the Katerina Av Köşkü (Catherine’s Hunting Lodge), a half-hour walk out into the pastoral outskirts across the road from what look like fortified buildings but are actually the ruins of an old brick factory.

The low-slung lodge is best viewed from afar when it makes a fetching picture against a backdrop of fir trees. Close up, all is dereliction, the interior decoration long since stripped out and the walls papered with graffiti. Regardless, this is a popular picnic site with cows ambling past the front door.

Little definite is known about the building although it’s assumed to have been built between 1900 and 1902 during a 40-year period of on/off Russian occupation of this part of Turkey.

Battle of Sarıkamış. At the end of the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877-78 Sarıkamıs, like Kars, became part of a province of Russia. At the end of 1914 the "Young Turk" leader Enver Paşa determined to recover the town for the Ottoman Empire and led an invasion from Armenian against the advice of the German military advisor, Liman von Sanders. The Russian General Yudenich determined to stand his ground. Enver's troops attacked the town from 29 December to 4 January when they were forced to retreat. In the depths of winter 60,000 to 80,000 of the 90,000-strong retreating Ottoman army perished, as did an estimated 35,000 Russian troops. 

Sarıkamış Kayak Merkezi (ski resort)

As an eastern alternative to Palandöken, you can ski at Sarıkamış. The simple resort, boasting some of Turkey’s longest runs, sits amid pine forest at 2,362m.

Sleeping

Çamkar Hotel. Tel: 0474-413 6565, www.camkarotel.com

Hotel Aras Tel: 0474-413 8080

Transport info

Frequent dolmuşes run between Sarıkamış and the old bus station in Kars (45 mins).

Day trip destinations

Kars

 

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