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ERCİYES DAĞI (MT ERCIYES)

The ancient Mt Argeus

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 Snow-capped Mt Erciyes, a 3916m extinct volcano, dominates the views for miles around Kayseri and Cappadocia.

According to legend, this is where St George, the patron saint of Cappadocia, came face to face with his dragon, although these days it’s a place to try skiing or snowboarding without the flash and fuss of Turkey’s better-known resorts. Equipment is for hire at very reasonable prices. 

For the last few years the Erciyes ski resort has been the centrepiece of a grand expansion project which has greatly improved access to the slopes. Several new hotels are in the offing.

Sleeping

Dedeman Erciyes Hotel

Tel: 0352-342 2116

Grand Eras Hotel

Tel: 0352-235 6034

Mirada del Lago

Tel: 0352-342 2100

Transport info

Turkish Airlines offers frequent flights from İstanbul to Kayseri.

Buses to Develi via Erciyes leave from an unmarked bus terminal beside the large cemetery south of the town center on Talas Caddesi.erciyes1

Day trip destinations

Develi

Kayseri

 This article first appeared in Time Out Istanbul in Engllish

DEEP AND CRISP AND EVEN

Advertisers – don`t you just love them? There you are on the ski slopes of Kayseri, gazing up at crusty old Mt Erciyes with the chair lifts running up its flanks when all of a sudden what`s this? Yes, every one of those chair-lift seats has the name of some sort of meat inscribed on the back! Sucuk, sosis, pastırma, kavurma. Because of course Kayseri is famed for its cold cuts, especially for the inky-stinky pastrami that comes with a garlic kickback.

A ski trip to Erciyes is always going to be a whole different ballgame from going skiing on the slopes of Uludağ. Uludağ is a long-standing, fairly sophisticated resort catering mainly to urbanites on a break from İstanbul or nearby Bursa; Erciyes, on the other hand, is but a baby in the ski stakes and caters mainly to local families – a ski scene, in other words, dominated by children on sledges and headscarved women teetering sideways on their skis; a ski scene in which a ski-suit in head-to-toe turquoise tartan is not considered outré at all.

So why would you pick Erciyes over Uludağ? Well, if you rate fun more highly than the actual skiing, and if you want to keep costs down, then this is certainly somewhere where you can rest assured of having a quintessential Turkish experience.

Mythical Erciyes

At 3916m, Erciyes is Turkey`s third highest mountain, and it dominates the landscape from the center of Kayseri, some 20 kilometers away to the south. An extinct volcano whose last eruption may have taken place in 253 BC, Erciyes is often erroneously described as the volcano that created the crazy Cappadocian landscape (wrong sort of volcano, apparently), but such a prominent feature of the landscape was bound to have given rise to all sorts of tall stories, and so it was that the mountain in mid-Anatolia found itself caught up in the legends surrounding St George, patron saint not just of England but of Cappadocia too. In an echo of the Ancient Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda, St George was reported to have tamed a fiery dragon that was threatening the people of nearby Kayseri (then Caesarea), thereby winning the hand of a local princess and persuading the locals to convert to Christianity.

Other heroes just as dubious as St George (who may not even have existed) have also been associated with Erciyes. So Battal Gazi, the hero of many medieval epics, is supposed to have been dragged up the mountainside and dropped into a pit from which he was assisted to escape by an unexpectedly helpful snake.

Erciyes – the real thing

All that`s as colorful maybe, but today no one heading for Erciyes is thinking about snakes or dragons which would, in any case, be hibernating at this time of year, so deep and all-encompassing is the snow. To get to the resort without public transport you need to catch a bus heading for Develi that passes right by the ski center, just a short walk from the main road. As at Uludağ you can come here with no gear and rent or buy anything you need. Then you can hit the slopes via the chair lifts or whisk noisily around the snow on the back of a ski-cat.

Although some serious winter sports fans do come to Erciyes and there are some slopes aimed at the experienced, this is really a family scene and you should expect to encounter lots of beginners, and pistes that are not always divided to keep the tobogganing children away from those hurtling down the slopes at Olympic-competitor speeds.

Oh, and don`t forget to tuck into some sucuk ekmek (garlic sausage sandwich) while you`re here – it`s very much the thing to do.

Après-ski

There`s a handful of hotels right by the ski slopes, but for a livelier nightlife you might want to slip back down to Kayseri when darkness falls. Not that Kayseri is actually known for its after-dark action. An Anatolian tiger it may have been until the recession forced it back into kittenhood, but Kayseri has always been a conservative town that prides itself on Islamic values. At night the town center restaurants fill up with Turkish families, every woman with her head neatly covered. Hard times have knocked out some old favorites, but there are plenty of cheap kebab places catering to the student population, and two old stalwarts of the Iskender kebap scene are still hanging on in there – the Beyaz Saray and the İskender Et Lokantası, now clumsily renamed the Elmacıoğlu İskender. There`s a multiplex cinema in the Kayseri Park shopping mall. Otherwise you may find yourself yearning for an early night.

Catching Cappadocia

With only a weekend at your disposal it may be best just to hang out on Erciyes, with perhaps a side trip into Kayseri to view the Selçuk-era Ulu and Hunat Hatun Camis, the attractive Güpgüpoğlu Konağı, the small museum, and the Döner Kümbet, a circular tomb that has become the city`s emblem. You might also want to shop for shoes and other cheap clothing in a Covered Bazaar that`s far less hassley than İstanbul`s more famous version. But the dramatic scenery of Cappadocia is only a hop and a skip away by bus to Avanos, Göreme or Ürgüp, so if you can manage to swing the extra few days off…

Word to the wise

Don`t come here midweek – you may find the slopes completely deserted.

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