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SILK ROAD

THE SILK ROAD WAS A TRADE ROUTE USED BY CARAVANS TO TRADE SILK SINCE THE 1ST CENTURY. NOW IN THE 21ST CENTURY, WE DECIDED, FATHER AND SON, TO FOLLOW THIS ROUTE ONCE MORE!

Brief description of our trip.

The silk road was a trade route used by caravans to trade silk since the 1st century.
Now in the 21st century, we decided, father and son, to follow the same route once more!
We do not have a camel or a compass. Be we do have backpacks and a GPS. Together we will travel through the magnificent fairy chimney in Cappadoce and cross the world’s largest lake, the Caspian sea. Zigzag in between the silence of the endless deserts and the overwhelming mountains of the Stans. Explore China through the splendid Xinjiang and Gansu provinces making a possible side track through the inner Mongolia. Finally we will reach our final destination Xi’an, facing a thousand of terracotta soldiers. Our journey will consist in using public transportation, excluding the plane. Each equipped with a 10 kg bag pack, this 3 months long trip, will begin in what was once the most glorious city of oriental Europe : Constantinople, Istanbul!

Trabzon-Batumi: Turkey – Georgia border crossing

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Car de Trabzon à Hopa, 3 heures de route le long de la côte de la Mer Noire. De Hopa, nous prenons un minibus (taxi partagé) pour Sarpi, petit village coupé en deux par la frontière géorgienne et turque. Nous passons la frontière à pied pour éviter le long contrôle des bus qui traversent. Une première qui nous déconcerte par la facilité. Et de l’autre côté, re-minibus jusqu’à Batumi où nous avons réservé un petit hôtel par skype hier.

Batumi, Georgia

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Batumi is a town with two decors, the stage and the backstage. The stage is set on the Black Sea front with the new hotels transforming the coast with Radissons and Kempinskis. All set in front of traditional houses sometimes renovated in an exuberant luxuriant pastry style. The season has not yet started in this holiday town of the ex-USSR when loads of Russians used to come to their datchas.

The backstage still reminds us of the earlier soviet days with all the buildings falling apart and the roads looking giving a post-war or a post-earthquake feeling. The backstage is slowly being converted into front stage.

Batumi – Tbilisi by marshrutkas

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The marshrutkas taken from Batumi to Kashuri and then to Tbilissi was something! We thought we were travelling economic class till now, but there is another class belowJ , with feet into car tyres for 3 hours and our backpacks resting on our legs. The driver managed to fit 18 persons in a 12 passenger minibus. There is some sort of solidarity between the travelers accepting to squeeze in those who have waited so long along the road. The lunch stop was a great time with mini hamburgers and purée. One Lari toilet break before boarding again. And the final leg to Tbilissi with the same CD full of lively Georgian songs for the 5th time!

The Tbilissi metro is a typical fast and efficient soviet style metro. I felt like in Tokyo unable to read any station name, counting the numbers to disembark at the right station.

Tbilisi, Georgia

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If hospitality was a nation, it would be Georgia. I had always told to Kim the quality and the attention a visitor receives from his Georgian host. And we met again with Devid and Elizabeth Abuladze six years after. I am now received unofficially as a friend, not as the UIA President. We thought they would only take us out for dinner, which they did at the best restaurant in town Kopala. But they have in mind to organize every single moment of our stay, from the visa applications to Azerbaijan, to taking Kim to snowboard and even driving us to Yerevan and Baku.

Istanbul

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Café Palatium after dinner with all the pseudo-explorers like us sipping çay or Turkish orta coffee or smoking narguile water pipes seated on kilims. Great pasha feeling in western imagination resting away from the Grand Bazaar animation

Departure

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05H00 on a Sunday morning is tough. 8 kg each for 90 days is harder but is the minimum we have managed to squash in our back packs. This trip is finally starting and yet it seems totally unreal. We have been talking about it for years and today is the first day of this dream of many years. Being driven by Ved, our Mauritian Paris driver in his Mercedes seems contradictory to the spirit of the trip.
Paris – Istanbul on Turkish airlines.