Posted by: Gideon | October 1, 2010

Turkey with kids: The kids eat their first kofte, and an overnight bus ride to the Black Sea.

From Amasya we planned to make a beeline for the far eastern part of the Black Sea region. We were heading for Ayder, a small village in the mountains east of Rize. We’d be bypassing the main hub of the Eastern Black Sea, Trabzon, but we would be coming back there later.

From Amasya we took a bus to the regional airport town of Merzifon. Amasya has limited bus service, but because Merzifon has an airport, it is far better served by the long distance bus companies. We were booked on an Ulusoy bus from Merzifon to Pazar, a small Black Sea town from where we planned to catch a dolmus up into the mountains.

Smiley Kofte

We left Amasya at around 5pm and within about 45 minutes we were at the Merzifon Otogar. We had about an hour to kill before our bus arrived, and it was dinner time, so we went to one of the nearby restaurants. We happened to sit down at a Kofte restaurant and very quickly the owner came to us and started chatting in perfect English. He introduced himself as Ercan and it turned out that he had spent time in hotels in Turkey and the US as a counsellor for kids’ programs. He was also the proprietor of Smiley Kofte – apparently a well-known local restaurant that his late father had founded and which he now owned. He also introduced us to his cousin, who owned a boutique hotel in Istanbul and he suggested we stay there the next time we were in Istanbul.

I have to say the Kofte sandwiches we bought were great – Kofte are small meatballs, and a kofte sandwich is simply kofte stuffed into a baguette with salad.

Soon it was time to get on the bus. We found our seats and the bus was rather luxurious. Good reclining seats, and generally pretty comfortable. We soon figured out that the a/c wasn’t working well and there were plenty of complaints to the driver and his assistant. Overnight buses are very common in Turkey –   and the big bus companies all have their own bus stops throughout the country – these are elaborate affairs, with restaurants, small supermarkets, clean modern washrooms, kids playgrounds etc. Our bus left at about 10pm and we had our first stop at midnight. I soon learned that I had made a mistake in the timing of our bus – I now worked out that we would get to Pazar around 5am, rather than around 7am as I had thought. We slept pretty poorly, probably on a par with an overnight airplane flight. The bus cruised along the Black Sea highway  through the night and we were dropped off in tiny Pazar at exactly 5am. All we could do was wait in the Ulusoy waiting room until the first dolmus began at 7am. Would I recommend bus travel with kids – yes, it’s a good way of making up a lot of ground – it’s not very cheap (we paid about 200TL for the five of us) – but it does save on a hotel room, and it is something to experience. The kids enjoyed it. If your kids manage overnight flights, they should manage here just fine.

PS: These days I am planning great family trips to Turkey. Click here for more info.

Our new found friends

The boys attacking their kofte!

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