Erzurum, 193 km east of Erzincan and the largest city in eastern Anatolia, sprawls on a high plateau at an altitude of 1,950 meters. As you enter the city, the large Aziziye monument commemorating the Turkish Russian war will catch your eye. Although the collection in the archaeological museum reveals much of the city’s history and ancient origins, it is Erzurum’s architecture which is in fact the best picture of its past. The city walls and fortress are reminiscent of the period of Byzantine rule.
Of particular importance are the remaining Seljuk buildings brilliant examples of a fascinating aesthetic. The Ulu Mosque, built in 1179, has an unusual form with seven wide naves. The Cifte Minareli Medrese, or theological college built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in 1253, astonishes with elaborate stone carvings on its portal and its majestic double minarets.
Behind the Cifte Minareli Medrese stands the Uc Kumbetler, a group of three turbes, the most notable of which is that of Emir Saltuk. The 13th century Hatuniye Turbesi, or mausoleum, was built for Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat’s daughter. The beautiful portal and richly tiled minaret of the 13th-century, Yakutiye Medrese reveal another facet of Seljuk architecture. You can also see Ottoman buildings in Erzurum. The great architect Sinan left his mark on the city in the Lala Mustafa Pasa Mosque.
While wandering around the city, notice the local black stone (Erzurum Oltu Tasi) which is used in jewellery. The shops on the upper floor of the Tashan (Rustem Pasa Caravanserai) offer the best selection. A road through splendid mountain scenery leads to the winter sports resort of Palandoken, only 6 km from Erzurum. This center has a number of hotels as well as the longest ski run and the best snow quality in Turkey, making it a favourite haunt of expert skiers.
The glassy Tortum lake, 120 km from Erzurum in the direction of Artvin and the Black Sea, may be the most tranquil sight in all of Turkey. Be sure to see the Tortum Waterfalls at the north end of the lake, that plunge from a height of 47 meters. (After the rushing torrents of the April to June snow-melt clears the falls, the flow of water slows considerably.)