Turkey // Northeastern Anatolia //

The Berta River valley

The northerly Georgian valleys form the heart of the province of Artvin, lying within a 50km radius of the town of the same name. While Artvin town itself is unappealing, the rest of the province is rather beautiful. Except for the Kaçkars, nowhere else in Turkey do you feel so close to the Caucasus: ornate wooden domestic and religious architecture, with lushly green slopes or naked crags for a backdrop, clinch the impression of exoticism. Here, too, you may actually encounter native Georgian speakers, though they’re mostly confined to the remote valleys around the towns of Camili, Meydancık and Posof, and the immediate surroundings of Şavşat.

With its wet, alpine climate on the heights, the region once aspired to become a winter-sports playground, but global warming – and the fact that, in Turkey’s current economic straits, existing ski resorts can barely cope – scotched such hopes. For the moment most tourists come in summer to see the local Georgian churches along the Berta River valley; individually these are not as impressive as their southern relatives, but their situations are almost always more picturesque.