Bicycle touring Tokat İli: Niksar to Turhal via Artova

Wow, what a difference from the start of this tour. Compared to the ride from Çarşamba to Niksar, my days spent in Tokat Province (il) were practically flat. Not completely flat, of course — there was a 1000m climb leaving Pazar, e.g. — but it sure felt flat after the Black Sea mountains. Another difference was that I saw quite a few cem evi, Alevi worship places (as opposed to mosques). That means, of course, that I went through quite a few Alevi villages. I also visited two historic complexes that were called zaviye, a word that seemed unfamiliar to me. What’s a zaviye, you’re wondering? It’s a Sufi (dervish/Bektaşi/Alevi) religious/cultural complex. Sunnis would use the word külliye.

It’s interesting that here we are in Turkey’s heartland, in the relatively small part of Turkey devoid of foreign influence under the Treaty of Sèvres. And yet, it’s full of Alevis, another of Turkey’s (at times persecuted: remember Sivas) minority groups.

There’s a fast narrow highway connecting Niksar to Tokat. Luckily I was mostly able to avoid it, usually without much more climbing than the highway.

IMG_20230901_081340 by bryandkeith on flickr
Kelkit Çayı
IMG_20230901_083646 by bryandkeith on flickr

Thinking of my daily distances to Niksar, I didn’t expect to make it to Tokat in one day. But with mostly flat roads (one 700m climb) and a tailwind, well, it ended up being pretty casual. Near Gümenek I stopped at Comana Antik Kenti, perhaps called Pontic Comana, not to be confused with Comana Antik Kenti in Şarköy. Permission is required to visit, potentially arranged via a phone call, but the guard, Mehmet, didn’t make it sound so interesting.

The first thing I saw in Tokat was the 13th century Selçuk Hıdırlık Köprüsü over the Yeşilırmak.

13th century Hıdırlık Köprüsü by bryandkeith on flickr

Not surprisingly there are lots of Selçuk and Ottoman monuments around Tokat.

IMG_20230902_124307 by bryandkeith on flickr
Selçuk Arastalı Bedesten, Ottoman restored; now housing the archaeological museum
13th century Selçuk Ali Tusa Türbesi by bryandkeith on flickr
13th century Selçuk Ali Tusa Türbesi
IMG_20230902_081321 by bryandkeith on flickr

16th century Ottoman Ali Paşa Camii:

16th century Ottoman Ali Paşa Camii by bryandkeith on flickr

with its fine entrance:

IMG_20230901_181955 by bryandkeith on flickr

Here’s the entrance to one of the zaviye that I mentioned earlier, 13th century Sümbül Baba Zaviyesi:

13th century Sümbül Baba Zaviyesi by bryandkeith on flickr

I enjoyed the interior of the Ulu Camii, built in the 12th century by the Danişment Beyliği but completely restored/rebuilt (?) (“tamamen yenilenmiştir“) by the Ottomans in the 17th century. Who’s responsible for the fun decorative painting?

IMG_20230902_102809 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230902_102746 by bryandkeith on flickr

Perhaps in an attempt to attract tourists, Tokat has a bunch of free (as in beer) museums to visit. The one I was most looking forward to (and in the end my favorite) was the Latifoğlu Konağı, a late-Ottoman rich family’s mansion. In all of Turkey there aren’t many houses like this open to visitors. The carved woodwork is stunning, but the photos don’t begin to do it justice.

IMG_20230902_083839 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230902_084954 by bryandkeith on flickr

Turkey loves putting these stupid mannequins in the museums. Do other countries do this as well?

The archaeology museum is well done, and the Şehir Müzesi was better than I expected.

Perhaps also in an attempt to attract tourists, Tokat is renovating Ottoman residential neighborhoods.

IMG_20230902_141523 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230902_142024 by bryandkeith on flickr

The best thing I did in Tokat was to eat Tokat Kebabı my first evening in the city when I was still hungry after the cycling. It’s potato, eggplant, sheep meat (kuzu eti), tail fat (kuyruk yağı) on a skewer, plus lavaş with a yummy tomato sauce, roasted pepper, and a whole head of roasted garlic. Of course, mezes were served first. Again the photo doesn’t do it justice.

Tokat kebabı -- super tasty by bryandkeith on flickr

My next day of riding was once again faster than I expected. It was mostly flat to Pazar where I stopped at the 13th century Selçuk Mahperi Hatun Kervansarayı, hoping to get a börek and coffee. Nope, too early.

IMG_20230903_092440 by bryandkeith on flickr
13th century Selçuk Mahperi Hatun Kervansarayı by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230903_094125 by bryandkeith on flickr

If you’re passing through later in the day, I’ve heard that their Tokat Kebabı is very good and that Tokat Kebabı actually originated in Pazar.

The 500m climb to Ballıca Mağarası (a cave) was easy, and I enjoyed the cave in spite of the Sunday crowds, poured concrete paths, and related infrastructure.

IMG_20230903_111525_8 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230903_125658 by bryandkeith on flickr

When planning this route, Ebru was supposed to come so we added in the short detour from Ballıca Mağarası to her village, Aktaş (in Artova İlçesi). I was warmly welcomed by her uncle and his wife.

IMG_20230903_155517 by bryandkeith on flickr
Yağcımusa, on the descent to Aktaş
IMG_20230903_181853 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230903_182301 by bryandkeith on flickr
Ahmet dayı by bryandkeith on flickr

The next morning was a short climb followed by a long descent to Kaz Gölü, a lake known for birdwatching. It was closed for infrastructure development, but Ömer, a fellow cyclist, gave me a short walking tour.

IMG_20230904_122930 by bryandkeith on flickr

Back in the wide, fertile Yeşilırmak Valley, the flat riding seemed to go on and on.

IMG_20230904_144040 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230904_144241 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230905_082545 by bryandkeith on flickr

In tiny Dazya village I was surprised to stumble upon another zaviye, Gümüştop Zaviyesi, built in the 14th century by the Ertana Beyliği.

14th century Ertana Beyliği Gümüştop Zaviyesi by bryandkeith on flickr

Nearby I spent my last night in Tokat camped next to the Gülüt Deresi, just a bit upstream from the district capital (ilçe merkezi) of Turhal.

IMG_20230904_175457 by bryandkeith on flickr

Next up, Amasya.

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