Troikas, the indispensables of frozen Lake Çıldır

With its breathtaking cold and pristine features, Lake Çıldır is almost totally covered by ice in this time of year in the winter months. For adventurous local and foreign visitors coming to the second largest lake in the eastern Anatolian region, there are tours on the frozen lake with troikas, a two or three-horse sleigh. Tourists are making their way to Kars province with the "Doğu Ekspresi" (Eastern Express), which has been drawing great interest lately. The lake, which is 959 meters above sea level, is located on a 123-kilometer area between Kars and Ardahan provinces. Local and foreign tourists can enjoy visiting Lake Çıldır and walking on the ice.

Ozan Karataş, a troika coachman, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they set off at 8 a.m. with their horses and arrive at the lake in an hour or so. Karataş said that they get their horses down on the ice in front of the old log cabin, which is built near the lake in Arpaçay district. Explaining that they tie the troika sleds to these horses, Karataş said, "We begin our services in the morning in front of the log cabin and we finish at 5:00 p.m."

He stressed that local tourists started visiting Kars more with the opening of the Doğu Ekspres. "The express became a phenomenon. People can't find a seat in it. Tourists especially come to the Ani Archeological Site and Lake Çıldır. This beauty is a gift from God. I invite everyone to see it," he said.

"People who sled are really happy and say this place is heaven. Lake Çıldır wears its white cover and has a great atmosphere. Our people should come and see it. We earn our keeps while the citizens tour the area with sleds," he added.

Another troika coachman Turgay Karataş talked about their efforts to provide good service to visitors. "The ice on the lake provides our livelihood. We come to the lake daily and earn our living riding troikas. With the express, the number of the customers has increased," he said.

A local tourist who came from İzmir province for a tour in Kars, Narin Bakan said, "We tried troikas in Lake Çıldır, it was really fun. Kars is a beautiful place. I experienced riding on the troikas for the first time in my life and it was amazing and hard to believe."

Also from İzmir, Ege İpekçi said that she visited the Ani Archaeological Site, Sarikamish and Lake Çıldır. "I came to Kars for the first time. This city has great tourism potential. Everywhere is like heaven. There are many historical areas and I highly recommend that my friends come," she said.

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