National Geographic : 2010 Aug
• THE DYNAMITE COMES FROM ANKARA. TEN TONS, AND IT TAKES TWO DAYS. THE TRUCK CLIMBS CAREFULLY, SCREWING 2,500 FEET UP THE MOUNTAINS OF NORTH EASTERN TURKEY, WHERE THE CLOUDED sun makes faraway ice elds roll like a distant sea. is is beautiful, forbidding country, through which a new railroad will soon run. Arslan Ustael awaits the dynamite in the snow, with night temperatures reaching 40 below. Standing before the rail tunnel, Ustael says that in this weather your spit freezes before it hits the ground. He is a young man still, 30, and free with Turkish good humor, even up here in the cold clouds waiting for the dynamite that will make the volcanic mountain agreeable to his demand to bore a tunnel through it. Free with good humor because he knows this is an undertaking that could make a young engineer's career: building the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, an "Iron Silk Road" that will connect the oil-rich Caspian Sea region to Turkey---and beyond to Europe. e travels of antiquity are tiring to contem- plate. The 750-mile stretch of land between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea is known as the Caucasus, named for the mountain range through which Ustael is digging his tunnel. Be- fore the region got swallowed up by the Russian Empire, the Caucasus served as a transit point between Europe and Asia; the old Silk Road passed through it. Yet transport between West By Brett Forrest Photographs by Alex Webb Brett Forrest reports frequently from the former Soviet Union. Photographer Alex Webb's most recent book is Istanbul: City of a Hundred Names.