Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Turkey Wednesday May 7
Even though we are itching to find out the results of the Obama/Clinton primary race, we’re off with the group this morning on a 400-kilometer drive through Eastern Turkey. Leaving Kars, we head 200 km along the Armenian border to Dogubayazit to the Ishtak Pasha Palace. On the way, we drive half way around Mt Ararat trying to find a way to peek through the clouds which hide its summit. At lunch in a restaurant at its base, we see photos on the wall of the site of the reputed Noah’s Ark.
The Palace is spectacular. Our guide, Acin, says this is his favorite ruin in Turkey. It demonstrates a blend of Georgian, Armenian, Seljuk, and Ottoman architecture that we have begun to see reflected separately at previous ruins. Situated at the head of a high mountain pass, the Sultan who lived here exacted tolls from the caravans which traveled by. The Palace housed his 1,000 wives, hundreds of black eunuchs, foreign ministers, and other residents.
After lunch, we drove to our destination, a four-star hotel in the Lakeside city of Van. On the outskirts of the city, we stop at its university, and see some of the famous Van cats. Their blue and green eyes are a genetic mutation, and the University is doing its best to make sure the breed doesn’t die off. Before arriving at our hotel, we stop and hike up to the Van Castle, a 2,800 year old fortress built by the Ulurartu kings in the 8th century BC.
Dinner is beginning to look like every dinner so far. Tomato and cucumber salad, rice and potatos, and something with meat. Tonight its chicken in a tomato sauce. The meal comes with the tour price, but the drinks (juice, beer, water) are extra, though cheap. Except for one gin and tonic request which totally puzzled the restaurant staff, most of us are going for the bottled water.
Tomorrow, we spend the day in trips around the Van area, including taking a boat to an island ruin, and then spend a second night at this hotel.
For the complete set of photos, go to: