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By bus and dolmus, we explored Turkey as it might have been 20-50 years ago, and found friendly people everywhere in lands mentioned in the Christian Bible.

Antalya, Anamur, Adana

Not technically in Eastern Turkey, these coastal cities were on our route as we left the busy tourist-oriented cities of Western Turkey for the more agricultural east.  As is often the case, people met along the way are one of the highlights - in this case a Turkish lady who was married to a Frenchman and had lived in Germany, China, Morocco, and other places - it made the trip go by quickly.  Along the way we spotted:

  • Strawberry fields and banana plantations
  • Roman ruins along the highway near Sielifke
  • Great views of the Mediterranean from our hotel room in Anamur.
  • Great hosts at our hotel - they only wished we had stayed longer

Sanliurfa

By the time we reached Sanli Urfa, we felt we were in the Middle East.  Most women wore head scarves or veils, and many men wore turbans.  The city has an eclectic background with:

  • Islam - A beautiful mosque that dominated the pilgrimage area of the city.
  • Roman Empire - Roman columns on the hill overlooking the city.
  • Judeo-Christian - An cave where Abraham was born - important to all religions that started in the Middle East
  • Decadent West - A single street with a a few bars - made us feel we were in a disreputable part of town

We wandered the streets, visiting a local bazaar (where we bought a sheepskin, that we needed like a hole in the head), explored back streets, and were yelled at by one woman who didn't approve of us photographing a veiled woman - she was right!.  By this time we had met up with our part-time traveling companions, Marcus and Debi, and rented a car to visit Harran near Syria, a village with 5000 years of history mentioned in Genesis and not much changed since then. On a side trip we visited Birecik, a bird sanctuary on the Euphrates and one evening decided to see "Closer", an English-speaking movie with Nicole Kidman - which turned out to be one of the worst movies ever made! For more photos, check out Sanliurfa pix.

Mt Nemrut -

In the middle of Turkey is a burial site for King Antiochus I, a pyramid-like pile of rocks surrounded by heads of the king and story-telling steeles.  The rocks have been broken into small pieces and piled into a smooth conical pile several hundred feet high.  The burial site has never been excavated and its is anyone's guess what may have rested inside for the last 20 centuries. See more at Mt Nemrut Photos.

Batman, Tatvan & Lake Van

Batman was prosperous-looking, with oil fields nearby and a refinery on the edge of town.  Tatvan was the opposite, with seedy streets and men of all ages hanging around talking and drinking tea, but no evidence of work - a sad contrast to many areas we had visited.  On Lake Van we took a boat to Akdamar, a pretty Armenian church on a small island - well maintained despite having been around for 10 centuries or so. One of the highlights was a side-trip to Hasankyef, a minor tourist attraction with a few families still living in the caves that once housed hundreds - now all are at risk as Turkey plans to dam the Tigris for power and irrigation. An ancient bridge still stands in the Tigris, although a modern one carried the standing-room-only dolmus that brought us to visit the town. There is more to see at Lake Van and Hasankyef photos.

Dogubeyazit

Near the Iranian border we visited the border town of Dogubayazit, a mostly Kurdish area with heavy military presence and bustling commerce.  The snow-capped mountains surrounding it include Mt. Ararat, the reported site of Noah's Ark landing after the big flood.  The hills also have palaces dating from the Ottoman Empire - Ishaz Pasa Palace being one of the most beautiful as it overlooks the town and the route of the old Silk Road trading route.  We wrapped up our tour of this eastern-most city in Turkey with tea al fresco with a wonderful view of the valley below. See more at Dogubeyazit Photos.

For more details, visit our May 2005 Journal.

 

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