Kars to Tasucu
Next thing that looked pretty interesting, in Turkey , was a place called Ishak Pasa Palace , near the town of Dogubayazit . Mount Ararat is easily in sight around here. The road is near the borders of Armenia and Iran so there are police/military stops. Mostly military, I think. At one stop, when they found we didn’t speak Turkish, they called over this other solder who spoke passable English. Apparently Turkey has compulsory military duty. If you’ve a college grad it’s for six months and fifteen months if not. No pay. The guy they trotted out had graduated in Sociology. He kind of reminded me of a cross between Bob Neuhardt and Alan Alda. Made it clear he wasn’t at all happy to be in the military. He was Kurdish. Asked us how we liked Turkey and when I told him the people were great he said he didn’t like the people from Turkey but then after some thought said SOME people from Turkey . I assume he was referring to MILITARY people. Guy was pretty funny.
There was some Turkish babbling, from the other guys in the background, and he then says they would like to know where we where going and had been. He then, kinda under his breath, says in English, they’re just trying to track you, and winks and implied we shouldn’t tell them anything. Of course the Kurds have been agitating for a homeland for some time and the PKK, which is a Kurdish gorilla group, has been fighting the Turkish troops. I have read they’re in northern Iraq and one would presume also Iran . This explained the military presence. Saw lots of troops and basses in these parts.
Ishak Pasa is well worth a visit. Really neat place. It has been restored some, and has lots of ornate stonework. Central heating and running water. It’s situated in the hills behind the town, so you get a nice view, so nice in fact, we stayed the night. Ran into a couple from Russian/Ukraine. They were both Ukrainian, but one lived in Sochi and the other in the Ukraine . They had reasonable English so I asked them some of my Russian questions. Like “How come the Russian people, who are so friendly and honest, tolerate the corrupt police and government officials?” They said that was an easy one. They didn’t want to turn all those criminals loose on society; it was better to put uniforms on them so you could tell who they were.
After the Palace it was off to Lake Van . Near the southern shore is an island, Akdamar Killesi that has some more old church ruins on it and south of Van is an old castle called Hosap Castle . We were getting pretty burned out on old Armenian/Georgian churches, but this was a new twist. We first headed south and visited the old castle. Actually not real old, something like six hundred fifty years, but well worth a visit. Quite well preserved and great setting. Spent several hours crawling through and over it.
There are tour boats that will haul you out for a look see to Akdamar. On this boat trip we ran into an Armenia guy, who lived in Syria , he gave us some history lessons. At one time this island was the headquarters of the Armenian Church, kind of like Rome is to the Catholics. He said there were more than a million Armenians living in the area then. They were ethnic cleansed outa there, in the 1916 time frame and this is what the Armenia/Turkey thing is all about, to this day. There are very few Armenians around now. Supposedly something like 1.6 million were killed, depending on whose number you wanta believe.
As we were about to leave our parking place, in front of the restaurant across the highway, a guy yells out “Do you want to camp here?” Thinking there might be an economic incentive here, I ask how much? He says “No Charge”. We could do business. After checking to make sure there was a level spot I moved the Flyer to a nice place behind the restaurant. The King of Low Budget Camping had struck again. Just some more really nice Turks wanting to be friendly. After I moved the van, I noticed a motorcycle guy camped there also. Turned out to be from Holland . Really nice guy with good English. He had some great travel stories so we talked and talked. Had traveled through Morocco , among other places. Ended up staying the next day too. There was water available, and clean johns for that matter, so this seemed like a good time to do my laundry. Restaurant guy kept bringing us tea. What nice folks.
Restaurant Guy had some pretty good English too, so we also got to talking. Turns out he had a girlfriend in Bullhead City , of all places. I mentioned I had a long time friends who lived there. He gets on his cell phone and calls her. After talking to her for awhile, she said Oehler, one of the friends, was her lawyer. Figure that? Later I got to calculating the time zone clock changes, and figured he had called here at four in the morning. Apparently an UNDERSTANDING girlfriend as you wouldn’t have figured that when I was talking to her.
Heading along the lake from Akdamar, where the former Armenian Island and camp spot was, we came to the town of Tatvan . While I was hitting an ATM there was a big demonstration of some sort that marched past the ATM. There was a gas station up the street that had a cheap price on it, so I figured I’d walk back and check it out. Turkish gas stations sometime post one price but when you stop there is another on the pump. You guessed it, it ain’t cheaper. On the way to the station we walked past where this demonstration had headed to, and Marisol says she was going over an get some pics. I told her this was a bad bad idea as she had no idea what the demonstration was about and there were close to a hundred police about, so this didn’t look good. Not to mention this was PKK/Kurdish country so more than likely this was a PKK demonstration. As always she ignored what I had to say and heads through the fence. .Said she’d meet me back at the fence.
I continued on to the gas station and of course the price posted was bogus. Got back to the fence and no Marisol. As my walk was longer than her walk and it doesn’t talk long to snap a few photos, I headed back to the Flyer to read my book. On the way I run into Marisol who wanted her passport, which the police wanted if she wanted to attend the rally. She said she’d be back in ten minutes. I go back to the van and maybe a half-hour goes by. Then some kids discover the van and start asking for money. Then they start yelling for money. Then they start pounding on the van and yelling for money. Started the van and moved to a new spot, but couldn’t leave, because of Marisol, although I seriously considered this after remembering some scenes I had seen on Turkish TV a few days earlier of burning cars. It took awhile, after moving, before the kids again found the van. Kept telling the kids to get money from their father. I wasn’t their father. Finally after an hour Mariosl shows up. I was of course pissed. Really really dangerous, in my opinion. Both for the equipment and my safety and hers. Really stupid stupid thing to do.
From here we headed toward a town called Hassankeyf. It was talked of highly by the Book of Guide. On the way there we saw Batman. Not much there though. Asked some locals how to find Robin, it drew a blank. (You think I’m kidding check a map). Hassankeyf is another really nice place and who do we meet up with, but the Dutch guy again. More yucks and free camping right along the river with again, water and a john. King of Low Budget Camping strikes again. We stayed two days but could have easily spent more. Figured it would be best to move along to Nemrut Dagi, which is up on a mountain top, before the weather changed and we couldn’t get there because of snow or such. Elbrus and Dombay came to mind. Hassankeyf was on the tourıst traıl, so much ın fact, that I actually met an Amerıcan. Saıd he was from New York. Nemrut is mentioned as being a top, must see, in Turkey . It was pretty good. For some reason they kept mentioned you should see it at sunrise or sunset. Some king or another, in the ancient past, had talked his subjects into erecting these big statues on the top of this mountain. There are some on the east side and west side, just at the top. Then they hauled a giant amount of rock and piled it on top of the mountain. You can see this for miles around, the rock pile that is, not the statues. King of Low Budget Camping drove up to the top and camped on a flat area, to be there at sun up. It was ok to be there then, but not that much better than any other time, in my opinion. Statue heads had been knocked onto the ground by earthquakes, over the many years, but it’s really worth the trip, in my opinion. Very unique.
Headed from Dagi to Goreme, which is part of an area called Cappadocia . Odd rocks like at Moab only different. Lots of these upside down funnel things. Many had been hollowed out so people could live in them. Other places where caves had been excavated into the rock and made into churches. I was told they used them until 1924. There was then a Greek/Turkey people exchange. Greeks who lived in the caves went back to Greece and Turks living in Greece went back to Turkey . Can’t say I understand this as the caves had supposable been used for like eight hundred years. Why would Greeks that used them that long suddenly want to move to Greece ? And visa versa?
E Piss L’s
While touring one of the many ancient rock cave churches, which BTW I was getting pretty burned out on, it was apparent from the odor in one of the back rooms where the E Piss L’s must have been written. On the way to Ihlara Valley which was reputed to be reasonably scenic and have some hiking and have some more stinking cave churches, which I was getting burned out on, there was supposed to be the largest Caravanserais. These are old Caravan Route Roadhouses. Figured why not stop and see the biggest?
Had this splitting headache and was reasonably tired after doing a fair amount of KTMing, earlier in the day around Goreme, so figured I’d get to bed early and that should solve it. Seemed like I was running a fever so wasn’t looking and feeling my best. Usually a good nights sleep gets me past those kinds of things. Next morning I take my temp and get 102, looked like this wasn’t working then I notice a big padlock on the Caravan place, that looked like it hadn’t opened for a long long while, then I go over to the john across the road, to do you know what, found it all torn up, then walking back to the Flyer and noticed one of the front shocks had broken the lower shock mount and was hanging down. Might say this was shaping up to not be one of my better days. Hey, it’s an adventure. Eventually the headache turned into the Kah Kahs. Never did figure out if it was something I ate or a virus I caught from one of the many International Tourists coming in by the busload to Goreme, Swine Flu came to mind. Still haven’t shook the Kah Kahs but finally after five days feel a little better than Road Kill. Couldn’t do all the hiking Ilhara Valley had to offer, because of my afflictions, but still it was pretty good. In good health I’d had done maybe twice what we did. Scenic place.
There are many many underground cities in the area. They carved these suckers outa the rock. One near Derinkuyu was mentioned to be the biggest. Figured touring a bunch of them could get a little repetitive so the biggest would do. On the way there, there was a sign for another that said IT was the biggest. After seeing both, they lie. Again one of those things you gotta see to believe. Have to get your timing right. It was low season and still a busload of Japanese hit just after us and things loaded up quick. Japanese cameras going Crick Crick everywhere (Keep in mind what you paid for this). Can’t imagine what high season would be like. It’s supposedly eight stories deep and seemed every bit that. The carvers must have been short suckers as you had to walk bent over allot. Not the easiest way to climb eight flights of stairs. Got a few new lumps on my head now.
Then it was to the Med Coast and Roman Ruins. Marisol lumps them in with all the other oldy building stuff. Oldy is Oldy to her. What’s a thousand years more anyway? Hit the coast west of Adana for those following on a map. Nice drive down to there BTW. Didn’t stop to see anything in particular but the mountain scenery was really good. Presently in Tasucu, a tranquilo beach port town. Keep heading west along the Med Coast from here. More oldy Roman stuff to see along the way, don’t tell Marisol, I don’t want to hear about it. Suppose it could get repetitive too. Saw some really neat base relieves north of Kizkalesi and the old fort on an island two hundred meters from the same town. Won’t bore you with a list of all the stops but these were especially good. The Turkish yehoo we got to yucking it up with in Kizkalesi was fun too. Kinda reminded me of Rocky, if you know him, you get the picture. ( an idiot )
So far everywhere in Turkey I’ve been, on a major road, there’s a massive road improvement project going on, widening the suckers out to six lanes. One separator blank down the middle and two on either side with a big shoulder besides. Moving massive amounts of rock and then asphalting them. Been told by several pretty credible sources that the EU is paying for this. Nobody can tell me why though? Why would the EU, which Turkey is not a member of and who is being kept out by some in the EU would pay for Turkey’s roads? Turkey who has pretty good roads and, as mentioned, moving massive amounts of the earth to make them even better has hardly any traffic and Russia, who has massive traffic, has no roads. Gas taxes in Turkey have to be around $6.50 a gallon, the worst I’ve run across anywhere has the EU, assuming this is true, paying for it’s roads.
I assume the Christians who were living in the caves were hiding from the Muslims, who they hoped wouldn’t be able to find them to come over for dinner and now the Muslims are making big bucks from the ruins they left behind. Only people we’ve had trouble with in Turkey are some of the kids. Little monsters maybe ten and younger. Never with any of the older ones. Makes me wonder if the next generation is going to be as nice as the last? Were the older ones today like these little monsters now but turned out fine? Nowhere near all of course but some.
Can’t do justice, with words, how nice the Turks are. Smile and wave. When we stop they come over and want to talk. Hardly ever with an economic incentive. More of that in the more touristy places but still not bad at all. Just really really nice folks. Tourism hasn’t seemed to spoil them at all, like some places I’ve been. Hope it stays this way. Really refreshing.
Till next time,