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Middle East » Turkey » Eastern Anatolia » Van
March 16th 2009
Published: March 15th 2009
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The Happy CoupleThe Happy CoupleThe Happy Couple

Recently married in Sydney, my brother and his wife celebrated their honeymoon in Greece and Turkey.
This journal from Van is dedicated to my brother and his new bride. Recently married in Sydney, they spent their honeymoon in Greece and Turkey and I’m now following in their footsteps. Despite my brother’s initial wish during the planning stage, they made a joint decision not to visit Van during their honeymoon. But never mind, cause your travel-obsessed family member has made it to this exotic destination guys! Van is situated in South Eastern Anatolia close to the border with Iran. I’ve been going great guns in Turkey since last sharing travel adventures with you, so let’s bring the journal up to date…

We left off in Kusadasi, dear reader, and it was time to head out for the second day touring the famous sights near the city. This time our guide had the job of informing a group of Japanese and myself, and it was good to be part of a team again after a solo tour yesterday. We stopped first at the famous ruins of Ephesus, which was an historically important city during Greco/Roman times. The library façade that features in so many postcards has been reconstructed, and it’s a magnificent structure. During ancient times it was
Library at EphesusLibrary at EphesusLibrary at Ephesus

This superb reconstruction was the third largest library in the ancient world.
the third largest library in the world, and we were lucky to arrive early as a cruise ship full of tourists completely overran the ruins by 11:00am. We continued on to the ruins at the Temple of Artemis, which was destroyed by arson, reconstructed and much later sacked and destroyed again by the Goths. There is practically nothing left aside from one reconstructed pillar and foundations. However, the temple was four times the size of the Parthenon, and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Our day concluded with the option of a trip to the museum, or the home of the Virgin Mary who is believed to have settled at Ephesus after travelling with St John following the death of Christ.

I took the bus east to Pamukkale to view the world famous cotton castle, and the ruins of the holy city at Hierapolis. I was met at the bus station by our guide, and joined an American girl for lunch before we headed off on the afternoon tour. The ruins of Hierapolis are spread over a vast area as the city had a population of 100,000 in ancient times, and it’s a fascinating sight to wander around. The amazing Travertine terraces are right on the edge of the ancient holy city, and still thrill visitors today as they did during ancient times. The calcium formations were not flowing at all when we visited, but it's still a unique place to visit. The glare is pretty intense so I’m glad to have been wearing sunglasses while happily snapping photos during the tour. The highlight was taking a path down the Travertines back to town at the conclusion of our tour.

Then I jumped on an overnight bus to Cappadocia where I was booked on a two-day tour. I was met at the terminal and taken to the Cappadocia Palace hotel to check in. After a quick shower to recharge the batteries, I headed off on a tour with a large group. Our team was ably led by a knowledgeable and charismatic local guide. The tour was one of the best I’ve experienced during my years of travel, and there's enough awe inspiring scenery in the north and south of Cappadocia to keep visitors gobsmacked for days. The lunar like terrain, fairy chimneys, rock caves and other extraordinary rock formations we experienced are like nothing I’ve seen before, and it’s difficult to capture the stark beauty of the terrain in photos or on video. However, we were all madly clicking away for the duration of the two-day tour. We also visited an underground city where the locals would retreat to safety when faced by external threats. The Hittites, who along with the Egyptians are the two oldest civilisations in the world, settled in the area around Cappadocia, and some of the traditions here stretch back thousands of years. I can’t remember a more enjoyable tour destination, and as a bonus I got to hang out with a cool Canadian guy on holidays from his job in the Libyan oil industry.

It’s all go go go at the mo, and the evening after finishing the Cappadocia tour I boarded a bus to Ankara. The capital of Turkey is a modern city of four million people, and it was good to overnight in the centrally located Spor hotel. The next day I took the airport bus to catch a flight to Van in South Eastern Anatolia. The city in the far east of Turkey is located on Lake Van, and surrounded by snow-capped mountains. On arrival I checked into the somewhat sketchy Otel Aslan, and entered my room to be assaulted by the smell. Oh well, I opened the windows so the brisk air could get rid of the mould or whatever. But then I recognised the problem ... there was a distinctive fragrance best described as eau de open sewer wafting out through the bathroom and the door wouldn't shut. I decided to forgo a shower and wedged the door shut using the towel provided, and quickly became a happy traveller again. After all, I’m in Van for goodness sakes, and it’s great to be here! I ventured out onto the main street to promenade with the locals, but would have fitted in a lot better with some company. Everyone walks with their hand nestled in the crook of the elbow of their partner while promenading, whether it's guy and guy, guy and girl, girl and girl, or even guy and guy and guy. They all partake in the local custom, and it’s great to be part of the experience.

I woke on the second day to heavy snow, and my busted shoes were no help strolling around. In fact I began to grumble
Cappadocia landscapeCappadocia landscapeCappadocia landscape

Magnificent scenery from atop a hill.
when confronted by increasingly wet socks. The persistent snow was quite dry and flaky, and the temperature was above freezing for a great day exploring, despite a little discomfort from my clapped out shoes. Unfortunately the Van Museum was closed even though the guidebook advised to the contrary, it may be due to the season. I always enjoy getting off the beaten track, and there is not a tourist to be seen or a word of English to be spoken for the most part here in Van ... just the way I like it! Anyway, I’m hoping the snow doesn't affect flight schedules for tomorrow, but I’m comfortably ensconced in my room and the smell from the bathroom has largely dissipated. As a matter of fact, basically all of you should be here now!


To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world." Freya Stark



As I continue my travels, until next time it’s signing off for now

Tom

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More scenery at CappadociaMore scenery at Cappadocia
More scenery at Cappadocia

A truly spectacular part of the world.
Park fountain in VanPark fountain in Van
Park fountain in Van

Heavy snow fell all day yesterday in the city.
The Travertine terraces, PamukkaleThe Travertine terraces, Pamukkale
The Travertine terraces, Pamukkale

A glorious sight in past years, when the water flowed and created swimming pools in the tiers.


16th March 2009

van
Tom, that's pretty hardcore to make it all the way out to Van, especially so early in the season. Well done.
16th March 2009

tesekkur ederim, Tom! Enjoying hearing your travels :)
17th March 2009

Van Truck or Bus
Vantastic story, hope your transport was in a nice van, & not vandalised, keep cool & van yourself, lol.
17th March 2009

Nice one Van Halen
I wasn't going to mention this in the blog cause it's too corny, but I was struck by a van in Van (although it is pronounced Wan in Turkish). I'm looking at incoming traffic and the guy doesn't see me in the snow and reverses into me with a bang. No harm done and all is well, but what van you do when a van strikes you in Van!

Tot: 0.225s; Tpl: 0.041s; cc: 14; qc: 24; dbt: 0.018s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb