Many years ago, we traveled the breadth of Turkey from Izmir on the west coast to Hakkari close to the Iranian and Iraqi borders and back. I imagine that many of the places are quite different today, and I hope my memory of the trip has not failed me.
We landed in Izmir and proceeded directly to the house of our dear friend, Ali, who had taught at the same university as I in Korea and lived in the same apartment complex. I remember him barbecuing fish on his balcony in the dead of Korea’s freezing winter, but he couldn’t resist the great variety of fish available in the markets there.
We spent a couple of days reminiscing about our time in Korea while he prepared great food. His house was on the coast, so of course spent the days swimming and relaxing in the sun.
Next big stop was in Pamukkale where there are thermal springs in basins surrounded by stalactites. The 36° C water were already considered by the Romans to be good against rheumatism and arthritis. The Roman spa Hierapolis was founded approx. 190 B.C.
Roman Amphitheater in Hierapolis
Next stop was Egirdir at the edge of Lake Egirdir and with a lively market. It was a good spot to break up the long distances and swim in the lake. Hizi Bey Camii was built as a Seljik warehouse in the 13th century, but then turned into a mosque in the following century.
In Konya, we visited the Mevlana Museum, home of the whirling Dervishes. Their main task was to bring Islam closer to the Christian inhabitants of Anatolian. Mevlana was a Persian Sufi mystic who preached tolerance and forgiveness.
Next stop Göreme with its fairy chimney landscape. People carved homes, churches (approx. 3,000 churches) and even underground cities there.
Getting around was not also easy, but hitching with a small child often got us rides quickly.
The mandatory vehicle breakdown:
Nemut Dagi at an altitude of 2,200 meters, which dates back to the 1st century B.C. We left early in the morning to be there for sunrise. Cult-like stone figures represent various gods such as Zeus and Apollo. Erik von Däniken wrote that the terraces were landing sites for aliens from outer space; however, there were apparently no scheduled flights on the day we were there.
Lake Van, largest lake in Turkey, fed by numerous small rivers, but with no outlets, so only loses water due to evaporation. Consequently, water has a high potassium and sodium content and feels soapy to the touch. You can wash clothes without soap in it, but better not to go in with an open wound, because it burns.
Akdamar Kiliisesi is an Armenian church on a small island in Lake Van. It was built in the 10th century. Its walls are covered with extensive carvings, the significance of which is controversial: Islamic, Turkish, Armenian, Sassinian, etc.?
In Hakkari, we met two Germans traveling in a huge all-wheel drive truck. Together with them, with hired a local guide to take us into the mountains. The guide told us that there was fighting in one area between Kurds and the Turkish army and directed us in a different direction. We arrived at tent encampments of sheepherders at approx. 3,000 meters, who were quite surprised to see foreigners there. Mechtild walked a bit away from the tents at one point, and our guide quickly ran to her and told her to come back, that it was dangerous for a woman alone.
Sheep’s cheese and yogurt with home-baked bread: delicious!
On to Dyarbakir, which had not yet suffered the destruction of fighting that was to come a few years later.
Friendly kids like everywhere in the world:
On to Urfa and traditional “beehive” Urfa houses.
In Adana, an American couple practically threatened me, since they did not believe that I was a simple tourist. They said they knew people high up in the American government and would have them check what I was doing there.
Locals in Adana
Last stop at a place next to the Mediterranean and a nice beach. There was a great barbecue and lots of music and dancing in the evening. My daughter could not resist joining in the fun, and got up on a table to dance.
The obligatory sunset photo at the end of the trip.