Ankara Journals

Driving Eastern Turkey Part 1: Ankara - Van

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An April 2005 trip to Ankara by HobWahid

Hasankeyf Photo, Ankara, Turkey More Photos
Quote: Sadly, most tourists in Turkey don't get farther east than Cappadocia, but for those with a sense of adventure, Eastern Turkey will reward with some of Turkey's most spectacular monuments and wonderful hidden gems. Renting a car is the perfect way to discover just what the East has to offer

Hasankeyf

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Attraction | "Hasankeyf: Cave-Houses and the Tigris"

Hasankeyf Photo, Ankara, Turkey
Quote:
Of all the places to visit in Southeastern Turkey, the tiny village of Hasankeyf, might just be the oddest. The village, once the capital of the brief Artuklu kindom (1102-1232), found great prominence due to its location along major trade routes and on the banks of Tigris River. During its heyday, Hasankeyf had a large fortress built upon a tower of rock overlooking the river, a stone arched bridge that spanned the with of the Tigris at over 100 meters as well as numerous palaces, mansions, and mosques with minarets that reached to the sky, but its fortunes slowly started to decline and now the tiny village is almost an open air monument to a brief period of glory.Set on the banks ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 8, 2005

Hasankeyf
Near Batman
Ankara, Turkey

Van: The Urartian Capital

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Attraction

Van: The Urartian Capital Photo, Ankara, Turkey
Quote:
Van, the ancient Urartian capital of Tushpa, the heart of the ancestral Armenian homeland, and home to the spectacular Van cats (Van kedileri) is a city, nestled in a lush and fertile plain between snow-capped mountains and the majestic Lake Van, is a city that has long attracted the admiration of visitors, and unfortunately, conquerors. Sadly, the most recent of these conquerors, the Russians completely leveled the city in World War I leaving nothing but piles of rocks that used to be churches, mosques and houses.Today the city of Van is a banal modern city, rebuilt after the war on a simple grid plan just to the northwest of the old city. The city itself is uninspiring, but that d...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 8, 2005

Van: The Urartian Capital
Tushpa
Ankara, Turkey

Harran: Biblical History

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Attraction

Harran Photo, Harran, Turkey
Quote:
Driving south from Urfa, the landscape slowly gives away to the Mesopotamian plain. What was once a brown, dry, relatively infertile land is slowly being changed as a part of Turkey’s ambitious Güneydogu Anadolu Projesi, or GAP, the Southeastern Anatolian Project. The project consists of a series of dams on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers designed to create artificial lakes that will be used to create millions of hectares of arable land. The project, which is drawing concern from environmentalists and the ire of Turkey’s southern neighbors, Syria and Iraq, has so far been a great success for the residents of southeastern Turkey. The area, mostly with disenfranchised Arabs and Kurds, has long be...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 8, 2005

Akdamar: Turkey's Crown Jewel

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Story/Tip

Akdamar Photo, Ankara, Turkey
Quote:
If a gigantic earthquake were to hit Turkey and Ephesus, the Haghia Sophia, and Blue Mosque were to all come crumbling down, I would hardly shed a tear. But if the island of Akdamar were to somehow sink into the icy waters of Lake Van and disappear forever, I would launch into a hysterical fit of mourning not seen since the mythical days of Dido. Without a doubt, in a way I cannot even possibly hope to describe on paper, Akdamar Island in the waters of Lake Van, is my favorite place in all of Turkey, and one of the most sublimely beautiful locations I have ever beheld. Standing there on its rocky shores, beneath the blossoming cherry trees, staring out over the cobalt waters of Lake Van, it isn’t h...Read More

Diyarbakir: The Kurdish Capital

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Story/Tip

Diyarbakir Photo, Ankara, Turkey
Quote:
Most people, if they know anything of Diyarbakir, only know of it as the center of Kurdish Turkey and the home to the bitterest fighting during the Kurdish separatist movement. However, if you come to Diyarbakir expecting to see bullet-ridden houses left in shambles by a mortar shell, be prepared for a shock. This is partly the image I had as neared the outskirts of the city on the road from Urfa. The media was partly to blame, but so were the Turks, many of whom, when I would tell them of my aspirations to visit Diyarbakir, would fill me with visions of a war-damaged cesspool. Imagine my surprise when, upon entering the city, I was greeted with a brand new sparkling mega mall and a Burger King....Read More

Urfa: City of Prophets

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Story/Tip

Abraham Mosque Photo, Ankara, Turkey
Quote:
The city of Urfa, or Sanliurfa as it is known today (the term Sanli, which means "heroic" in Turkish, was added to commemorate the heroism of its citizens in the War of Independence) is perhaps the most fascinating and historic of all the cities in southeastern Turkey. The city, deep in the heart of Turkey’s Arab south, is one that without a doubt feels like it belongs more in neighboring Syria than Turkey, and for good reason. Urfa has long been a major city in the region, one whose days as an important trade center is still reflected in the cities thriving bazaar, a veritable maze of streets, mosques, and shops almost the equivalent of nearby Aleppo. Its citizens are mostly of Arab descent, a...Read More
Mt. Nemrut Photo, Ankara, Turkey
Quote:
When it comes to historical landmarks, Turkey is hard to beat. Ephesus, Haghia Sophia, Cappadoccia, Pergamum, Topkapi I would gladly trade all of them for Nemrut Dag. You can see Roman ruins all over the Mediterranean, you can see as impressive mosques and churches elsewhere, and the world is full of palaces greater than Topkapi, but there is only one Nemrut Dag.Hidden deep in the mountains of southeastern Turkey, Nemrut Dag (Mt. Nemrut) is one of the most uniquely spectacular sights I have seen in all my travels and if you have heard anything about it before hand, you surely have one picture burned into your mind, gigantic stone heads. These stone heads, carved by Kommagenian worshippers ...Read More

Kayseri - Malatya: The Anatolian Steppe

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Story/Tip

Kids Photo, Ankara, Turkey
Quote:
The drive from Kayseri to Malatya may just be one of my favorite drives in all of Turkey. The road is a long and straight two lane highway that rolls along the Anatolian steppe surrounded by towering snow-capped mountains to the south and north. As you head East, the dry, brown, extraterrestrial landscape of Cappadoccia gives way to tolling hills dusted with specks of green grass and herds of grazing sheep. In Medieval times this was an important trade route connecting Eastern Turkey and Persia with the ports and cities of Western Anatolia and all along the road, old caravansaray’s, (some crumbling, some still in visitable shape) mark the points along the road where traders bunked for the night....Read More

Kayseri: As Turkish As It Gets

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Story/Tip

Kayseri Photo, Ankara, Turkey
Quote:
As you drive east out of Cappadoccia, make sure to wave to the tour buses as they pass by, as this is the last you will see of them for a long time. Cappadoccia marks the Eastern frontier of tourist-market Turkey, a borderland between the tourist-oriented destinations of western Turkey and the tourist-neglected area of eastern Turkey. From now on, don’t expect fancy hotels or package tours offering to show you "traditional Turkish life," because you are about to enter it. To Turks, the Anatolian heartland, the area east of Ankara, is the home to the real Turks, the ones who fought for independence in 1921, the ones who still herd their sheep, work the land, and value family and blood above all else. T...Read More

The Underground Cities of Cappadocia

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Story/Tip

cappadocia Photo, Cappadocia, Turkey
Quote:
Leaving Ankara and passing by the muddy shores of Tuz Gölü (Salt Lake), the first sight of major interest that you will stumble upon the venerable Cappadoccia (Kapadokya), the mythical "land of the horses." High up on the Anatolian Plateau, the barren hills of Cappadoccia seem like something more out of a fantasy novel than a prime tourist destination, but it is one of Turkey’s more spectacular and visited sights. It is a land full of mysterious rock formations and underground cities used by medieval Byzantines as safe havens during times of attack. A land full of UNESCO Heritage sights, in Cappadoccia, you will undoubtedly delight as you wend your way through underground castles, admire the ra...Read More

Turkish Speed Traps

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Quote:
It was just the second day of the road trip, and I was finally getting over my initial nervousness and fears of driving in Turkey. I had driven in numerous Middle Eastern countries, from Syria to Morocco to the UAE, and thus I considered myself rather well equipped to handle the intricacies of driving in Turkey. We had just left Kayseri and were cruising along, with all the might that our Ford Fiesta could muster, towards the city of Malatya. The road was flat and in good shape, so I cruised along at a cool 110 kph while the Anatolian steppe whizzed by. Then I came over a hill and immediately noticed a car sitting at the bottom with a man standing next to it. It was a police car. I pressed on the brak...Read More

Turkey's Culinary Capital

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Story/Tip

Quote:
The food of southeastern Turkey is celebrated all over Turkey as the pinnacle of Turkish cuisine. It is known for its generous use of flavorful spices, especially the dried red pepper (kirmizi biber) that gives southeastern food its trademark kick. Istanbul Turks are notorious wimps when it comes to heat, and many of them will whine about how hot the dishes from the southeast are, and while they certainly pack a punch, don’t expect the heat levels you will find in northern India, Sichuan, or Thailand. Still, though, the food is one of the highlights of traveling in the southeast, as it draws on culinary trends from northern Syria and the local Kurdish and Armenian traditions. This is also Turke...Read More