A few days ago, we passed through the Posof border crossing and headed toward Tbilisi, Georgia. After an inspiring five weeks travelling all over Turkey we left via the east, an area less frequented by tourism, and renowned for the hospitality of the Kurdish people. There are some incredible things to experience in this part of the world. Here are six of them:
1. Sunrise (and sunset) at Mt Nemrut
Giant stone heads toppled over on top of a mountain is always going to be an impressive sight - seeing them as the sun goes up (or down) is breathtaking. They mightn't be as big as you think, but the fact they're even up here is as incredible as the views over the surrounding valleys.
2. Hosap Castle
A short dolmus (minibus) ride down the highway (which is an adventure in itself) lies the remains of a mud-brick fortification currently being excavated and renovated. It will surely change a lot in the next years, but climbing up a nearby hill to eat lunch and admire the rolling ochre landscape is still one of the best ways to spend an afternoon. Van Castle also deserves a mention - not only for its dramatic setting, but for the ruins of the old city of which modern-day Van has happily moved on from.
3. The hospitality of the Kurdish people
We were literally adopted for a day as we visited Akhamar, an Armenian castle situated on a tiny island on Lake Van. Sharing a picnic, chatting when we could be understood and waving our hands when we couldn't, the people of this region are some of the warmest we've come across.
4. The ruins of Ani
The former Armenian capital was levelled by an earthquake in 1319 and effectively abandoned, after centuries of ownership by practically anyone who tried. Its history along the Silk Road is a bloody one, and today is a stark reminder of how tense the political situation was - and still is - in this part of the world.
5. Ishak Pasha Palace
If there ever was a frontier town, Dogubeyazit is surely it. There's no point investing in a border-towns infrastructure when its changed hands this many times. But under the watchful eye of the enigmatic Mt Ararat lies a palace with the most jaw-dropping setting. Sunset here is bucket-list territory. Just don't take photos of the gigantic military base in the way back into town. There are a LOT of tanks just ready to go...
6. Malatya, the Apricot Capital of the World
Where a kilogram of fresh apricots costs 4 lira, Malatya is a surprisingly clean, modern and welcoming city. After escaping the market where sellers kept giving us apricots for free (literally putting them in our bags as we were walking away), sharing these out the front of the Mosque at sunset and chatting/gesticulating/using google translate with moustache'd old men was unforgettable.
It's what we call The Apricot Experience.
In the future, you'll more fondly remember sharing apricots with strangers, than the big sights you came to see.
Eastern Turkey may be far off from tourist itineraries, and that's probably what has kept the region so special. Hopefully peace prevails in the region so people who do visit can be richly rewarded by all it has to offer.
It’s funny how you look at a guidebook and it’ll mention the one thing to do in a town. In the case of Bergama, it’s to visit Pergamon, an ancient Greek city with a tumultuous history dating back to at least 300 BC. This isn’t a 'pile of old rocks’ - it’s compact, easy to visualise, has the impressive Temple of Trajan, a jaw-dropping theatre, and makes for an unforgettable highlight of any Anatolian itinerary.
The town of Bergama has more than this though - a 500-year old Hamam, bazaar, and a Basilica which was one of six addressed in the Book of Revelation. It was even the home of Galen - a hugely influential medical professor circa 200AD. But, strangely, it’s the small residential area in the north of Bergama, at the foot of the Acropolis which inspired the creation of this article.
Click the headline or 'read more' to hear all about it...
EMMA & PETE
We're just two Aussie's who met in London, married in Prague and travelled overland back to Australia.