Expedition to Turkey
Expedition to Turkey
An introduction to my trip around Turkey, which is mistakenly seen only through the prism of Istanbul and the beaches on the south coast. I started my trip in Istanbul, but I focused my trip on East Turkey, which is informally called the Turkish Kurdistan.
I’ve been traveling around Turkey for a couple of weeks and although I spent 3 days in Istanbul, I’m not planning my trip in the Turkish Turkey but in the land of the Kurds, in the south-east of the country. It was nice to once again return to Asia, to see the monuments of the former Constantinople, go for a trip in the Bosphorus and once again go to the Grand Bazaar where I could feel the culture of Turkey. The bazaar is always the best way to interact with people, both with the Turks and with the huge Syrian diaspora.
I am writing about this because it is important for my readers to know that the monuments of Istanbul such as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace are the sights located on the worn-out trail of every visit to this city, but only contact with people truly allows to get to know the nature of the country. When I was admiring turkish carpets and colourful lanterns and when I had tea and bakhlava I felt what people thought of Turkey, the war in Syria and the Arab immigration to Turkey, which even Arabs call ‘crazy’.
The Turkish Kurdistan
After Istanbul I started my journey around the unofficial Turkish Kurdistan, and as my base I chose the city of Van by the lake Van. It was clear that the locals were not accustomed to the sight of a foreign tourist but in my opinion it only added a big plus to the meaning of my adventure. Van was my base for a long time because I organized trips from there and then rested after the hardships of trips. I think the best monument there is the Van castle, built on the mountain about 4km outside of the city and overlooking the lake and the ancient mosque. Also very popular are white Van cats which always have one blue eye.
On my first trip outside of Van I went to the Akdamar church built on an island on lake Van, which was once the centre of the Armenian culture. Apart from sightseeing I swam in the lake, I ate fresh fish and spent the night on the beach in my tent. I also took an effort to travel on a board of an old truck to Hosap Castle, also built on the mountain but by the Ottomans. The Hosap Castle rises above the village, while below lies a Kurdish village and interesting rock formations. People were always very curious about me.
I think however that the most valuable time in Turkish Kurdistan I spent in the Nemrut National Park where there is the second largest crater lake in the world at the altitude of 2247 above the sea level. I swam in a clean lake, I dived and enjoyed beautiful nature. Besides, I also spent time at a Kurdish picnic and with sheep shepherds in the mountains, with their dogs and donkeys. Being in Nemrut Park gave me the opportunity to experience the rural life in the Kurdish part of Turkey as I lived in a small Kurdish village.
On the way back I saw the tombs of the Seljuks in Ahlat dating from the 12th to the 15th centuries as well as the surrounding caves and rivers, and after the hardships of my expedition I rested in the town of Tatvan, which was my next convenient base by lake Van.
The Turkish-Kurdish conflict
After that I was on my way to Iraq, but unfortunately I was arrested in Batman by militarized police. In the south – eastern Turkey the police are paranoid about soldiers and spies of the PKK and other organizations favouring the Kurds. They were not able to get their heads around the fact that someone could come to eastern Turkey as a tourist, and even more so to Iraq. Anyway, after a few hours I reached a very attractive tourist spot on a river called Hasankeyf. Hasankeyf also has an ancient town on top of the mountain, it has caves, very suspicious people, nervous cops and beautiful landscapes. This is where Turkey wants to build a dam to flood the entire region, but I think that it is a dirty Turkish political game against the Kurds. Hasankeyf has also a turbulent history connected to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.
I think that in the next part of my trip I was followed because the supposedly casually met English speaking passengers. They asked me questions as if they knew me, or wanted to test my answers before letting me out of the country. There were numerous military police checkpoints and military bases in the desert, where I saw a lot of machine guns and armoured vehicles in strategic locations. There were a lot of questions and suspicions but I finally got to the sad city of Silopi, about 15km from the Iraqi border. I felt that I was in a war zone. The next day I got some Iraqi dinars and went to the border leaving Turkey behind.
On my way back from Iraq I’m going to the Kurdish centre in Turkey, to Diyarbakir, because it is cheaper to fly from there. But Diyarbakir is also known for propaganda of the unexpected brutal Kurdish revolt against the Turks, although I don’t want to think about it right now. For the time being I am in the Kurdish part of Iraq and I want to leave Iraq safely.