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Jacqui’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 21 Jun 2007

Location: Mt Nemrut, Turkey

MapOur 3 day tour to Mt Nemrut and eastern Turkey was something we had really been looking forward to, andit didn’t dissapoinnt, it was definitely one of our highlights on the trip.
Our first day was a big driving day to get to Mt Nemrut. It was great to see the landscapes and lifestyles changing the further east we got. It was a much more traditional, rural and Arabic lifestyle than in the west of turkey. The main tourists out this way are Turkish or Arabic tourists, so it almost felt like we were the only western people around. We had an awesome Turkish guide who went out of his way to make our trip special and here were only fou of us on the tour so it was like a private tour.
The highlight of the first day was going to Turkeys best icecream factory. Turkish ice cream is weird anyway, its like elasctic, doesn’t melt and needs to be chewed. But this ice cream was defiitly the best we had tried in turkey. Its made out of goats milk (whit goats only, not black ones, not sure what the difference is!) but apart from that t is a secret recipe. It was really funny to eat ice cream with a nife and fork, but that is what we did!
We stayed in a really nice hotel up in the mountains, close to Mt Nemrut that had beautiful views (especially of a lightning storm!), and that had cherry trees that our guide made a girl climb to pick some for us!
The net morning we were up at 3:30am to make it to M Nemrut for sunrise, unfortunately there was a a lot of cloud around so the sunrise was not very spectacular (very dissapoointing after a climb up a mountain). Mt Nemrut is famous or its huge stone funerary statues on top of a mountain. Some of the bodies are still standing, but all of the heads are on the ground at their feet. WE had pictured these massive heads in the dessert but they weren’t anywhere near as big as we expected. The staues were of gods including Apollo, Zeus and Hercules and of King Antioch who appeared to havedelusions of grandeur and thought he was a god as well. It ws interesting that the last 50 mts of themountain was all man made, he created a perfect top for his statues to sit on.
Throughout the morning we saw some more ruins, a roman bridge (still standing and until recently open to traffic!), and Antiochs tomb. We also got to paddle (it was freezing so a swim wasn’t happening) in the Euphrates River which was very cool…. we really were in the cradle of civilization! Had a look at the Attaturk dam, I think it is the third largest in the world. It was very impressive, but also sad to see the damage it has done to the landscape and to hear about the ancient sites that were submerged.
That afternoon we finally made it to Urfa and amazing ancient city that is a very holy site. It is the biblical Ur which was the birthplace of Abraham(Ibrahim) who eatures in Christianity and in Islam. It was amazing to visit, there was so much history there, it almost felt like you had stepped back in time. It is a holy city so it was very traiditional,we had to cover up quite a lot here, especially when we went into the mosques, they would give you these big dressing gown things that you had to wear. One of the mosques was built into the cave where Abraham was said to have lived in hiding for seven years. When you go inside its like a grotto as you actually go into the cave and the walls are all original. We were only allowed to go into the womens section and wegot scared at so much we didn’t stay long, but you could feel the history in there. The whole city definitely had atmosphere. It was a beautiful city with lots of parks and running water, and bit moat with lots of sacred carp.
Our guide took us through the bazaar, which was really interesting because he could tell us what all the weird things on sale were (plus he could help us bargain which was nice!). We stopped for tea in a big open air café where men and boys sit and play backgammon, we were the only girls in the place so we got looked at quite a lot!
We vsited Harran a small town on the outskirts of Urfa. It is famous for its beehive houses, Strange conical shaped buildings that are stil being ived intoday. Its one of the oldest continuall inhabited places on earth. We visited one that was all set up to show how people lived in them. With all the cushions and carpets inside it was really cozy, and very cool despite the heat. We did the touristy thing of getting dressed up and posing for photos. Our guide was the sultan and we were his harem (including Brett a hilarious Californian). From Harran you could just see Syria which was about 12kms away.
We stayed the night in a luxuary hotel…. with a proper shower! We were in heaven after the dorms we had been in for weeks! Our guide took us back into the old city of Urfa once th sun had set to see all the mosques lit up. It was such an awesome city hat I didn’t want to leave.
The next day was pretty muc a driving day o get us back to Cappadoccia, butwe did make aside tripto Gaziantep to see a mosaics museum. These were the most beautiful mosaics I have ever seen and spent the whol hour in awe with my chin on he floor. They were all from the important roman town of Belkis-Zeguma and were excavated in a rush just as the waters were rising after the creation of Attaturk dam. It is heartbreaking to know that there were other parts of this site that could not be salvaged in time. The mosaics theselves wee amazingly intact and of such a hig qualiy. They were of stories from mythology, animals, flowers, weddings, just about everything.
We also stopped in on the way home at Birreck a small town that has the only known surviing population of Eastern Bald Ibis’s. These birds were wiped out by DDT spraying in the 50’s and only about 40 remained. They have set up a breeding centre and now there are about 100. I found it really sad to see what may be the last of these birds. Liz hates birds so she wasn’t touched at all!
After a very long day of driving back to Cappadoccia we ad to turn around and get on a night bus to get back to Istanbul, so that was almost 24hrs on a bus…. Fun!