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Return to Turkey 2009 -- George Park (T-1)

George Park on top of Nemrut Dağı

Well I finally made it to the top of Nemrut Dağı over 40 years after the first attempt!  Meredith and I joined a tour (about 22 people) going from Cappadocia --about a 11 hour bus ride--and stayed overnight at a one star hotel about 11 K from the top.   We drove up the rest of the way to top before sunrise and after about a 15 to 20 minute hike up the stone path made it to the top.  We were lucky on the weather.  The day before we ran into extremely heavy rain near Adiyaman, but fortunately it cleared overnight and the sunrise was quite spectacular.  

Sunrise from Nemrut Dağı

Meredith Park on Nemrut Dağı

Even Meredith who doesn't often see the sunrise thought getting up early was worth it.  But it was extremely cold.   Fortunately we stayed only about an hour on the top before heading back to the hotel for breakfast and then on to visit the old Roman bridge (you remember the one we crossed on the way to Eski Kahta) and then on to see the Atatürk Dam.  

Roman Bridge near Eski Kahta

The dam is apparently the 6th largest in the world.   From there we went to Sanliurfa for lunch and then still with the tour to Harran to see the beehive houses.  After that the tour dropped us at our hotel in Urfa and we were on our own for the rest of our eastern Turkey visit.   We hired a car in Urfa and drove to Diyarbakir for a night, then to Mardin for 2 nights and then back to Urfa before flying back to Istanbul.  

Diyarbakir was interesting especially the extensive city walls, but not our favorite place.   I think it has been off the tourist map for too long so we attracted quite a bit of attention, especially from young boys who all carried plastic guns and quite liked saying hello while pointing the guns at us and yelling 'money, money, money!   

Mardin and--especialy--Urfa are more used to tourists.   Urfa of course is one of the major holy places in Islam because of the connection with Ibrahim so gets lots of visitors from within Turkey and from other parts of the Muslim world.   My favorite city was Urfa with its spectacular castle, although Mardin also has some very interesting mosques and medresses as well as a monastery outside of town.   We saw one of the Syrian Orthodox Churches in Mardin which still holds Sunday services and we were told with 300 to 400 in the congregation.     

Before going east our first week in Turkey was spent revisiting Istanbul and Cappadocia as the friends we were joining up with had not seen these places before. Meredith took the balloon ride over Cappadocia which she said was absolutely wonderful (it was part of her birthday present) even though it involved getting up early for another sunrise.   We were in Istanbul towards the end of Ramazan which was quite something, especially to walk though the parks around the Sultan Ahmet Mosque which were filled with people waiting to break the fast.   It was a huge party, with free food and entertainment.    

I won't bore you with more details of the trip but it went very well.  And my Turkish came back fairly well which was good and certainly useful, especially in eastern Turkey.   
                                                                                       --- George Park


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