Friday, February 11, 2011

Mt Nemrut to Harran

Thursday 6th May. Trip to Mt. Nemrut.

And so on to Mt Nemrut. We got up early for breakfast so we could check out and be ready for our nine o’clock pick up. Looking at my bulging suitcase, beside Hubbie’s neat little one, I realised he was right, I had brought too much stuff again. I had brought clothes for all eventualities, hot weather, cool evenings, clothes for scrambling around the hills and for evenings in the hotel. I had also allowed for the fact I might need clean clothes everyday. The Kelebek offered a laundry service at 15tl a bag instead of the pay per item that many hotels provide, making more of the contents of my suitcase redundant.

So, embarrassed by the size of my suitcase, but more concerned about the walk up Mt Nemrut, I limped up the the bus and met our guide Serkan. After introducing himself, he remarked I looked tired, so I explained about my fall, keeping the news about my dodgy arms to myself. After all, I didn’t want to start the trip looking like a total wuss. But I needed to check out the route up to Mt. Nemrut. After all, I hadn’t come all this way to watch the others have all the fun.

I asked Serkan what was the ascent like. He told me that it was quite difficult and the path was rough underfoot. İt was not looking good for me. My ankle was very swollen and several shades of purple, black and blue. However Serkan was quick to assure me he would get me there. He said that sometimes they had mules or donkeys for hire. With this, I relaxed to enjoy the trip, and who knows, maybe by the next morning my foot would be okay. I’m an eternal optimist.

Anamika and Sabya joined us in the minibus and we were ready for off. It was just the four of us and we were to pick up one more person on the way to Kayseri. She had just arrived on the morning flight from Istanbul.

Our mystery guest was an Australian girl Megan, from Adelaide. She had come from Istanbul, after volunteering for several months at an orphanage in Kenya. EAMO

Our first stop was at Karatay Han outside Kayseri. This han dates from the 13th century and stood at a junction of roads leading from Syria, Iraq, eastern Anatolia and Iran to Kayseri and Sivas. It is hard to imagine that the quiet village of today was once a teeming trade center. 

The inscription over the door reads:
"This building belongs to God, who is One, Eternal, and Everlasting, August and Magnificent Sultan, King of Kings, the Shadow of God on Earth, Keyhüsrev son of Keykubad, Commander of the faithful in the year 638".

Unfortunately the Muhtar who held the keys was not there and we could not get inside. We got a brief history of the building and a promise that perhaps it would be possible to get in on the return journey. Unfortunately for us, Sean and I were not coming back, as we had plans to continue eastward to Mardin.

Later, we stopped for tea and there were my beautiful snow covered mountains waiting for me again. Megan had never seen snowy mountains before, while they were the norm for Anamika and Sabya as they both live in Switzerland. We began to get to know each other over the tea as we exchanged basic facts about ourselves and the countries where we live.

We did a lot of driving, with just some brief stops. We were on our way to Adiyaman, about 600km from Goreme. We spent our time on the bus chatting and getting to know each other as the group was small. I took advantage of the small numbers and sat on a double seat on my own......probably a relief to Hubbie ......and propped my foot up.

Our next stop was in the Tekir Valley for lunch. Driving through the mountains was very beautiful and reminded me of alpıne valleys, the scenery is stunning. As we were warned, however, the lokanta where we stopped for lunch was far from pretty but made up for it with its tasty food.

I must say, the men have it all their own way. As I made my way out to the toilets, around the side of the building, I was followed and charged to use the “turkish” facilities. Paying has it’s advantages as it means the facilities are tended and clean. However , not only do the men not have to squat, they did not have to pay either!!

From here, it was on to Kahramanmaraş for some of their famous ice cream. The ice cream is made from milk and powder from the tubers of wild orchids. It is first mixed and then pounded to improve it’s elasticity. The ice-cream is hard and is served with a knife and fork. We had ours with chocolate sauce which immediately froze on top of it. The way my luck was running İ had visions of my ice cream skidding off my plate as İ tried to cut it. It was worth the effort, as it was delicious and İ managed not to disgrace myself on this occasion.

Back on the bus we set out for our fınal destination, Adiyaman. We checked in, our room was 301, on the third floor, Anamika and Sabya were in 310 on the fourth floor and Megan was in 402 on the ground floor  annex – strange numbering which left us slighty confused trying to find our rooms. Why is it when you can’t walk, everything is either up or downstairs and no lift!

Dinner was “tavuk saute” Chicken stirfry and it was spicy. Sean was doing a Christy Moore on it, the perspiration rolling down his face as he ate. We were told that the food in this region was spicy. In response to questioning we were told that yes, this was a less spicy version for the uninitiated." Serkan ordered some yoghurt for us to combat the heat of the spice  In spite of it’s heat the food was very tasty but I'm not sure I would want to have eaten the local version. 

Again we stayed and chatted over the meal. We were so lucky, there was varıety in age and accent but we all hit it off very well. And everyone was keen on photography... Oh happy days!!

We didn’t stay long as we had been warned that our wake up call was three o’clock – in the morning! İ must be some kind of masochist. This was supposed to be a holiday. We went to sleep early only to be woken by what seemed to be a tour group arrivıng at around 1 o’clock in the morning and the concept of being quiet was beyond them as they excitedly checked out each others rooms. They were probably having the same difficulty as we did locating them.

That was the end of sleep for me. I was glad when the wake up call came at three, up and at ‘em, definitely better than lying in the dark waiting for the time to pass. İ hoped the donkeys were in good form!!

Friday 7th May Mount Nemrut.

We set off at 03.30 and the bus seemed to career around bends İ couldn’t see. I was glad it was dark, as I have mentioned İ don’t do heights. Unfortunately, İ began to feel unwell. İ put it down to tiredness and the lack of sleep. Then the stomach cramps began. God, apart from having a pain in my foot, İ was beginning to be a real pain in the neck. We appeared to be far from civilisation. İ could probably cope with the indignity of stopping the bus to be sick but this had a more ominous feel to it.

İ had to hope if bus tours came here regularly, there was bound to be some kind of facilities. I was so glad when we arrived at a ticket booth, we'd arrived! Oops, not quite yet. On we went twisting and winding our way up the mountain as my guts twisted and knotted in tune.

My first question was not about the donkey but rather where are the facilities. İ made a bolt for the loo having managed to hide my predicament. İ was the only one there, so İ checked every booth. Sometimes you can be lucky and find a European loo, and sure enough, the last one was a ‘proper’ loo. Just one problem, the door was resting against the back wall. So back to the hole-in –the –ground. I will never give out about them again.

When I arrived back outside poor Hubbie was waiting for me, the others had gone on ahead to make it up in time for sunrise. My mule was also waiting for me along with his owner, to carry me up the hill. I climbed up on a wall and onto my mule. The poor beast, I felt sorry for him as he had to climb the very steep slope with me on his back. He left the path to follow a track and his owner had me by the arm to try and keep me steady. All I can say is let me go up in a balloon anyday. By now, having seen the path, I knew it was too uneven for me to walk back down again. That left only one alternative, the mule again.

We reached the top of the hill in time for sunrise. The whole point of torturing ourselves climbing up this mountain is to see the famous statues erected here around a burial mound by King Antiochus in 62B.C. The powers that be, decided the best time to do this is at sunrise! The statues are huge and impressive, but philistine that I am it was the valleys below that caught my eye. What a place to be buried. You were certainly half way to heaven and the views were to die for.

After listening to a history of the tumulus and statues, I kept myself amused taking photos of the statues, putting off the evil moment of going back down the mountain. However it was soon time to mount up.

This time there was no convenient wall to stand on, and the rock suggested wasn’t high enough. If I used my arms to lever myself up, it sent shock waves up my arms so I suffered the indignity of being more or less hoisted on board. To be honest this was the least of my worries.

We set off down the mountain. All I can say was that I was petrified. Actually, being turned to stone and left there would have been preferable. I’d rather have run up and down the mountain 10 ten times than go back down on that mule again. I had the constant feeling I was going out over the mule’s head. İ was a wonderful source of amusement to all around me. The man leading the mule....the four legged one...... was keeping a good grip on me and telling me not to be afraid. Every so often we had to stop as I kept slipping forward and he had to hoosh be back. I was holding on to ropes on the saddle, front and back, and now have skinned knuckles to add to my tales of woe!! Hubbie was keeping pace with us along the path and I noticed he was taking more photos of me and the mule than he had taken on the whole trip so far. Complete strangers were taking my photograph. I have nightmares of coming across my descent on YouTube some day. I was the entertainment for many that morning. 

Finally, my little wall appeared and I dismounted. The good leg was nearly as wobbly as the bad one but recovered quickly on contact with terra firma. But there was a wonderful sense of achievement and great smiles and support, among the wise cracks from the rest of the group.

From here we wove our way down the mountain and, fair dues to Ümit our driver, he negotiated the hairpin bends on the road safely and without sending me screaming for the nearest loo. There was quite a bit to be seen in the area. 
We stopped first at Arsemia, where we saw a carving showing a hand-shaking scene between King Mithradates and Hercules, carved in about 50 B.C. Also we saw the largest rock inscription in Anatolia. It tells of the political intentions and the religious beliefs of the Commagene Kingdom, that Arsameia was its capital and that Mithridates, the father of Antioches, was buried there.

We could also see the tumulus on Mt. Nemrut and another on a mountain opposite that, the tumulus for the royal women.

We also stopped to walk across the Roman bridge of Cendere, built in the 3rd century. Three of the original four columns are still standing. From here it was up again to visit the tumulus for the royal women of the Commegene kingdom.

view from the tumulus

We then returned to the hotel in Adiyaman. It was hard to believe it was only 09.30. It seemed like we had put in almost a full day and memories of the mule were fading rapidly. After checking out, we were back on the road and heading for the Ataturk Dam. It was a spectacular sight and again provided great photo opportunities for trigger happy tourists. We even recorded the group for posterity.

memorial to those who lost their lives while building the dam

We then headed for Şanlıurfa . Again to our amusement, in the hotel, Megan, the single member of the group had a double bed, Serkan had three beds in his single room and the two married couples had rooms with twin beds – what were they trying to tell us? But at least here there was a lift to save me hobbling up and down the stairs. After a half an hour to relax in the nice cool room we set out for lunch. It was absolutely delicious. Some had Urfa Kebabs and others pide. There was lots of sharing and tasting.

Then it was a walk through the Bazaar area to the Pool of the Sacred Fish. Here, it is reputed that Abraham was thrown into the fire by Nimrod, the fire changed to water and the sticks became fish. For this reason, this is now an area of pilgrimage for many religions.

It is situated in a beautiful park. In spite of the crowds, it has a very peaceful feel to it. We were approached on a number of occasions to stand into photos with people. It was quite funny, we were beginning to think we were celebrities – I didn’t think news of my exploits with the mule had travelled that quickly!

Again, I had the experience of speaking with some of the locals, I had quite a chat with one security guard, which ended with us being invited to drink tea. Unfortunately, time didn’t allow. We were going to see Abraham’s Cave, reputed to be the birth place of Abraham himself. On the way we passed family food stalls. Local families cook food and sell it, with all the proceeds going to charity.
On to Abraham’s cave where we had to don a long robe to cover up and also wear a headscarf. These are provided at the door. Luckily, I had my own scarf, I usually carry one in my bag when travelling in Turkey, you never know when it will come in handy. There were two entrances, one for men and one for women. They were totally separated inside. There was very little to see, but there were women kneeling praying and some just sitting in groups. For them this was the birth place of Abraham, a holy and sacred place.

We didn’t linger, the challenge for me was to get my shoes back on after we came out. We were waiting for our minibus to come and bring us to Harran, 15 kms from the Syrian border. We decided to go to the toilet before setting out. Once again, a challenge was facing me. The toilets were clean and well maintained but the shoes had to come off and we had to put on plastic sandals instead. 

So, it was on to Harran, to see the amazing beehive houses. It is extraordinary to see these ancient houses and then a modern shop sign saying Dukkan on it. We were invited to dress up in the traditional clothes of the area – more photos opportunities.

I found one that was open down the front so I didn’t have to worry about fit. I then had my headdress put on for me by one of the locals as the intricacies of wrapping and winding were just slightly beyond me. Sean looked like an oil sheik, unfortunately without the money to go with it. It was a bit of fun.

Then we wandered through one of the houses, presented as a folk museum. It was surprisingly spacious and cool in the 40° heat. There was some sort of animal, that looked suspiciously like a pig but was actually a lamb, hanging from the roof. We asked Serkan about it and he told us it was a dried lamb and they used it for making ayran. I’m very glad now I don’t partake of this yoghurt drink!

There is also a castle here and we had a wander around, taking more photos and then it was back on the bus to our hotel in Ürfa. After a rest, we met in the dining room for dinner. It certainly wasn’t the nicest meal I’ve had, there were 5 or 6 pieces of lamb with a few carrots and lumps of potato floating in bowl of white gravy. And Hubbie didn’t even get the carrots. When informed that Sabya was vegetarian they took the meat out for and served it to him as the vegetarian option. Naturally, it went back! Unappetising to say the least, but luckily we had had a wonderful lunch and all most of us wanted, was our beds.

We made arrangements to meet at 08.30 for breakfast as we were leaving the group in the morning. We had rented a car and were heading out on the last stage of our journey to Mardin.


  1. what an interesting trip! and your luck sounds like mine...this is realistic travel tales for sure. The photos are magnificent! What an adventure to see all the sights.

  2. Thanks Cath. Yes I was just born awkward...literally as well as figuratively But I make the most of it and life is always an adventure:-)

  3. Thanks, again, for taking us on your trip, loos and all. I think you were very brave, given your physical problems, and that trip up and down on the mule sounds terrifying. If everyone took photos, you must have been quite a sight to see. You look lovely all decked out in the local costume. Wonderful photos. Makes me sad that I didn't go to Turkey but thankful because I'd probably have run into similar problems as you without a Hubbie to spur me on.

  4. Ah Penelope, I've just realised that in three out of four of the posts I've shared on #pbau there has been talk of loos! This is not really my norm:-)
    I think it was the look of sheer terror on my face that attracted the cameras or the ridiculousness of being shoved back over the mules head. Ah well, I brightened up some people's day.

  5. WOW I so want to go travelling again now : (

  6. Hi Mary -

    Your travels are so wonderful but what amazes me more is your ability to capture AWESOME Images. I am so impressed and you would make a fantastic travel guide photographer. :)

  7. What beautiful shots, Mary! =) I especially loved the photos of you on the mule. =) A reliable fellow it seems! =)

  8. Lovely memories. We visit family in Urfa every winter, then set about road tripping. My absolute favourite is Mount Nemrut though, It is just stunning. However, a it's winter, there are no donkeys so we have to fill our lungs and endure the climb!


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