Of all the gorgeous places in Turkey – Pammukale, Cappadocia, Kekova, Istanbul – it’d be pretty easy to skip right over Nemrut Dağı. After all, it’s tucked away in the southeastern corner of the country, only a few hundred miles from the Syrian border, far off of the well-traveled circuit of Istanbul, Pammukale, and Antalya.
And it’s a world totally different. Where the Mediterranean areas of Turkey are resplendent with brilliant greens and blues, the southeastern parts of the country feature a far more muted palette, one filled with dusty greens, beiges, and greys. Drive through the southeastern part of Turkey and you’ll have no doubt that you’re properly in the Middle East. The desert heat radiates from the sandy ground, and the horizon is hidden in a muddled, heat-rippled haze. That’s not to say that the area still isn’t beautiful; it’s just a totally different kind of beauty compared to the glittering wares of the Grand Bazaar, the stark white of Pammukale, and the brilliant blues of Kekova.
At seven thousand feet, Nemrut Dağı, which is part of the Taurus Mountains Ragne, is the major destination of the area around Kahta, the nearest town. Getting there involves winding your way along steep roads that cling to the sides of the hills. There’s a reason that nearly everyone who goes to Nemrut Dağı does so with a driver from the area: trying to drive those roads if you’re not familiar with them would be like saying, “I wouldn’t mind plummeting to my death today.”
Turkey is so old it’s intimidating. In America, we get excited if something is more than a hundred years old, since we’re fairly new to the whole “independent nation” game, at least relatively speaking. In the United Kingdom or Japan, it takes something being a few centuries old to become impressive. But in Turkey? If it’s not a thousand years old, it’s basically not considered old. (Case in point: the New Mosque in Istanbul? Four hundred years old.)
There are ruins everywhere you look in Turkey, and I do mean that literally. And they’re often presented without fanfare; they’re just another part of everyday Turkey. One of my favorite restaurants in Sultanahment has remnants of five-hundred-year-old structures in its basement. In Pamukkale, you can swim over columns and flagstones that are over two thousand years old. In Selçuk, you can see the last remaining column of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and yet it just stands, without any sort of fence or sign or hullaballoo, in a field. Even when they’re crumbling and decrepit, ruins are as much a part of Turkey as kebabs and the Blue Mosque.
In August, Istanbul is an oven. The temperatures hover right around ninety degrees, but the swampy humidity and sweaty crowds that mob the sun-drenched city make it seem far hotter. Any place that provides the tiniest bit of shade or breeze becomes a refuge from the heat, be that a marble mosque, a rooftop terrace of a café in Sultanahment, the shady avenues of Gülhane Park, or the air conditioned hallways of a museum. Istanbul’s best place, though, to beat the heat can’t be found in any of those places; it’s underneath them.
It’s amazing how much good a solid night of sleep can do. After contracting a pretty nasty stomach bug and getting twelve or thirteen hours of sleep so deep that corpses were probably jealous, I awoke on my first morning in Lumbini, Nepal feeling approximately eight million times better. I was positively bursting with verve and vigor, a huge contract from the previous day, when I thought I was going to pass out from walking across the border to Nepal. (Forgot to mention that in my last post. At Sunauli, you make the land crossing from India to Nepal on food. So I can now technically say that I walked from one country to another!)
Unfortunately, my stomach issues were (spoiler alert) not completely over, but at the time, I was back on my feet and thrilled about it. Lumbini is a village famed for being the birthplace of the Sakyamuni Buddha, and I basically just bounced around the giant temple complex. Part of my energy came from my stomach no longer threatening to erupt, but the larger component of my excitement came from the fact that Lumbini is one of the coolest places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.
Nearest Metro Station: JLN Stadium on the Violet Line
Admission Fee: 250 rupees for foreigners, 10 rupees for Indian citizens
Opening Hours: Sunrise to sunset, daily
With nearly a full day to myself to spend exploring Delhi, I was determined to see as much of the city as I could before meeting up with the rest of my group. My successful navigation of the metro system on the previous day did wonders for my confidence, but I still did a hefty amount of research and Googling at a nearby coffee shop before making my way out into the city. Continue reading Glimpses of Delhi: Humayun’s Tomb→
The first time I came to Japan, it was on a two-week, whirlwind tour that doubled as a sociology course under Washington & Jefferson College. Takayama (高山), a city nestled in the mountains of Gifu prefecture, was one of the places we visited, and I primarily remember it as a place of “firsts.”
It was in Takayama that I got my first glimpse of the Japanese Alps, so impressively craggy and beautiful that you can’t help but wonder, “Did I somehow get on the wrong train and end up in Switzerland?” It was the first time I stayed at a 旅館 (ryokan, traditional Japanese inn) and donned a 浴衣 (yukata, informal cotton kimono). It was the first time I wandered off down the streets of Japan, without having the voice of our tour guide in my ear or a map to tell me where I was. It was the first time I ventured into an 温泉 (onsen, public hot spring bath). Continue reading Throwback Thursday: Takayama→
Nara’s one of those places in Japan that I only visited for one day and then immediately filed it in the “come back here ASAP” category. Unfortunately, that file grows larger and larger with nearly every place I visit, and the rate at which entries get crossed off is far slower. Regardless, I hope I get to make a trip back to Nara before I move away from Japan. Continue reading Throwback Thursday – Nara→