Home Must See Van City and Akdamar Church
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VAN

The province of Van sits by Lake Van, and was the ancient Urartian capital of Tuspa. It is situated in a green, fertile oasis in the midst of rocky mountains in the Eastern Anatolian region of Turkey. An impressive citadel stands on one of these peaks and dates back to the 9th century BC. There are steps carved into rock leading to the fortress, and while descending you will be able to see some cuneiform inscriptions paying homage to Persian King, Xerxes of the 5th century BC. In the fortress, the Urartian royal tombs are of interest. The surrounding area is full of Urartian remains. In the old city there are many mosques and mausoleums such as the Ulu Mosque, the Hüsrev Pasa Mosque, the Kaya Çelebi Mosque and the Ikiz Kümbet. The Archaeological Museum in the new city exhibits the Urartian finds. At Van Harbor you may find pleasant places to rest. For swimming and camping you may head for Edremit, 14 kilometers to the southwest. It is a holiday resort center from where you may do some sightseeing excursions. At Gevas, there is a Seljuk graveyard, filled with extraordinary headstones, as well as the lovely Halime Hatun Tomb.

 

Van Castle was built within the capital of the Uratu State, Tushba during the 9th century B.C. The castle fell into the bands of the Assyrians during the early 7th century B.C. when the Urartus were defeated and fled from the region. The castle also carries imprints of the Selçuk, Karakoyunlu, Akkoyunu and the Ottoman eras. The most important sections in the castle are the rock cells and inscriptions belonging to the Urartus. The castle also contains a mosque built by Sultan Süleyman the Great.


Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey (1.646 meters high and covers an area of 3.713 square kilometers) and provides good opportunities for enjoyable excursions. You may go for outdoor sports such as trekking or hunting in the mountains surrounding it, especially Mount Süphan, the second highest mountain in Turkey after Mount Ararat. Alternatively you may head for on the beach, or visit the Urartian sites and Turkish cultural centers. The islands on the lake are also interesting, most of them housing many monasteries and churches. The most important of these is the Akdamar Island with its 10th century church of Holy Cross. 


Van is also famous for its Van cat, a pure white, longhair cat which has the strange feature of one blue eye and the other green.

 


AKDAMAR ISLAND


Breathtaking in the beauty of its surroundings, the ruined church of Akdamar Island in Lake Van represents one of the most sublime examples of Armenian religious architecture. The church is the sole remaining building of the palace of Aght'amar built by the architect Bishop Manuel between 915 and 921 AD. Constructed during the reign of the Armenian King Gagik Ardzrouni of the Vaspurakan dynasty, the complex of buildings originally included streets, gardens and terraced parks surrounding the palace and church. Constructed with a cruciform plan (cross-shaped) and a conical roof domed on the inside, the building is made of red colored tufa stone brought to the island from distant quarries.

Upon the outside walls of the church are extremely beautiful but much weathered stone reliefs by Armenian master carvers. These reliefs depict Biblical scenes with Adam, Eve, Abraham, David and Goliath, and Jesus as well as earthly themes, such as life at palace, hunting scenes and human and animal figures. A remarkable design of vines interspersed with animals carved in high relief encircles the exterior of the church. The manner these themes are worked show an influence of 9th and 10th century Abbasi art, which was itself influenced by Central Asian Turkish Art. Early descriptions and local legends tell that the relief carvings and the door to the church were set with precious stones, pearls and gold encrustations but these have long since disappeared. The interior church walls are decorated with frescoes showing religious themes but vandals and the elements have much degraded these once lovely paintings.

The origin and meaning of the island's name is based on an old Armenian legend. According to the tale, an Armenian princess named Tamar lived on the island and was in love with a commoner. This boy would swim from the mainland to the island each night, guided by a light she lit for him. Her father learned of the boy's visits. One night, as she waited for her lover to arrive, he smashed her light, leaving the boy in the middle of the lake without a guide to indicate which direction to swim. His body washed ashore and, as the legend concludes, it appeared as if the words "Akh, Tamar" (Oh, Tamar) were frozen on his lips.

 

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