A few historic sites between Yusufeli and Van

The trip with Peter, Amy, Scott, and Stephanie was essentially a ski trip.  However, one of the reasons I love touring in Turkey is you practically trip over history everywhere you go.  I’m still not tired of this, and thankfully my travel companions weren’t so ski-focused to not enjoy some piles of old rocks.

On the contrary everyone was excited to take some time to visit a few historic structures.  With the exception of the castle at Çavuştepe, all the sites were well worth the effort we took to visit.  We started with a couple Georgian churches at Öşvank and Barhal.  Sage and I had been to both these villages on our bicycle tour, but we hadn’t bothered making the short detour to the tremendous church at Barhal.

The church at Öşvank is in a bit of a state of disrepair:

The old Georgian church at Öşvank by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9890 by bryandkeith on flickr

but the one at Barhal is in surprisingly good condition:

DSCN0186 by bryandkeith on flickr

perhaps because it’s still in use, now as a mosque:

The Barhal church is now used as a mosque by bryandkeith on flickr

We stopped at the old stone (Georgian?) bridge at Yaylalar:

DSCN0178 by bryandkeith on flickr

and at the 13th century Çobandede Köprüsü in Köprüköy (Erzurum):

DSCN0208 by bryandkeith on flickr

There’s a somewhat impressive castle on the hillside near Köprüköy, but we didn’t take the time to visit.  We did stop to photograph Üngüzek Kalesi near Uzundere:

DSCN0203 by bryandkeith on flickr

In the center of Erzurum the museum is housed in an old madrasa:

DSCN9849 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9854 by bryandkeith on flickr

There are some kümbet (large tombs) strewn around the city:

DSCN9885 by bryandkeith on flickr

and also the old castle (or maybe we’d say fort in English?):

Erzurum's castle (kale) by bryandkeith on flickr

In Gevaş we wandered a bit around this old Selçuk cemetery, the first of its kind that I’ve visited:

DSCN7295 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN7303 by bryandkeith on flickr

After all that, I think we’d all agree that the highlights were the Armenian churches at Akdamar and Altınsaç, the last sites we had a chance to see before flying out of Van the following day.  Akdamar is, I guess, the name to both a nearby town, the island, and church on the island.  It is well-deservedly on most tourists’ Lake Van itinerary.  The church is well-preserved and well-restored, the carvings on the outside are in excellent condition, and the setting on the rocky island with the snow-covered peaks across the water is stunning.

DSCN7313 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN7318 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN7327 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN7330 by bryandkeith on flickr

The church near Altınsaç is not quite as easy to get to.  It’s off the main highway about 20km, sitting on top of a hill 200m (?) above Lake Van.  In the fading light we walked up the hill, wishing we’d been there 30 minutes earlier.  Another fantastic setting.

DSCN7354 by bryandkeith on flickr

View from the church window by bryandkeith on flickr

Bye, bye, Lake Van.

DSCN7347 by bryandkeith on flickr

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