Leaving Do?ubayaz?t we headed towards Van to spend a day or two. We arrived in Van in the early evening and after searching around for a hotel we wandered out around the town to grab some dinner. Van turned out to be a much larger and more developed town than either of us expected and we were completely shocked to find the number of high end stores lining the main street. After a small dinner and some desert we headed back to our hotel to organize tomorrows activities and for bed.
The next day was our only full day in Van and we planned to visit the nearby castle on the shore of Lake Van before heading out to an Armenian church an hour outside of Van. We had planned on spending the day touring around with a fellow Iranian tourist and so just after 9am we set off to visit the castle. Arriving at the castle we had to first walk around the base of it to reach the entrance and we quickly discovered how big the Castle was. However upon climbing up the hill to it we found that although it covered a huge distance the castle was mostly ruined and the only part that really remained intact was the minerat. After spending some time admiring the views from the top we headed to the bottom to walk through the few ruins of Old Van, mainly a couple of old minarets and 2 newer mosques. After viewing these we realized that we had spent too much time at the castle and we no longer had enough time to visit the Armenian church. So we altered our plans to visit a nearby cat house at the university campus. The famous Van cats all live in house at the university and they are famous for being perfectly white but with 2 different coloured eyes: one yellow and the other blue. The cats were fairly nice although a bit mangy and we couldn’t properly pet them as they had to stay behind a fence that we weren’t allowed inside of. After visiting the cats we wandered around the university campus for a bit before heading back into downtown Van where we spent the evening wandering the streets and enjoying a nice dinner.
The following day we departed Van to head towards Mardin. This journey was quite long, first a 7 hour bus ride to Diyarbak?r and then another hour and a half ride down to Mardin. Mardin is a very beautiful town built onto a hill side that overlooks the surrounding the plains, but it is also very expensive as it’s an upscale tourist destination. After hunting around the town for a “cheap” hotel (we still ended up paying 100 Lires a night) we headed out to grab some dinner and watch the sun setting over the city. Mom had read about a great restaurant here and we set out to find it; however when we reached it she was heartbroken to find out that it was completely booked for that night and we had to settle for something less appealing. After a less than stellar dinner we wandered around the picturesque town and just enjoyed the scenery. Mainly looking at the lights on the plain stretching out before us and the castle all lit up.
Our first full day in Mardin was also our last as the town was too expensive to spend any great amount of time in. The day started off pretty interesting as at breakfast in the hotel we were surrounded by many men in suits. Thinking that there just must be some big conference happening we thought nothing of it until they all stood up together and we noticed a couple of them with earpieces on and microphones on their sleeves. The only explanation must be the Turkish secret service (or something like that) afterwards we learned that some important minister was staying at the hotel (not sure which one) and they were all there with him.
After breakfast we proceeded to wander around the town and saw some of the old sights such as a couple of mosques, the Forty Martyrs Church, and the Sultan Isa Medressi. All of these buildings were quite old and definitely worth the wander through. The one sight that we were really hoping to see was the bazaar, but unfortunately we were there on a Sunday the one day when it’s closed. We had to console ourselves by returning to the great restaurant that mom wanted to visit the night before and enjoy an absolutely delicious lunch before catching an afternoon bus out to Sanliurfa (Urfa) our next destination.
Originally written for Devin’s Travels