From Doğubeyazıt we drove to Lake Van, passing incredible lava formations, a waterfall and an old bridge before we reached the lake. We visited Van with its fortress and museum before we accidentally joined the Black Friday shopping. The next day the sun was out and we took the ferry to visit an incredible Armenian church on an island.
Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey and the Armenian Highlands, situated at 1,640 m. A volcanic eruption of Mount Nemrut in prehistoric times blocked its original outlet. It is a saline soda lake, and the high salinity prevents it from freezing in winter. The water feels very soft and soapy, must be fun to swim in it in summer.
These incredible steles belonged to a dynasty who settled in the highlands of Hakkari, south of Van, during the second millennium BC. We found them very fascinating, with all the items they hold in their arms.
Niello is a black mixture, usually of sulphur, copper, silver, and lead, used as an inlay on engraved or etched silver. It is added as a powder or paste, then fired until it melts or at least softens, and flows or is pushed into the engraved lines in the metal. It hardens and blackens when cool, and the niello on the flat surface is polished off to show the filled lines in black, contrasting with the polished silver. The earliest claimed use of niello appears in late Bronze Age in Syria, around 1800 BC.
The next day, the sun was shining and we decided to take a short boat trip from Gevas to the Aghtamar Island, where an amazing Armenian church stands in perfect condition.
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross is a Medieval Armenian Apostolic cathedral, built as a palatine church for the kings of Vaspurakan of pink volcanic tuff during the years 915-921. The unique importance of the cathedral comes from the extensive array of bas-relief carving of mostly biblical scenes that adorn its external walls.
We will now drive up the Nemrut Dagi, a volcano, which has a couple of lakes in its krater. More on our next post!