We left Van by bus and headed for Doğubayazıt, which is about four hours from Van, and directly between Van and Kars. Here is a map to give you a better picture:
As is evident from the map, Van and Doğubayazıt are very close to Iran, and the trip between the two cities was essentially a trip straight up the border. Huge transport trucks flew by, many of them coming from Iran, and because we were close to the border, Turkish police stopped us frequently and asked to see our residence permits. Still, the area did not at feel unsafe, and did not look at all like what I thought it would. I think that when most people picture Iran, they think of the desert. And while there are some arid regions of Iran and Turkey, the regions of Turkey I visited last weekend were actually colder than Istanbul! There was no sand and no camels. Rather, the whole regions was covered in enormous, green mountains and hills, and cows roamed everywhere. Even more striking, it snowed while we were driving to Doğubayazıt, and there was snow on the ground.
The first place we visited in Doğubayazıt was İshak Paşa Palace, a 17th century Ottoman palace in the snowy mountains of Doğubayazıt. The palace is now somewhat in ruins, but is really interesting and exciting to explore. Here are pictures:
Walking into İshak Paşa Palace was like entering a different world, or at least a different time. It was surreal to walk around an old, abandoned palace, in the isolated and snowy mountains of eastern Turkey. Next we drove through Doğubayazıt for awhile. Here are some pictures from downtown:
From Doğubayazıt, we drove an additional two hours to Kars, which will be the subject of my next two posts.