Monday, May 06, 2013

Monday, May 06, 2013

This is the second time I am heading to Southeastern Anatolia.  The first time I was along this route was couple of years back and I was traveling with a colleague.  I don’t know what is it with me but I enjoy traveling independently.  I like the idea of being a stranger in an equally strange town, wandering around an unfamiliar neighborhood, the odd one out in a peculiar town.  It excites the traveler in me.  In addition, I get to draft my own schedule, move on my own pace, visit places of my personal choosing, and I am not in a rush at all, plus getting lost every now and then adds to the excitement.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed it the first time, having a travel companion is likewise fun, but I somehow enjoyed this second trip around.

I landed in Istanbul and I could already feel the winter breeze.  I rested for a couple of days, did some walks around the city and flew in to Gaziantep (or popularly called Antep).

Something is different about this city, it’s big and offer visitors tons of historical sights.  Ok, that is not the difference I'm talking about, it's more of a personal feeling when you've been to the towns along the Mediterranean and Aegean coast like Izmir, Bodrum, Selcuk or Antalya, then you probably know what I mean.

The city is located 97 kilometers north of Aleppo, Syria.  Most sights that you may probably want to visit in Gaziantep are located in the city center and almost all walkable. I stayed for 3 days and picked Midyat for my second destination.  
Skyline of Midyat from atop Konuk Evi.

Midyat is quite a surprise for me.  It’s chock-full of history, it’s an ancient town, the epicenter of a centuries-old Christian Syriac-Aramean community in Southeast Turkey,  where Syriac language or Assyrian, a descendent of Aramaic (if you're a devoted Christian, you know that that is the mother tongue of Jesus Christ) is still spoken and taught to children in the community, more particularly at the Mor Barsawmo Syriac Orthodox Church.

The winding streets are lined with honey-golden-colored old stone houses that made me authentically feel I’m in the midst of history.  On top of the beautiful  Konuk Evi, the skyline of the city is strikingly pretty dominated by church bell towers.
Rooftop cafes in Mardin with Syria on the horizon.

Houses in Mardin.

I was actually thinking of staying in Mardin but I find accommodations around this place a bit costly, so I decided to visit it during my stay in Midyat where I found a nice, clean, and friendly hotel and it’s unbelievably reasonable, quality/price ratio.

Mardin is almost similar to Midyat with old houses lining the winding narrow streets, except that this historical city is located on top of a hill, you can have a view of bordering Syria from a distance on a rooftop of any of those tall edifice.  Like its neighboring town Midyat, Mardin is brimming with historical landmarks although a bit more touristy between those two.

Took the dolmush (shared van transport) to my next destination, a small town which is my ultimate destination for this trip.  I’ve been wanting (dreaming would be appropriate) to see Hasankeyf for quite a long time, it’s been haunting me and it did not fail to amaze me, it’s truly a beautiful town, people are calm and friendly, it isn’t touristy at all and I guess this place don’t have much foreign visitors except for the occasional adventure-seekers who prefer places out of the usual tourist track.

At the tomb of Zeynel Bey.

I thought the whole trip was rewarding while I was sitting on  the van headed to the airport in Diyarbakir for my flight back to Istanbul.
Walking along the streets of ancient Midyat.


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