An unexpected turn in Turkey

Akdamar Island on Lake Van TurkeySometimes when we travel we can take a turn that appears to be for the worse, only to discover that it eventually puts us on the right track. For Anthony Rishchynski it was a change in direction that resulted in one of his most memorable moments in Turkey…

“As the bus quickly scurries off into the dark of night, I start to think it may have been a mistake to get off. I’m in Tatvan, a small city on the western shores of Lake Van in Turkey; my aforementioned bus made a quick stop here at my request, before continuing on to its, and eventually my, final destination of Van.

I’m here because my guidebook mentioned that from Tatvan one can hitch a ride on an old steamer across Lake Van and thus turn the 150 km overland haul between the two cities into something a little more romantic and exciting. However, in these hours of the morning I am starting to doubt if this was a good idea. It’s cold. It’s dark. The main strip of the city is alarming dead. The city is asleep.

Perhaps I can walk down to the lake, I presume. After about 10 minutes walking in what I think is a southern direction I give up and head back to where the bus dropped me. Thankfully I spot a taxi-stand that looks functional at this time of morning. I approach and ask the driver if he can take me to the docks, he obliges and we barrel through the empty streets at breakneck speed. Upon approach to the docks, we are confronted by a lone security guard who politely informs us that there is no ferry today, or tomorrow, or the next day.

Thwarted. The taxi-man returns me to where he picked me up and suggests I wait on the main strip for a bus. It only proves to be a short 30 minute wait until a bus appears, one of many that ply the route from Turkey’s southeast plateau to Eastern Anatolia. I board the bus and make my way down the aisle littered with lifeless, sleeping bodies strewn over the passenger seats. We depart. Time spent in Tatvan – under one hour.

I quickly doze off for about an hour or so, only to be awakened rather abruptly by the gleaming sunshine of the sunrise. The bus route hugs the shoreline of Lake Van, and my first glimpse of the massive lake accompanied by the daybreak is breathtaking. An elderly Kurdish woman, covered in traditional headdress, sleeps in the seat across the aisle. Her darkened silhouette contrasts perfectly with the vanilla hues of the rising lake sun. Not all in vain, I think.”

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About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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