A Tale in Red: Van-tastic Journey from Castles to Lake Monsters.

Hello, wanderlusters! Buckle up and grab your Turkish tea as we embark on a virtual journey to the charming city of Van in the far eastern reaches of Turkey. It was time for me to become a funny travel blogger. What do you think? 

The next stop was Van. Yes, that’s the city and province name. As you might know, Van is not your typical tourist haunt, and it’s neither Istanbul with its buzzing bazaars nor Cappadocia with its fantastical fairy chimneys. But trust me, it’s got the unique charm that makes it an unpolished gem in the treasure chest of Anatolia.

Let’s jump right into a bit of history, shall we? Van was the ancient Urartian capital of Tušpa some 3,000 years ago. You know you’re old when the Bible cites you as a location – yes, Van and the surrounding areas are referred to in the Bible’s Book of Genesis. The city is also home to the ancient Van Castle (Van Kalesi), built by the Urartian King Sarduri II, a testament to Van’s historical grandeur. Interestingly, some of the inscriptions in the castle are still decipherable if you’re the Indiana Jones kind who loves decoding ancient scripts. I walked on the remains of the old fortress. Fantastic view, an incredible sense of power and the city is just there.

Talking about economics, Van has been traditionally known for its agriculture and livestock. But in the last few years, it’s been transforming into a good hub for tourism and commerce, thanks to its cultural wealth and strategic location near Iran. You’d be surprised that Van has a bustling industrial zone focused on textile and food production. Talk about diversity!

Now, I can’t possibly talk about Van without gushing over the mesmerising Lake Van. Imagine this – you’re sitting by the lake, enjoying the legendary Turkish sunset while the reddish-golden hues dance on the tranquil turquoise waters. Heaven, right? Lake Van is Turkey’s largest lake, and a fun fact – it’s a soda lake, receiving water from numerous small streams that descend from the surrounding mountains. It’s no ordinary body of water, folks! And it will make you wonder when you first see if it is a sea or a lake. 

Don’t miss out on the medieval Armenian church of Akdamar Island, perched on a rocky outcrop in Lake Van. Known as the Church of the Holy Cross (Akdamar Kilisesi), it symbolises the city’s multicultural past. The exquisite stone carvings on the exterior narrate biblical stories. You might even spot a cheeky little depiction of Adam and Eve awkwardly covering their modesty after that notorious apple incident if you squint hard enough. I had a great moment there and decided to add the place to one of my future books.

Hungry? Van’s culinary scene will make your taste buds dance to the Halay. Special mention to the ‘Van Breakfast.’ It’s a lavish, king-like spread that would shame any Western brunch with its 20+ items, including the local cheese, ‘Otlu Peynir,’ honey, clotted cream (kaymak), and a special apricot jam that will make you reconsider every breakfast decision you’ve ever made. Don’t be shy; walk on the streets, enter the more attractive place, and enjoy the food!

For cat lovers out there, I’ve saved the best for last. Van is home to the rare and beautiful Van cat – a feline species famous for its snow-white fur, differently coloured eyes (one usually blue, the other amber), and a love for swimming. Yes, you heard that suitable – swimming cats! You can visit them at the Van Cat House, but remember – they’re not up for adoption. These kitties are national treasures. Unfortunately, when we arrived there the place was closed to visitation.

And here’s the funniest part – Van has a ‘Monster.’ Okay, it’s not an actual monster-monster, and it’s just a cryptid rumoured to inhabit the depths of Lake Van. Though no concrete evidence has been found, the legend of the Lake Van Monster keeps the city wrapped in mystery and offers plenty.

 Of hilarious monster-themed souvenirs and the monster has a web page (https://cryptidz.fandom.com/wiki/Lake_Van_Monster). I did not buy any.

So, there you have it, folks. A city steeped in history, shimmering with a beautiful lake, offering a breakfast that makes every morning feel like a royal feast, and sporting cats that would instead take a dip than a nap. That’s Van for you – an offbeat Turkish delight worth every moment of your time. So, when are you planning your Van-tastic journey?  

Happy wandering!

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