Day 46 Sunday July 9 2017
Elazig to Nemrut Dagi / 170 km plus detour to Malatya
- AG still has a slight headache but it's better. SG remains in passenger seat.
- After our usual Turkish breakfast of yogurt, honey, eggs and fresh fruit we leave by 8. The blue skies promise another sizzling day.
- As we leave Elazig, we note more road checks for traffic heading into the city.
- Within 65 km or so of Malatya, we see the first of many acres of fruit trees, particularly apricots. Matalya claims to be the apricot capital of Turkey. Perhaps also of Europe.
- Lady Luck is still with us - it's the middle of the apricot season ( end June / early July ) and we should see plenty of them in the main city market.
- First we head to old Matalya, now known as Battalgazi, located 11 km north off the main road to Matalya.
- It's a charming little backwater, just a village, compared to modern Matalya which has a population of over 600000.
- What is there to see in Battalgazi? A pleasant shady square with butchers, bakers, grocers, a pharmacy and plenty of people willing to show you the way to the village sights: the old street of restored houses, ( Sanat Sokagi ) a huge Caravanserai dating to 17C, Ulu Camii, the 13C mosque & remains of City walls with some of the 95 towers. Sadly, the restoration of all these places leaves much to be desired in terms of authenticity. But it's still worth the detour.
- Now onward to Matalya. We recognise we have arrived when we see the roundabout decoration. ( see photo ) Not an equestrian statue in sight.
- The market will be worth a look at any time of year, but most particularly during the apricot season. It takes a bit of finding but that's half the fun of discovery! During the course of our walk we are offered numerous free tastings. A kilo of apricots cost about 30p. And they look ripe and delicious in a way that we rarely see in UK supermarkets.
- We also notice numerous shops selling honey and apiary equipment. We are on a mission to purchase some Turkish honeycomb whilst in Turkey. Eager not to delay doing so until the last minute of our trip, we enter one of the street's honeypots and start the purchasing process. Of course we bargain. But in the end the shopkeeper offers us tea and smiles broadly. This is the Turkish way of celebrating a good contract. It would be rude to refuse the tea, although we know only too well who has made the best deal.
- Time to head to Nemrut Dagi. Satnav and our phone apps seem to contradict. LP directions are as usual less than clear. We have chosen to head up the Northern slope of the mountain which gives direct access to the eastern terrace. From Matalya this is the shortest and most convenient option.
- We think we have booked a room at Gunes Hotel which is located at the highest point beneath the summit and should give easy access at any time of day.
- Shortly after a quick lunch stop and near a village called Tepehan we see a sign for Gunes Motel. And yes indeed they are expecting 2 English guests. But we are nowhere near the summit which lies another 13 km above us. Gunes Motel is evidently not Gunes Hotel.
- Just for the record - from the turning off the main Elazig - Malatya road to the summit of Nemrut Dagi is nearly 80 km. To the Gunes Motel it is about 65 km. Then another 15 km to the summit with the last 2 km being a steep graded track. Many people park their cars where the tarmac ends and walk the rest. The drive up to Nemrut Dagi starts pleasantly amongst mellow agricultural land & extensive groves of apricot trees. It ends with spectacular mountain scenery for miles and miles around.
- Prefering to see what Gunes Hotel actually looks like before we unload our luggage, we decide to continue to the summit.
- It is mid afternoon, 35C in the shade & the climb steep. The truck makes it clear that it prefers to be parked up under a tree. Half way to the summit we decide to return to the motel & check in. We pass a leisurely 3 hours beside the flowing mountain stream that gushes from the rock just at the entrance to the motel.
- The owner of Gunes Motel, Huseyin Aydin offers to drive us up to the summit at 6 p.m. AG readily accepts. Huseyin will know the way and be familiar with any formalities. (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- He seems to run a good business, both for overseas travellers to Nemrut Dagi, as well as a local trade who come for his speciality - farmed river trout. He shows us the little farm he has set up - 3 rock pools full of trout of different sizes. As they grow, they are promoted to the next pool until it's their time for table. They live in the freshest of mountain water.
- At 6 pm we set off with Hussein and his young nephew who is probably being given the opportunity to speak English. He says very little. Either in Turkish or English.
- We pass the Gunes Hotel, the place we mistakenly thought we had booked. Thank goodness we haven't. According to LP it 'stands in gothic isolation' - whatever that means. Certainly the hotel building looks austere and run down, even unused.
- But the hotel no longer stands in splendid solitude, gothic or otherwise. A new hangar like complex has been built in very close & adjacent proximity. It no doubt obscures some of the vista formerly enjoyed from the hotel grounds. Huseyin explains that these are new tourist facilities as yet unopened: a restaurant & shopping mall. (why?) He believes that a shuttle bus service is planned to take tourists from here up to the summit. If this is indeed the case, times are about to to change for Gunes Hotel.
- Huseyin parks at the highest possible place and we walk up the remaining 200 m to the eastern terrace. The sight that awaits us is bizarrely beautiful - large decapitated stone bodies to the rear of the 45 x 50 m area, to the fore their clearly defined heads, all staring out to the eastern sky. Add to this the stunning mountain scenery bathed in evening sunshine and you may appreciate why Nemrut Dagi is definitely a tourist's must see.
- Ok, so what is Nemrut Dagi? This now famous archeological site was only discovered in 1882 by a German engineer who was surveying transport routes for the Ottoman government. It was created in pre Roman times by a regional King called Antiochus 1 Epiphanes ( he reigned between 64-38B.C.) The king was somewhat of a megalomaniac. He believed that he was directly related to Gods such as Apollo and Zeus. To pay just homage to his status, he ordered that two ledges be cut into the mountainside (East & West Terraces ) and filled with stone statues of himself and his relatives, the Gods. Then he arranged for 50m of crushed rock to be piled between them, essentially creating a new man made mountain summit between the two terraces. The king and 3 female relatives are believed to be buried beneath.
- East & West terraces are similar but with subtle differences. The eastern terrace is slightly larger and the bodies are more intact. The Western terrace sits about 10 m lower and is orientated towards the evening sun. Colours here are therefore at their best at sunset. But both sides feature the same heads positioned in identical order. Left to right: Lion , Eagle, King Antiochus, Commagene (Goddess of Fertility) Zeus, Apollo, Herakles, Eagle, Lion. The bodies of the stone figures measure 8-9 m and their heads range from 2.5 to 3 m tall.
- The eagle represents the domination of Antiochus' Kingdom over the skies and the lion his supremacy over the earth ( or at least his part of it ). Antiochus believed the Gods were his relatives. He acknowledged Zeus as the greatest of Gods by giving him a central and slightly forward position in his line of fame.
- Earthquakes, time & erosion have separated the heads from all of the figures. They are after all over 2000 years old. The placement of the heads that we see today dates from 2002.
- We have come for this one evening of sunset experience. Imagine how many Antiochus and his entourage have seen since they were created!
- After admiring the East terrace, we walk around the summit to the west side which is bathed in the most glorious light ( as you will see from the photos). It takes 10 minutes maximum along the designated wooden decking. This means that regardless which side of the mountain you choose to drive up, you can easily view both terraces.
- We are not alone. As sunset approaches more and more people congregate, ready with cameras, mobiles and selfie stix. Many have carried up picnic hampers. We are offered numerous glass cups of Turkish tea. It is simply rude to keep refusing this most natural form of Turkish hospitality. So although we are not that keen on its bitter taste, we consume several cups of their brew. We are doing our best for Anglo- Turkish relationships!
- Huseiyn has been very kind to wait for us. He seems proud that we are so impressed by the beauty of his part of the world. On return to the motel, our trout supper is being cooked. Thankfully the fish is a reasonable size. Mountain water obviously produces large & tasty fish.
- Another long day draws to a close. But one that has been uplifting. AG rightly reasons you cannot know the high points unless you have a few low ones as well. And this is definitely the case with travel & sightseeing.
Apricots for Sale Everywhere
Apricot Trees Laden with Fruit
Caravanserai in Battalgazi Village
City Walls of Battalgazi - Just Too Pristine
Malatya Brand of Apricots
Apricots & More Apricots For Sale
Honey Man is Very Happy with his Honey Deal
Looking Down to Tepehan from the Road to Nemrut Dagi
View to South of Nemrut Dagi
Sunset - We are Not Alone
Nemrut Dagi West Terrace
Nemrut Dagi East Terrace
On Top of Bizarre But Beautiful World
AG & SG on West Terrace @ Sunset