4 February 2016

Nemrut Dag

My post for this month's TravelAtHome is a retrospective for me.  I have a nifty new app  that allows me to scan old photo albums with my telephone.  The quality might not be great but it has enabled me to gain easy access to a lot of old photographs showing my first expat life, my adventures in Norway, The UK, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Turkey and Venezuela when I was a child and it means that I can carry these precious memories with me wherever I go, not just enjoy them when I visit my parents' house.

Nemrut Dag Turkey
Nemrut Dag

A few weeks ago someone asked me what was the most memorable trip or weekend I was able to take as an expat and my mind took me back to a weekend in 1994 when my family and I were able to join some friends on a rare trip out of Diyarbakir.  The security situation in Eastern Turkey at that time meant that it was almost impossible for us to undertake anything but the most essential trips so the opportunities for site-seeing were limited.  It was frustrating to be in one of the most fascinating areas of the world but unable to explore it as we wanted.  I think that is why this weekend really stuck in my mind.

Ferry across the Euphrates

On the first day we drove from Diyarbakir to Nemrut Dag, crossing the Euphrates River by Ferry.  Nemrut Dag is one of the most fascinating archaeological sites in a country that has more than perhaps any other.  A monument to megalomania and self importance, it is the mausoleum of Antioch I of the Commagene Kingdom, he is buried at the top of the mountain under a huge pyramid of shingle (to prevent him being dug up).  To the west and the east terraces of gigantic Greek and Iranian gods greet the rising and the setting suns.

Nemrut Dag
A toppled god
Nemrut Dag
The heads might not look large but compare them (the white stones)
to the height of the men in the middle ground

None of the gods' heads remain on their bodies, most were toppled by iconoclasts but the last remaining head fell after an earthquake in the early/mid 20th century.  The heads themselves are huge, many have been restored to an upright position and by themselves stand as high as a man.  In addition to the statues the terraces are decorated with bas relief murals telling the story of the ancestry of Antioch.

Nemrut Dag
Bas Reliefs At The Foot Of the Pyramid

While many visitors to Nemrut Dag stay to watch sunset or sleep overnight to catch the dawn we were not able to do so.  Instead we drove down the valley to Adiyaman where we stayed the night.  On the way we passed an old castle discovered by Moltke senior during his detachment to Turkish service, it had not been excavated or properly explored but a caretaker on site allowed us to look around.  We were able to explore some of the ruins and go down into the wells that allowed the castle to survive sieges.  We crossed the Euphrates for a second time but this time by bridge rather than ferry.  The bridge in question had been built by Septimus Severus and it was quite something to think that his empire covered the land from Turkey all the way to the English/Scottish border.

Jimmy, our family dog and my sister scale the heights

Jimmy takes a rest at the feet of a god

After a night in a (less than completely salubrious but rather fun) hotel in Adiyaman we drove down to the Ataturk Dam.  This dam was very controversial at the time as it impacted on the levels of water flow in the Euphrates river from Turkey into Syria and Iraq.  Controversial or not it was a fascinating project to look around.  The dam is huge (the 5th largest in the world at the time) and the scale of the generators, piping and machinery were phenomenal.  I have not yet found the photographs of this part of the visit but will add them when I have them.

Inscriptions in an old, as yet unexcavated castle

Septimus Severus Bridge Over The Euphrates
Septimus Severus' bridge across the Euphrates still in use in 1994

Near the dam we also had the opportunity to look at some rock mausoleums, an entire city of burial chambers which had yet to be explored or excavated.  As a result I am not quite sure when they dated from, there were neolithic settlements in the area so they could be very old or comparatively more recent.  If anyone else knows about them and can tell me I would love to know.  I do remember our poor dog Jimmy managed to stick his nose into some tick infested undergrowth and we spent the car journey home throwing the blasted things out of the window before they could attach to his skin or infest the car.

Exploring tombs near the Ataturk Dam



Despite this little domestic problem our excursion to Nemrut Dag gave us what was probably our best experience during our 2 1/2 years in Turkey.

Ersatz Expat

Ersatz Expat

8 comments:

  1. What a cool and beautiful place - so different than Denmark! I'm curious what app you used to scan in the old pics? Cheers from Copenhagen!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Erin, yes certainly very different from Denmark, we loved our time in Turkey and it was so lovely to be able to get out and about, even just a little bit.

      The app I used is called Photomyne, it is a paid app but good value for money, at least I think so!

      Delete
  2. Unbelievable, the amount of time and effort that went into making those huge statues and structures without the modern technology! And it's definitely nice to be able to look at the old school photos - lots of them stay forgotten in the albums now. Well done for bringing them back to life :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really was quite something wasn't it, a real monument to megalomania. Quite humbling to see but perhaps not in the way Antioch imagined, I spent more time thinking of the people who made the monument than I did about him and his power!

      Delete
  3. I love this journey back in time! Oh if only we had our digital cameras way back when from our childhood journey's, your memory is so clear though on it all and a fascinating journey to take.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our children struggle to comprehend that we actually had to pay for photographs back in the day! We are rather lucky that my parents and my father's parents were prolific photographers so we have photos of relatives dating back as far as 1875 and photos of trips and days out from about the 30s on. I am just so pleased that I am now able to have them with me.

      Delete
  4. I can see why that was a memorable trip - I love the reliefs ... and Jimmy of course! #TravelatHome

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jimmy was one of the very best dogs I have ever owned. He was Nigerian in origin but travelled extensively before his death in Venezuela. He had a wonderful heart.

      Delete