''In the second half of April I went to southeastern Turkey that is also part of ancient Mesopotamia. When we left the house very early on April 20 to catch the Van airplane, there was a warm and bright air in Istanbul. After two hours, when we landed at Van, I was shivering. The weather was really cold.
Van museum that is displaying the important Urartian artifacts was closed due to renovation and no body knew when it would be opened again. So we went to the Van castle that was built by the Urartian King of Sardur the 1. It was almost noon and the weather was just freezing. I put on my hat and gloves that I did not have the chance to use in Istanbul during winter and tried to remember the Van of 20 years ago, when I visited right after my graduation from the university. There was no park arrangement around the castle at that time and I think there were more children around. The children I photographed at that time might have their own child right now.After visiting Kaya Çelebi mosque and Hüsrev Pasha Külliyesi, which look like two identical buildings from the castle, we returned to the city. Restoration works were done at both mosques. After lunch we hit the internationally named bazaars of the city and finally it was started to snow. Ironically Iran, Russia, Japan and Europe bazaars were crowded with Chinese and Indian goods, you could find some interesting stuff if you could dig the stalls long enough.
In the afternoon we went to the food markets in order to taste Van. Although they are only mentioning cheese in the name of the Grand Cheese Makers Market, shops selling viscera occupied almost half the market. After viewing the heads, legs, brains and tongues that were displayed on the stalls in neat ways, we purchased the famous cheese of Van prepared with different herbs. After buying warm flat bread from the Küçük Yıldız Pide Fırını, we ate them at the coffee house of İzzet with hot tea. They were just delicious. When we heard that the honey of the honey producer Behçet is worth tasting, we also found his store and bought a jar of honey.
When we took a minibus to go to our hotel located near the Lake Van, the ladies I chatted at the bus told that this weather was also a surprise for them as they also had a very mild winter. After the snow and the hard wind during night, I was almost sure that we would not be able to make our trip to the island of Akdamar on the lake. But the morning of April 21 welcomed us with a bright and sunny day on a blue lake, although everywhere was covered with snow. The snow we did not have the chance to see whole winter in Istanbul was just in front of us with all its beauty.
As there was no other group visiting the island and the 10th century Armenian church of Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross that was restored and reopened at the beginning of April, we had all the chance to enjoy the island, castle and the beautiful weather. The church was built between the years 915-921 by architect monk Manuel during the reign of the Vaspurakan King Gagik the 1. When I look at the photographs of the church that I took 20 years ago the difference between today and the time with its partly ruined roof covered with weed was quite striking. But this time I spent more time taking the pictures of snow covered almond tree flowers.
While we were traveling near the lake towards Ahlat where we were going to spend the night, the triplets of sun, snow and lake were with us showing their most beautiful faces all the way. When we reached Ahlat where the largest Seljuk cemetery from 11-12th century located, snow only remained on the tops of the far away mountains.