If you ever have the chance to visit the Eastern part of Turkey you must visit Van. It is a city situated in the Van Province and it hides an old, rich and complicated history. The place is known as the first largest city and the capital of the URARTU population since the first millennium BC, and also being the centre of of the Armenian Kingdom of Vaspurakan in the 9th century BC. Armenians, Persians, Ottomans, Assyrians, Yezidis, Kurds and Gypsies – all of these ethnicities lived here together from time to time, fighting for autonomy.
Van has often been called "The Pearl of the East" because of the beauty of its surrounding landscape. An old Armenian proverb in the same sense is "Van in this world, paradise in the next." This phrase has been slightly modified in Turkish as dünyada Van, ahirette iman or "Van for this world, faith for the next."(Wikipedia : Van- Turkey).
There was a lot of war for power on these lands. There has been a lot of cruelty, crime, pain and misery. In 1915 an estimated 1.5 million Armenians died during the Genocide. It took place during and after World War I, and was implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labor by the Ottoman soldiers, and the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and infirm on death marches to the Syrian Desert. It is known as the second biggest Genocide in the World.
Other indigenous population and Christian ethnic groups (such as the Assyrians, Greeks and other minority groups) were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government, and their treatment is considered by many historians to be part of the same genocidal policy.
Nowadays, the city holds a majority Kurdish population. In 2010 the official population figure for Van was 367,419 but there are estimates of an even higher number of 600,000 (Wikipedia: Van - Turkey).
During the day, everybody is busy with their work. In the evening, people go for a walk to the Van Lake or Van Kalesi (Van Castle). The Van citadel was built on a rock in the mountains and dates from the Urartu civilization. There has been evidence found of human settlements up to 5000 years BC. The citadel protected generation after generation, the most famous population in the world: Assyrian, Armenian, Persian, and Ottoman.
Close to the Van Castle (Citadel) there is the Van Cat Museum. Here you can see white cats with one eye blue and another one green. Van is famous for these kinds of cats. They are kept in cages and most of them are not clean or taken care of. Pity.
A tip: before you pay for any accommodation you want ask to see the room and the bathroom. Check the sheets, towels and mattress. Never book online or pay in advance. Most hotels that I have seen were dirty. I did not try five stars though J.
The food you can eat here is similar to the food you can find across the rest of Turkey : Lahmacun ( pizza bread with mince meat on top), Turkish pilaf (rice), sarma (stuffed grapes leafs), İskender kebap ( with beef or lam meat), and many more. You can eat out with 6, 7 euros per meal. And if you are lucky, you can get the tea for free J
In Van, people are very friendly. Even though they didn’t know English, a group of boys offered to walk us to the Van Citadel. My friends communicated with them using Google translate. One of the Turkish boys fancied my friend and came to search for her at the hotel the next day. Very interesting J
I spent a great time in Van and I do recommend it for visiting, especially if you are interested in ancient history, old architecture, archaeology, sociology, anthropology and linguistics.