About Me
Turkey Photos Pictures from My Tours



Some of the important sites for Trekking and outdoor tours

Hasandag (Mount Hasan)
High peaks within large mountain systems, set amidst a scattering of more humble summits, are like kings or lords surrounded by their retinues. But most volcanoes are not like that. In their solitary splendour they are far more striking as anyone who has seen a photograph of Fujiyama in Japan will know. However high they might be they are always alone, and you can feel this fact whether looking upon them from afar or climbing on the mountain itself. And when you go to Hasandag you feel this loneliness with extraordinary intensity. 

Looking from the west the mountain rises in a single and perfect cone from the flat central Anatolian plateau. Approaching from Ankara to the north-west on a sufficiently clear day the mountain is visible from a distance of 60 kilometres, and as you draw nearer the view becomes increasingly spectacular. We had been planning to climb this magnificent mountain just south of Aksaray on the Ankara-Adana road for a long time and one May day we set out. The month of May is probably the loveliest time of the year everywhere in Turkey , but for the Anatolian plateau with its freezing winters and blazing hot summers, this month is undoubtedly the loveliest, an exquisite interval when the gray-brown steppe rolling into the distance is transformed into a brilliant green. 

We got out of our car at the village of Yukari Dikmen amidst just such greenery. At an altitude of around 1700 the three of us put on our backpacks and began walking. A crowd of children from the village insisted accompanying us for a while before bidding farewell. At 2000 metres we were alone with our mountain. 

As we ascended, the greenery of the lower slopes gradually made way for volcanic boulders. The trees thinned out and became steadily smaller until finally nothing but a few spikes of grass remained. 

By evening we had reached a height of 2600 metres and the landscape was a truly familiar mountainous one. We set up camp and then watched the sun sink between the clouds, realizing what it meant to be on a truly lonely volcano. Towards the west the plain far below stretched out as far as the eye could see. It was like looking down from an airplane. I was reminded of a wall painting found at Çatalhöyük, one of the oldest cities in the world dating from 8000 BC. in which Hasandag, together with its secondary peak to the east, is depicted with smoke emerging from the summit. It was hard to believe that this serene mountain had still been erupting at a time when our prehistoric ancestors were around to witness the event. 

The second day began with sunshine. Since we were on the western face of Hasandag we watched its triangular shadow fall on the plain. Then we packed up and began to trek over the snow, which each day melted in the warmth of the spring sunshine and then froze over once again at night. Towards noon it clouded over and the incline became steep. We no longer felt like mountain hikers but now faced the business of serious mountaineering. At one point we even considered getting the ropes out but before long we were at the 3260 metre summit. Later we realized that we had been lucky, and unknowingly reached the highest point of a crater whose diameter was approximately 500 metres. Following a tradition on Turkish mountains we found the summit book and recorded notes about our climb. It was curious to come across a notebook at a point no one else would be likely to find and to read the account of others as mad as yourself and write your own account for others who come after you. With all the solemnity of an ancient ritual of antiquity the three of us signed the book. 

As evening was falling on the second day we noticed a patch of snowless ground on an interesting ridge in the centre of the crater. We mountaineers boast about camping in the most severe conditions but still do our best to find the most comfortable camping place. Thousands of years ago the obsidian rocks which might be described as natural volcanic glass were extremely important materials useful for much more than making decorative ornaments for the mantle piece. In the stone age before metals were discovered the sharpest knives arrow heads and even mirrors were made of obsidian and the highest quality least flawed obsidian in Anatolia and the surrounding region was to be found at Hasandag. As early as 7000 BC this precious mineral is known to have been carried on people's backs to sell at places hundreds of kilometres away. What do three mountaineers talk about when crowded in a single tent inside the crater of an extinct volcano? Actually the topics of conversation are not much different from those of people in the cities. The real difference lies in the speed of speech. Within this narrow space the speed of life is regulated by the flame of the tiny butane stove. The snow slowly melts the tea simmers tranquilly and the sausages brown ever so gradually You are not in a hurry to get anywhere and there is no urgent business to be done. The pressure of time which pursues you furiously in the city evaporates here overnight. This is a marvelous reward for the trouble of climbing so high carrying a load of 22 kilos on your back. 

At daybreak on the third day we set off eastwards. From this direction Hasandag does not preserve such a perfect conical shape. Several secondary summits can be seen and beyond them another mass which almost deserves to be called a separate mountain. Descending rapidly we piled up our camping equipment between the two mountains. So as to enjoy the hard snow of the early hours to the full we took only our ice axes and crampons and set off to climb the second mountain taking a snowy route which seemed to be the steepest. When we reached the summit and looked northwards all of Cappadocia was spread out below our feet. Perhaps we would never get the opportunity to see the hidden beauties of the region's narrow valleys from such a height ever again. We just stood and watched. Half a hour later our visit was over and we set out downwards again. Hasandag had proved far more fascinating than even we had imagined.

By Haldun Aydingün,
Skylife 05/98 


Life-giving river of the Anatolian steppe:

The Kizilirmak is the artery which gives life to the Anatolian steppe: to flowers, insects, people and the soil. With countless tributaries and a length of 1355 kilometres the Kizilirmak is Turkey’s longest river. It rises on Mount Kizildag in the northeast of the central Anatolian region and is soon swelled by a series of streams close to itself in size in its home province of Sivas. By the time it crosses into the province of Kayseri it is already several times its original volume, and continues to swallow up tributaries along its westward route past towns and cities. 

At Avanos the river swerves to the northwest to pour into the Black Sea at Bafra. The Kizilirmak delta, with its numerous lakes, large and small, is one of Turkey’s most important areas for birdlife.The Turkish name the Red River derives from the colour of the water, whereas in antiquity the Kizilirmak was known as the Halys, a name meaning ‘salty river’. This river valley was home to diverse civilisations over Turkey’s long history, and many traces of them are still to be seen today, such as rock tombs, castles, bridges and settlements.

Five of us decided to follow the course of the Kizilirmak to see this ancient heritage at close quarters along its valley created over thousands of years. We were to travel by inflatable dinghy, and chose the month of June when the river water is at its clearest. The first stage of our journey was that part of the river in the province of Kayseri, where roads along its valley are virtually nonexistent and nature barely touched by man.

This stretch of the river, approximately eighty kilometres in length, flows past no large towns.Since differences in altitude are negligible in this part of Kayseri the river is generally sluggish, sometimes appearing as still as a lake. But this tranquility turned out to be deceptive, since on occasions we suddenly found ourselves racing along and being swept over rapids as the river suddenly surged downwards. Our chosen method of travel meant that we had to be prepared for accidental tumbles overboard and struggling to stay afloat in the rushing water. 

The Kizilirmak valley frequently alters in appearance with the changing geological structure of the terrain. Before reaching Felahiye Bridge the river flows through high hills and occasionally rocky gorges, but beyond the bridge this scenery makes way for volcanic rock. The river is here within range of the eruptions of Mount Erciyes, the volcano which created this unique landscape. The colour of the basalt rock constantly varies, particularly in the afternoon light, to spectacular effect. The red hue of the river water is turned an even deeper crimson by the reflections of the rock on the water. 

This remote and rocky landscape is a haunt of large numbers of birds of many diverse species, one that we frequently spotted all along the river being the Egyptian vulture.The red waters of the river flow amidst white willows with olive green foliage, and sometimes reeds and willows together. We saw anglers in the welcome shade of the willows fishing for sheatfishes. Some were fishing with rods but others with nets, despite this being illegal. The great number of fishermen was an indicator of the teeming wildlife for which the river and its banks are a habitat. Colourful dragonflies were plentiful all along the river. 

There are many historic bridges over the Kizilirmak, and during our journey we passed a halfruined bridge near Çukur, and the Çokgöz and Tekgöz bridges. The latter was built in 1202 during the reign of Rükneddin Süleyman Þah, son of the Seljuk ruler Sultan Izzeddin Kiliç Arslan II. Çokgöz is another Seljuk bridge which is still in use. It has no less than fifteen arches, hence the name Çokgöz (Many Arched). Past this bridge the river makes a sharp turn alongside cliffs, marking the start of a stretch of spectacular beauty. Near Çukur, on a high rock rising from the river is the awesome Zirha Castle, perched like an eaglsdm eyrie. Past Hirkaköy is a great timber bridge nearly 150 metres in length and broad enough for cars to cross which harmonises perfectly with the river, enhancing its beauty. 

The Kizilirmak brings life to all the lands its passes through. Wherever the valley floor widens out even a little, farmers take advantage of the fertile soil. Where the valley widens into plains several kilometres broad there are villages. If not for the Kizilirmak this region would be arid steppe land unsuited to agriculture. As we approached each village the sound of motorised water pumps could be heard. The farmers raise water from the river to irrigate their fields, relying mainly on water pumps, but where these are inadequate constructing huge water wheels like the one which we saw at the village of Kuþcu. 

The Kizilirmak reshapes the dry and harsh conditions of the central Turkish steppe, creating an environment along its course on which many living things depend. This was brought home to the five of us during our boat journey downriver.

Skylife 08/2000,
By Ali Ihsan GÖKÇEN 


Tuz Gölü (Salt lake)
As you approach Þereflikoçhisar southeast of Ankara, glinting light to the west tells you that the Tuz Gölü is approaching. The intense whiteness and sparkle of the salt crystals look deceptively like snow and ice. Even when you reach the edge, you still brace yourself for a freezing sensation as you take off your shoes and socks. The first step is a surprise, at the second you adjust your expectations, and at the third you become convinced that it is really salt beneath your feet. And you start to think about salt, one of life’s most essential ingredients. Salt makes up 3.5 percent of the human body, which is extraordinary testimony to the balance of nature, because the proportion of salt in the world’s seas is also 3.5 percent! 

Wearing high rubber boots you can take a long walk across the lake, if you do not mind sinking occasionally into patches of mud. The water varies from a few centimetres to half a metre in depth most of the time, but when the overflow from Lake Beyþehir pours through channels into Tuz Gölü, the depth increases by 30-40 centimetres. When the water level rises, the ecological balance of the lake is disturbed. Evaporation diminishes, and the circulation of the water between atmosphere and ground becomes erratic.

Tuz Gölü is fed by the Melendiz river, several small streams, and underground salt water springs. Three salt pans in the lake produce one million tons of salt a year, or 64% of Turkey’s total requirements. Saturated salt water is allowed to pour into the Kaldýrým, Kayacýk and Yavþan salt pans, and when the salt has precipitated the water is drained off again. Then the salt is shovelled into wagons which travel along an extensive network of rails to warehouses on the lake shore. From here the salt is taken by truck to several privately owned salt processing plants, mainly situated in Þereflikoçhisar. Here the salt is washed several times, dried, and packed into sacks for distribution to factories all over Turkey.

In Ottoman times the blocks of salt which formed naturally around the lake were broken up and sold to traders there on the lake shore. The salt was loaded onto camels and carried off in every direction. In later years warehouses were built, and then a narrow gauge railway was constructed to the lake, enabling salt to be gathered from different parts of it each year. This continued until the 1970s, when the more efficient salt pans in use today were constructed. 

With an area of 1500 square kilometres, Tuz Gölü is Turkey’s second largest lake, after Lake Van. There are several new villages round the lake settled by people from different parts of the country. Stock farming and agriculture are practised here, and around the shores you are particularly struck by the fields of melons and watermelons. Despite the fact that any object submerged in the lake waters for even a short time become covered with a crust of salt, the melons grown close to the lake shores are wonderfully sweet. 

Numerous potteries here produce water jars which the craftsmen claim are made nowhere else in Turkey or the rest of the world. Known as salt jars, they are made of clay mixed with salt, The high level of evaporation which results causes the jars to act like refrigerators, and water kept in them remains cold in the hottest weather. Sufficient clay for 200 water jars is mixed with around 10 kilos of salt. If too much salt is added the jars crack during firing, and if the proportion is too low the jars do not allow sufficient evaporation and will not keep the water cool. While water stored in an ordinary pottery jar remains fresh and sweet for just five or six months, when stored in a salt jar it can apparently be kept without any deterioration of quality for four or five years.

A paved road, thought to date from Roman times, crosses the northern arm of the lake from east to west, linking Þereflikoçhisar to Kulu near Haymana. Many of the marble columns erected along each side of the submerged road to prevent the caravans from straying off and getting stuck in the mud are still standing. Today, however, soil piled on the road has raised it about one metre above the surface. On Büyükada Island in the lake is a small church dating from late Roman times, and the remains of a guard house which offered protection for travellers along the road and is thought to date from the same period. Red standing stones scattered through the area are said by local people to mark the graves of those killed during the First World War. There are also many ancient burial mounds in the vicinity. 

Visitors touring Cappadocia often include Tuz Gölü in their itinerary. It is indeed worth coming to see the strange sight of the salt gleaming like silver beneath the clear lake water. When the coachloads of tourists stop on the lakeside, no one can resist paddling on the salt bottom. Disregarding the splashes of water on their skirts and trousers, they enjoy the sensation of wading through this unearthly white world. And when the water splashes dry, a fine layer of salt is left behind as a reminder of Tuz Gölü.

By Yücel Tunca,
Skylife 09/2000