The wonderful people of Van , Turkey June 2019

This time I would like to narrate about people that I met on my roads in Van which have been so amazing , so outstanding to me that I definitely need to tell .

In June 2019 we decide to make a roadtrip to Van , a city in the East of Turkey about 100   km from the Iranian Border .The city is well known as being located at the biggest lake of Turkey called Van Lake at the high plain between mount Ararat , the Iran and Iraq . The lake is so huge that the people also call it a sea as it looks more like a sea then a lake .

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When we fly to Van we are overwhelmed by the view that we have from the window of our plane as we can see the beautiful lake with its crystal blue color down there as well as the mountains which are surrounding the area and having some snow shining white on its tops .

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From the top it looks to me like a land of miracles and wonders …

It is summer time but since we are here in 1750 m height it is not hot .The air is fresh due to the lake wind and the mountains around . We maybe have about 20-24 degrees.

The region is a natural beauty : the rivers , the lakes , the crater lakes , the mountains and all the historical sites around . It is marvellous .

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But what I would like to point out in my blogpost this time are the extraordinary and very exemplary people in this region that I got to know personally  and feel honored about.

One of these persons is Mr Mehmet Kusman . Even today I am still impressed about his story and remember our heartful gathering with a smile on my face .

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Mr Kusman today is about 79 years old and a volunteered guard of the ancient site of Cavustepe .

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First we need to know that the city of Van is situated in an area where since thousands of years many important civilizations have passed or even settled in this area .The most important folks who were living in Van about 9th century – 6 th century BC were the Urartu people, folks from the Middle East . Their kingdom was striving from the Black sea to the Caspian Sea covering todays parts of Armenia , Eastern Turkey and Northwestern parts of the Iran .Their capital was Van , in those days called Tuspa .

Urartu is a name having its roots from the Assyrians and the Urartu inherited lots of cultural elements like the script , political and military strategies , motifs etc. from the Assyrians.

The form of writing of the Urartu in those ancient times was in cuneiform ie the way of writing with a wedge type of a stylus .

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During our stay in Van we were also visiting the ancient site of Cavustepe  which is a little village , about 25 km outside of Van , close to the Gulpinar district  where on its hills one of the ancient fortresses from the Urartu civilizations was built ( BC 764 – 734 ) in the Urartian Kingdom of King Sardur II.

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The historical site todays consists of remains of the fortress, the fortress wall , some ancient storage containers  also called ” pithos ”  where cereals , butter and wine were found dating back about 2800 years ago , water cisterns , an ancient place for sacrifycing purposes .

There is an upper fortress and  a lower fortress with a difference of 30 m and the Haldi Temple . The walls of the castle and some palace and temple structures are left behind .

This was the place where we met Mr Mehmet Kusman and where he told us his story :

In 1961- 1988 Mr Mehmet was supporting the archeological team of Prof Dr Afif Erzen who was excavating the ancient site of Cavustepe , a historical site of the Urartu folks .

One day Mr Mehmet observed the professor sitting there in deep thoughts . He was asking him whats up but the professor just shook his head and told him that he has such difficulties to unveil the language and the cuneiform script of the Urartians.

Mr Mehmet who was a very simple worker in those days asked the professor whether he could maybe help him to find out the secrets of this language but the professor denied telling him that it is too difficult and impossible for him .

Mr Mehmet felt quite dissappointed and somehow annoyed about the response that he got from the professor and developped a kind of very strong eagerness to do whatever is necessary to learn this language .

After decades where he studied books about the Urartu , their history and their culture he finally discovered how to speak , how to read and how to write the Urartu language .

He offered universities to teach other people about this lost language before he is going to die but unfortunately nobody listened to him .

27 years of his lifetime he worked on the fields in Cavustepe with the archeologists and once he was retired he started to come to the historical site as a volunteer and guard of the region .Every day, except the single days in the year when he was ill and needed to lie in bed at home , he was walking up this hill to the little stone house which is his working area and guardhouse in one .

Today he is is just 1 out of 12 people worldwide who can use this language .

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Nowadays he is welcoming the visitors in Cavustepe and telling them about his memories , showing the view down the hill on both sides and informing on how the Urartu were living here .

He also shows us around -the advanced waterpipeline system that is still visible at the footage of the hill in front of the fields and the places where they were harvesting their crop .

He is telling us about their kings and their kingdoms , their religious sites and traditions .

He shows us the place where the Urartu were sacrificing their animals as a gift to their gods and the place where they were stocking their corn .

He is kneeing down the earth and on the dust of the soil he is writing Urartu sentences , reading and translating those to us .

On one of the walls of the fortess there is still some inscription in Urartu language telling about the last Urartu king reigning  in this region .

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Mr Mehmet does not get tired coming here every day to welcome guests , to share his knowledge , to prepare some of his hand made little sculptures and necklaces with Urartu symbols on them .

 

You can feel that it is his unseperable linked beloved Home  .

He also tells us that he is often dreaming of the Urartu people in the nights , dreaming that he is part of their world . Maybe his ancestors hundreds of years ago were Urartu people – who knows – this is why he might feel so close .

I do  highly admire and respect this man who succeeded in learning this thousands of years ago lost language by himself and trying to keep it for mankind and to share his knowledge with everybody who is interested .

I by myself am speaking 6 languages and know how difficult it is  – but to learn such an ancient script and language by your own without getting any help is a masterpiece I have to commit .

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A second person actually that I met in Van and whom I also admired for his achievements was Prof Dr Lokman Aslan , veterinerian at the Van 100. Yil University and Head of the Wild Life Recreation and Rehabilitation Center .

First when we met the professor we were impressed on his very natural and modest way of living . Such a nice person . Immediately you find out that he is predestinated for a special mission as he is enlightening the surrounding with his humour , his great spirit and his enthusiasm and positivism. Prof Dr Aslan is living since 20 years in Van and was working as a verterinerean .He is not just helping the farmers with their animals but he is also working for the sake of the wildlife in Van .The area is huge and ideal for wildlife as it is a large area for birds due to the sea and the river and all the waterways around – Van is a destination that is on the main migration routes of the birds eg the pink flamingos .

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On one hand the birds from the North like Siberia are migrating to Van – for them it is their place to protect themselves in wintertimes . For other birds it is becoming too cold in Van and they are migrating southwards to Africa to warmer regions as well . It is an area where you can find many many species like wolves ,foxes , bears , otters and many others .

 

Especially for endangered species like the akbab the professor is working hard to protect them often also financing it privately .

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In 2012 he succeed in getting some land from the Van 100.Yil University for his projects .

 

In those days this land was a muddy unusable huge area that nobody gives any value to .

He worked a lot and cleaned up the area and prepared it to be a Center for Wild Life Protection and Rehabilitation ie any animal in the wildlife around Van which he cannot heal locally in wildlife is going to be brought to this center .

Mr Aslan avoids to bring wild animals into contact with human beings in order to keep them wild . He is just giving them some treatment until they are able to be brought back to wildlife again .

In each sentence that he is talking you can feel his passion for his profession and the wildlife outside .

His mission is to keep the ecological ballance in nature -he knows the mathematics in nature well , he knows how to deal with it and his mission is to teach people and especially kids about the importance of wildlife and ecology to protect also ourselves .

He is so full of life and energy – there are so many plans he has in mind and we all know that he will do what he says … and how grateful we should be about such people … in a world where just the opposite is happening where nature is tortured allover the world and where people dont care about nature but more about money and profit and where it is no question to kill natural environment to achieve economical growth whether these are worldwide forests which are deforrested or burnt down , whether these are oceans which are heavily polluted with plastic or chemicals or whether it is the living area of any kind of animals that is shrunk or even completely destroyed just to have bigger cities , new factories , new hotel chains etc without respecting wildlife at all .

For this reason I cant tell how much I also admired Prof Dr Lokman Aslan who was such a gentle , agreeable and down to earth person , helpful , sensitive and like a medicine man and healer that we know from old traditions or folks . He is such a great energy for our souls as he is hope for the future and hope for nature – he is unbelievable .

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The third person that I was impressed in Van as well is Mr Mehmet , living in the upper Bakrac Village of  Van . He is the son of the former Muezzin of the Bakrac Mosque which is located in this very small village where nearly nobody is living any more .

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Initially it was a village with about 70 families and few hundred people living here but most of them moved to other villages close by in the past decade due to earthquake events .

Located in mid of the Bakrac village are remains of an old Armenian Church or Monastery , the Varakavank Monastery , also called the 7 churches , that was initially built in the 7th century .

In those days the monastery was the single monument in these mountains of Van . Beginning of the 20th century lots of Armenians left this region and since then the monument is destructed . Today it is a ruin with an open roof , where in wintertimes rain and snow is falling inside .

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Next to the church is a mosque which was built in the 1990 s .

We listen to what Mr Mehmet is telling us about this village .

He is an elder person and tells us that the church is suffering a lot under the weather conditions especially in autumn and in winter times .When rain and snow is falling into the inner side of the monastery it is getting wet ,muddy and dirty. Just with his personal efforts he tried to save the monastery as good as he can .

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With some wooden staff and some plastic tent he tried to cover the roof to avoid that water is getting in . He cleaned up the inner part of the monastery so that you can at least walk inside and some Armenian visitors can still have their prayers in here.

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Before it was humid , clumpsy and muddy and all these conditions were destroying the walls and paintings of the monastery inside .

He also cleaned up the front part of the monastery , the little garden , and tried to get some help from local politicians or the government many times to save the ancient building but due to financial reasons his alerts were not heard and the condition could not be improved .

He seems a little tired with all these efforts but does not give up to do his very best to protect this site as good as he can on personal base .

Once he even had a severe accident when in winter times he tried to cover the roof , he fall down and had some serious injuries at his head and needed to undergo some operations in the hospital .

When I ask him why he is doing that he gives me a suprising answer :

He tells that in the past his father , the muezzin of the mosque, was trying to take care of the monastery as both buildings are next to each other .

Once his father got ill and was on the way to die , he asked his son, Mr Mehmet , for a promise .

His father , the muezzin , asked him to take care live long for both buildings in the same way as they are both God’s houses  – the mosque and the church – and he should never accept that anything happens nor to the one neither to the other building .

He told him that there is no difference between the two buildings as both are locations for prayers to God , no matter which religion .

This is the promise that Mr Mehmet has given his father and since then he is taking care for both , welcoming the national and international guests who are coming to this place to visit these ancient ruins of the monastery – about 10.000 people are driving up these hills to come to Bakrac Village every year.

I am astonished about the background that I learnt from Mr Mehmet , another volunteer guard who is tiredlessly looking for some solutions to get some funds to save this historical and religious site .

When I am evaluating these 3 wonderful guys in Van I cannot stand but fall in love with the region – people who are so gorgeous , so healing , so tremendously enlightning with all their modesty – it is overwhelming and touching for me in a world where people are lost in hate , in resentment and bitter feelings for each other , in greediness and poverty of love . To stay honest and to act honest and for the sake of the Good in todays world is really more then impressing and I would wish that the number and the influence of those people is growing since mankind definitely needs it urgently .

Many many heartful thanks to these 3 man who were enlightning my soul and mind on our trip to the Eastern part of Turkey , in Van which I am happy to re-visit one day .

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