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Eastward to Ancient Ruins, Turkiye

October 12th, 2022

We were awake early being parked right near the highway (and of course, the call to prayer which is five times a day:  an hour before dawn, midday, afternoon, after sunset and nighttime) so we hit the road by around 7am.   We weren’t sure how far we’d go today but our plan is to visit three attractions before returning to Kayseri on Saturday afternoon for our second dental appointments (Doug will have a third).   It’s a lot of miles but it will save us spending a week in Kayseri where there are no really good options for overnighting and there’s not much to see.

We noticed another increase of a lira in the price of diesel today so up to 28 ₺ per litre from the 23 we saw upon entering less than two weeks ago.

The drive was all four lane highway (not toll) for over 320 km / 198 m and it went by quickly.

As we approach mountains and greener pastures:

We drove through the large city of Malatya and stopped by the university to have brunch.  It was full of modern apartments with good infrastructure.  Here are co-ordinates were

38.367265N and 38.371099E

Then we get off the four lane highway for the last  80km / 50 mi to Nemrut Dag – ancient ruins dating back to the Greeks in the first century BC.

This part of the drive was a narrow two lane road but we met very little traffic in either direction.

The sign boards to the site indicated it was a shorter distance than our mapping app (by almost 25 km) so we opted to follow them.  Turns out we arrived at the back entrance to the national park and on this end, you can drive right up to within 100m of the grounds.  When we were up there, we learned that on the other side, where the Visitor’s Centre is located, you have to park there, and then shuttle bus up, then walk at least triple that amount on lots and lots of stairs.  Fran was pretty happy.

This site is on Mount Nemrut and is about 2100m / 7000′ in altitude.  Our drive here took us up,  up, up and then down, down and then up, up, up.  At the end of the road, there’s a fellow to whom you pay the entrance fee 50₺ pp and then he drops the chain so you can drive the final 3km.  It was a gorgeous sunny day and the views on the drive here got increasingly better:

Where we left Minou while we did the short climb up


It is one of the most magnificent ruins of the Hellenistic Period with its tomb, monumental sculptures and unique scenery, built by the Commagene King Antiochos I, who ruled on the slopes of Mount Nemrut  to show his gratitude to the gods and ancestors. Monumental sculptures are spread over the east, west and north terraces. The eastern terrace is the sacred centre and therefore the most important sculptures and architectural remains are located here. The well-preserved giant statues are made of limestone blocks and were 8-10 meters high. Although its existence is known, the tomb of the king has not been discovered yet.

It was added to the UNESCO list  in 1987. The entry states: The mausoleum of Antiochus I (69–34 B.C.), who reigned over Commagene, a kingdom founded north of Syria and the Euphrates after the breakup of Alexander’s empire, is one of the most ambitious constructions of the Hellenistic period. The syncretism of its pantheon, and the lineage of its kings, which can be traced back through two sets of legends, Greek and Persian, is evidence of the dual origin of this kingdom’s culture.

The religious sanctuary established in Mount Nemrut was part of Antiochus’ political program to revive the Persian traditions of Commagene. In order to do so, he merged and adjusted the political and religious traditions of Cappadocia, Pontus, and Armenia.

We walked up to the East Terrace which is the largest of the three.  The statues aligned on the west side of the terrace are:  Lion, Eagle, Antiochus, Commagene, Zeus, Apollo, Herakles, Eagle, Lion.  All of the statues depicting people were in a seated position and made up of seven or eight large blocks of rock stacked on top of each other.

The lion represents the domination of the kingdom of Commagene on earth while the Eagle represents its domination over the skies.

Then we walked around the outside of the peak of the mountain to the West Terrace which has been affected more by past seismic activity and erosion than the others due to climatic factors.  It too had five colossal god statues protected by eagles and lions.

On this side, there is also featured a series of Reliefs on the base of which were depictions of handshakes between the gods features in the statues.

And then finally back around to the East Terrace stopping to view the remains of the North Terrace:

It wasn’t a long visit but it was cool.  It was only mid-afternoon so we decided to find an overnight spot lower down so it wouldn’t be so cold overnight.  The last two nights we hit low single digits C overnight so it was cold in the mornings.

Fran found a parking area at a Roman bridge that has a huge area to park and spend the night.  Enroute we saw this huge castle called Yeni near Eski Kanta:

The bridge itself was pretty darn cool built nearly 2000 years ago by the Romans in the last first century:

The pairs of columns at the ends of the bridge were built to honour Caracalla & Geta, sons of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus.  When the former became emperor in 212AD he assassinated his brother and ordered that the column of his deceased brother be removed hence the lack of the fourth column.

We strolled over the bridge; it’s much more touristy on the other end as there’s a restaurant and vendors selling souvenirs.  On the end we parked at, there were a few tour buses but the picnic area was empty.  There are no services here but rubbish bins and a 4G signal.  We don’t expect much company once it gets dark.

After sitting there less than an hour after visiting the bridge, two police officers came over and said hello before handing us a phone to take a call; someone who spoke English explained to us that it was not allowed to spend the night where we were and we either had to leave or move to the other end of the Roman Bridge.  We tried to get an explanation but got none and just agreed to move.  There was a sign over there saying Cendere Camping but it was really just the parking lot for tour buses near a bathroom block.  The sign showed showers, but we couldn’t find them.  We didn’t have a view here but apparently we were “safer”.  Now we are back down at 600 m / 1970’.

Today we passed through one tunnel up over 1900 m / 6200’.  It was a long way down after that and we could smell Minou’s brakes at times and while climbing she struggled a bit like the air was too thin for the diesel engine.  We also noted some gas stations had diesel at over 29₺ per litre!

Come morning, it was still on the warm side and upon getting ready to leave, a tour operator pointed out that the rear passenger side tire of Minou was quite low.  Doug got the compressor out and pumped it back up.  Then off we went southward towards Göbekli Tepe stopping in the town of Kahat to get the tire repaired at a Bridgestone Shop.  The man in the office offered us tea (which is often offered at gas stations as well) and then after the tire was repaired, (it had a nail in it) would not take any payment.  How kind he was.

Shortly after leaving the Roman Bridge we passed the Karakus Tumulus, outside of which was a large eagle statue (but we couldn’t make out the mound itself):

While driving in Turkey, we have seen police “road stops” not really blocks where many people get pulled over and the officers are looking at tablets; we’re not sure what they are checking, maybe speed…or looking for refugees? Anyway, we got asked to pull over today only to be waved past when we actually stopped so we are still in the dark.

It’s getting warmer now that we are away from the mountains and the sun is still shining – Fran is back in capris and sandals.

Upon arriving at the city of Sunliurfa, we note that we are only about 60 km / 40 mi from the Syrian border, which is naturally, closed.

This is the turn toward the site – a roundabout with replica megaliths in it!:

We arrived at the Göbekli Tepe parking and went in to purchase our tickets before walking up the 800m / 2625′ to the site.

Göbekli Tepe is a Neolithic archaeological site in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey. Dated to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, between c. 9500 and 8000 BCE, the site comprises a number of large circular structures supported by massive stone pillars – the world’s oldest known megaliths. Many of these pillars are richly decorated with abstract anthropomorphic details, clothing, and reliefs of wild animals, providing archaeologists rare insights into prehistoric religion and the particular iconography of the period. The 15 m (50 ft)-high, 8 ha (20-acre) tell also includes many smaller rectangular buildings, quarries, and stone-cut cisterns from the Neolithic, as well as some traces of activity from later periods.

The site was first used at the dawn of the Neolithic period, which in Southwest Asia marks the appearance of the oldest permanent human settlements anywhere in the world. Prehistorians link this Neolithic Revolution to the advent of agriculture, but disagree on whether farming caused people to settle down or vice-versa. Göbekli Tepe, a monumental complex built on the top of a rocky mountaintop, far from known sources of water and to date produced no clear evidence of agricultural cultivation, has played a prominent role in this debate. The site’s original excavator, German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, described it as the “world’s first temple”: a sanctuary used by groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers from a wide area, with few or no permanent inhabitants. Other archaeologists challenged this interpretation, arguing that the evidence for a lack of agriculture and a resident population was far from conclusive. Recent research has also led the current excavators of Göbekli Tepe to revise or abandon many of the conclusions underpinning Schmidt’s interpretation.

First noted in a survey in 1963, the importance of the site was recognized by Schmidt, who directed excavations there from 1995 until his death in 2014. Since then, work has continued under the auspices of Istanbul University, Şanlıurfa Museum, and the German Archaeological Institute, under the overall direction of Turkish prehistorian Necmi Karul. It was designated a UNESCO Site in 2018, recognizing its outstanding universal value as “one of the first manifestations of human-made monumental architecture”. As of 2021, less than 5% of the site has been excavated.

Walking up to the dig site, the roof looks like the Calgary Saddledome’s little sibling with a curved saddle like covering.

There is a boardwalk all the way around the actual main site and another to get you back to the beginning passing another smaller “building”.  Many of the megaliths have animal carvings on them.

It’s pretty darn impressive how well these have been preserved, uncovered and you just know there’s got to be more to excavate in the surrounding area.

As we were leaving we saw SEVEN RV’s from Estonia come into the parking area.  We had seen them back in Malatya at a traffic round about and wondered if we would encounter them again.  When we drove into this attraction we did see one German MAN type rig following us and did speak briefly to the fellow driving it but we were going in opposite directions.  We never did meet up with the Estonians.

After returning to Minou we decided to try and push on to the next city we wanted to see something in as Fran had found a free campground there with power, water, hot showers and free washing machines and dryers!  It’s a bit further than we would like to go but we could take a “day off” driving tomorrow and still get back to Kayseri in time for our appointments on Saturday.  It helps a lot that the highways are so good.

Today was back to toll highways and at once point we crossed the Euphrates River:

We arrived on the other side of the city of Gaziantep which appears to be rather large with lots of new construction going on.  There are lots and lots of new apartment buildings going up:

It’s quite impressive how, here like in Istanbul and other large cities in Turkiye we’ve passed through, the traffic passes through quite smoothly.  The road system has definitely been upgraded to European standards and we rarely hit a traffic jam.  The main thoroughfares have frontage roads where the businesses are located so there’s no parking or stopping on them which helps a great deal.  Their highway exits and entries can be weird as they are often not the standard cloverleaf and they seem to take up way more room than necessary but it works.

We arrived at the Karavan Park around 4 and after checking in (although it was free, we had to show our passports).  You can stay free for only two nights but that’s perfect for us.  They offer power and water right at your site; free laundry!, large bathrooms with showers and hot water, a large kitchen area but no Wi-Fi.  We showered and Fran did two loads of laundry and will do a third with all our bedding tomorrow and maybe a fourth – why not?, it’s free!

We met a couple from Germany and Greece here who’ve been here at the campground for two months because he had an accident on this motorcycle (that he carries on the back of the motorhome).  There’s not a lot around this place so it’s got to be getting pretty boring but at least they have all these great facilities here.  The park has about 3 dozen spaces and about 18 of them are filled with travel trailers/caravans of locals.  Eva, the Greek woman, told us many of them come just on weekends.  There is large park on this lake with a water park, a petting zoo and more so it’s pretty popular in summer.

Each night we were here, a few other European vehicles came and went; some from Holland, Italy and Germany.  Doug was not feeling well; seems he’s caught a cold so he rested as much as possible hoping to feel better by Saturday for our next dental appointments.

Friday morning was glorious – we are back in the land of mid 20sC/ high 70’sF with coolish nights – perfect weather.  After tea time, we packed up and drove into the city to go to the Zeugma Mosaic Museum but will return.

Zeugma Mosaic Museum, contains 1700 m2 of mosaics. It opened to the public on 9 September 2011. It replaces the Bardo National Museum in Tunis as the world’s largest mosaic museum.

The museum’s Hellenistic Greek and Roman mosaics are focused on Zeugma, which is said to have been founded as Seleucia by Seleucus I Nicator, founder of the Seleucid Kingdom after serving as a hetairoi military officer in the army of Alexander the Great. The treasures, including the mosaics, remained relatively unknown until 2000 when artifacts appeared in museums and when plans for new dams on the Euphrates meant that much of Zeugma would be flooded. In 2011, many of the mosaics remain covered, and teams of researchers continue to work on the project.

There seemed to be NO parking lot for the museum and when we asked about parking on the side street, we were told no, go around and park in front.  However, in front all the signs say “no stopping”.  The museum was not quite open yet but Fran found someone to ask and was told,” yes park along the front – no problem”, so we did.

We spent an hour wandering this excellent modern museum.  The mosaics were nicely displayed although the lighting could have been better for photos but at least we were allowed to take flash-less ones.

There are two buildings with many mosaics; some are floors, some are complete rooms and there was even a bath complex.  It was very well displayed and put together and we were quite impressed.

We were back at the campground before 10 and spent a relaxing day enjoying the sunshine and warmth.  Doug has been working on cleaning our bathroom cassette as it has a bit of leak from one of the buttons.  In order to do so, you must let it soak for over 24 hours so that means no using the toilet so we can only do this in a campground with 24 hour bathrooms and this place fits that bill.

Doug managed to remove the shelf in the shower that holds the faucet as it got quite cracked a while back and we want to see about getting it repaired while were are back in Kayseri next week.

We left the campground early on Saturday as we had to be at the dentist by 2:30 and we had a couple of other things we wanted to do in the city.

Enroute today, we noted that the price of diesel was back down to 27 sometimes 26₺ a litre so we buy diesel when we see it below 27 hoping it continues to drop. We really can’t complain much as it’s still the cheapest place we’ve bought petrol in all of Europe.

Doug has not been sleeping well between his mouth (he had 5 teeth extracted and will be getting 7 implants) and his cold so he was tired driving today and we stopped more times than we usually do, sometimes to top up and we stopped early to eat brunch to give him a break.

SIDEBAR:  Highway infrastructure has improved in Turkiye vastly in the past two decades which is improving the movement of goods and therefore, the economy.  $172 billion USD has been spent so far and they expect to spend another $198 billion by 2053! 

We got parked in the free lot we found last time we were downtown and went to look for cell phone shops.  Neither of us has been able to figure out how to tell what our data balances are and the apps they tell you to use are in Turkish.  We also figure we both need more data as we are barely half way through our journey through this country.  Doug went to TurkCell first and they showed him how to use the app and also helped him through buying some more data but it didn’t seem to work.  The clerk knew only a little English and we gave up.

We then went to the optical shop to pick up Fran’s glasses that we’d ordered new lenses for; now she has crystal clear vision again and they seem to have been properly made with the progressive transition lenses she wants/needs.

While Fran was waiting for a proper written receipt (which for some reason was going to take ten minutes) Doug went off to find another TurkCell shop.  There he got what he needed sorted.  Upon returning to meet Fran, he took her to a TurkTelcom shop and there we found a good English speaking clerk who (she thinks) showed her how to tell her balance (which was still 30GB of the 40 she had) and she purchased another 20GB with an 8GB bonus.  We seem to find that free Wi-Fi is less available here and she needs more data to work on the website and download our fave shows.  That 20GB cost $5USD!

Then it was off to the dentist where we hooked up to their Wi-Fi straight away to do updates on our phones etc.  They took Doug in first and tried on his new crowns.  This caused his gums to bleed again and then they told him they will finalize them and they will be placed next Wednesday.

Fran got in the chair next; they tried on her new veneers which fit perfectly and they said if she waited an hour they could colour match them.  While they took them away, they fixed her bite once again as it was still a little off.  The side of her mouth with the filling still hits first and she’s worried it will cause more undue stress on it and cause it to break sooner.   That now is fixed.  Yeah!

While waiting, she sat in the waiting room online and they assisted Doug in finding a hardware store as he needed a few tools for replacing the shower shelf after it’s repaired.   He then returned to Minou to try and take a nap.

They had Fran return to the chair in about fifteen minutes, refitted the new veneers and then “painted” them to match her teeth.  Now she had to wait an hour for the paint to “dry” so the temp crowns were replaced and she returned to the waiting room.

By 4pm we were all done for today.

Fran’s glasses with new lenses and her new smile

We did not want to stay downtown overnight for two nights so Fran had found a park about 3.5 km / 2ish miles away on a hill overlooking the city.  The only services are rubbish bins, a toilet and picnic tables but it’s away from the hustle and bustle (but of course, not the call to prayer) and seeing that summer is over, few people come.  The large main parking area didn’t have too many options for overhanging the back of Minou.  As we were walking around checking the spaces out, a young woman in a hijab came over speaking a bit of English.  She asked if we were wondering if we could stay here and upon saying “yes” she ran over to the security booth and found out we could and that there was another parking area about 300 m / 1000’ feet down the other side of the hill we could check out.  We thanked her and went down there.  It was even less busy and on the side, had a row of parking spaces that we could comfortably park Minou.  The park is very well lit inside but as we were on the far side, the lights were only on the park side.  We were closer to a road but it was not an overly travelled one at night.  During the evening we heard a few “boys showing off their cool cars” but it stopped early enough not to be bothersome.

We plan to stay here Sunday night as well as we cannot get things done tomorrow and we need a day of no driving again.

Today, we drove through 11 tunnels, one of them being 4km long.  You know some of them are quite new as the lighting is much better even than the tunnels in Norway!  We climbed back up to 1900m / 6200′ at one point and here in Kayseri we are at 1100m / 3600’.

So Sunday the 16th we had a non-driving day; we stayed parked at the hilltop park in Kayseri and spent the day online, going for a walk and chilling – Doug needed the rest as his cold is still in full swing; hoping to see a downturn tomorrow.  He did manage to do a little bit of work on the shower stall – removing the old putty and taping to be ready when the shelf is repaired.

Monday morning – another week in Turkiye!  Considering we didn’t plan to do this country on this trip, we are staying here several weeks in the end.  We made our way to the hospital to pick up our blood work results.  The sign on the door said it opened at 8 but it seems not; at 8:30 it opened and there was a line of about two dozen of us (us and 22ish Syrians!) all herded inside in two lines: one for men; and one for women.  They took our ID’s and showed us to the waiting room.  Even though we were the third inside, it took a while before they called us up and sent us into the room with the doctor we’d met last week.

He looked at our results and all was good; especially for Doug; the statins the Kenyan doctor put him on in January worked wonders and his cholesterol was WAY down.  Fran’s is still a little high but within a good range when you take into consideration the ratios.  Doug then asked for some more meds for his butt pain and if they don’t help some more, he’ll have to see an orthopedist and get a cortisone shot.

Then it was back to Mehmet’s auto body shop where he took the shower shelf from Doug and will repair it.  He will add a piece of metal under the part that broke to make it stronger but it needs the adhesive needs to cure so the job will hopefully be completed tomorrow.

Doug then went on a quest to find a place to put new foam in his dining room seat cushion and this sent us in many directions until we got it done by a relative of Mehmet’s.  We also bought some adhesive spray to repair the memory foam mattress topper on Fran’s bed cause it’s ripping in a few places.

Next was a shower for Minou at a truck wash place near Mehmet’s and around the corner from that, we had her tires rotated.

Then we returned to the park we’d spent the last two nights at and will spend two more.  Tomorrow we return to Mehmet’s and then we should be done here in Kayseri except Doug’s final dental appointment on Wednesday.

Doug is feeling better today; his cold is dissipating but Fran’s throat feels a little scratchy.  Uh oh!

Tuesday morning, Doug awoke feeling pretty good and decided he’d walk to Mehmet’s to pick up the shower shelf.  Fran is feeling okay, scratchy throat is gone but she’s got a slight runny nose.  Here’s hoping a heavy dose of zinc will kill it.

Turns out there was a problem with the painting of our shower shelf; it had bubbles in it so they wanted to redo it which meant we couldn’t pick it up until tomorrow.

Fran walked over to get a few groceries; we don’t want to buy too much yet until we know when Doug can eat regular food again; we’ve both been on soft food for a week now; Fran is all good and can eat normally since Sunday night but Doug, not yet.

Sidebar:  We have noticed that there are SO many smokers in this country and there are no “no smoking” rules in place indoors which makes for uncomfortable situations at times.  Many public places like museums, do have signs but it’s apparently not a law. Doug checked out the price of cigarettes at a petrol station today and it’s like about $1.50 to $2 a pack, so it’s too cheap.

So that night was not as quiet as the previous nights but most of the noise (loud music from cars and barking dogs) stopped by midnight although the dogs bark whenever!  We showered and had a later start than usual since we didn’t have to be downtown until 10 for the dentist.  We did go a bit early in order to see the Kayseri city walls:

And the Kayseri Castle which is really only the outside walls remaining with a plaza inside.

This photo is a part of the wall that was built at the point where the Roman wall met the Byzantine wall in the 12th century:

So Wednesday was a big day; Doug got his new permanent teeth and we picked up the repaired the shower shelf.  Looked great and Doug will install it when we get stopped somewhere for more than a night.  Kayseri, – we say “thank you – you treated us well and we got so much done”.  Adios!

We hit the road later than we had hoped (the dentist appointments always took longer than we were told….) and we decided that since we’ll probably never be in Turkiye again, we should drive through Cappadocia on our way westward.  And since we got a late start, we thought why not stay at the nice wild camp with the great views over Goreme and Uchisar?

We headed out on the highway and then made a turn off it to drive back through the most scenic driving part:  The Dervent Valley and of course, had to take another video:

Later enroute to Goreme:

This route also took us past Pasabag Valley and the Cavusin fairy chimneys before reaching the town of Goreme where we decided we should stop and have a Turkish beer in a restaurant with a view.  Fran spotted a parking spot right across from the Istanbul Café that had a second floor and more importantly, a sign saying they serve beer!; not all restaurants do here in Turkey.

We got a lovely swing table where we could sit with our feet up and enjoying the views.

We then ordered a few appies to make it an early dinner and they were pretty good.

It was a short drive then to our camp spot and we parked facing the other direction this time to see into the valley from our “picture window” but could still see sunset and the Uchisar castle from our kitchen window.

It rained overnight but not heavily but we knew that meant no balloon launch the next morning as it was supposed to last well into Thursday.

Doug did manage to get his run in the next morning as the rain didn’t start till the last 15 minutes and then we had our tea and hit the road.