When it comes to travel (and often life), there are secret gems and over-looked gems. A secret gem is that place that no one knows about except you – someplace you stumbled upon and maybe want to keep all to yourself. An over-looked gem is a place that you might find in your guide book, but that few people take the trouble to visit. I’ve shared my fair share of secret gems in these posts, but here’s an over-looked one, in the heart of one of my favorite countries: Turkey.
Lake Van is a spectacular, if remote, place. The largest lake in the country, Van is one of the world’s only “endorheic” lakes, ie. a lake with no outlet. Some say it’s home to a legendary monster, a la Nessie in Scotland: a 30-to-40 ft creature with brown, scaly skin. I certainly never saw the beast myself, at least not that I’ll admit. I was just happy to be there at all. Getting to Lake Van involves a long bus ride east into some pretty, wild country. On a clear day, you can see the borders of Syria, Armenia and Iran. In other words, you are far from home.
What stands out about Lake Van is the setting: a glittering, blue lake surrounded by snow-covered mountains. At the center of the lake is Akdamar Island, home to the ruins of a 10th Century Armenian church, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, which served as a royal church to the kingdom of Vaspurakan. Visiting Lake Van is like stepping out of time. Quiet as a church mouse, the lake exudes stillness and calm. There’s no one here. Perhaps no one has ever been here. A stark, beautiful isolation.
(What’s your over-looked gem? It could be a place. It could be a thing. It could even be a person. Whatever, wherever or whomever it is, cherish it – and share it only if you choose to. Finder’s keepers!)