The ridge abruptly rises near the lake’s edge. It is more than a half mile long and hundreds of feet high. The flat ground extending from its base (undoubtedly a flood plain from more remote times) renders the promontory all the more stunning. Walls and towers cling to the rock like barnacles. I wonder why these man-made constructions were thought necessary. The plunge to the flat is so vertical, so awful, that the ridge ably protects itself. 


The sun is warm on the morning we set foot on Ağrı Dağı. Now I realize it was a fooler.

We ascend past the camps of nomadic herders, past the children begging for our chocolate bars, and past the occasional shepherd with his flock. The trail, which had been cut with heavy equipment at some point in the past, quickly shook off all memory of the experience. Deep ruts demand a jump or even a full detour. Boulders litter the path. Serious water has torn the ground to pieces.

A Vertical Life(way)

The rutted road that climbs up from Çevirme demands a shift from wheels to legs. Leaving the comforts of settled life behind, we pick our way into Ağrı Dağı’s foothills. I look right and contemplate a flat-roofed structure of stone and mud. Two women eyeball our group as we follow Celîl around the corner. I make note of the moment; this is the edge of the permanent. We enter the world of the mobile. Bones and ankles take the place of brakes and axles. Before me is the summer grazing ground of Kurdish pastoralists.

Between Van and Iran

On the eastern end of Turkey rests Lake Van, the largest lake in the country. It has many claims to fame: a deep history, a saline character, and even a “Loch Ness” style monster rumored to haunt its depths. Of these, it is the first that brings us here (although the third is certainly interesting!). In the first millennium BC, a kingdom remembered as Urartu was centered in the region. In fact, the capital of the kingdom was erected on a rocky knob rising above the water’s edge. A scramble over these ruins is is goal for another day, as is additional attention to the mysterious Urartians.