I'd never been to Turkey outside of Istanbul, which I was quite taken with. But I've always heard of how many other wonderful sites are to be found in the rest of the country - and unlike the rest of the Middle Eastern countries I've explored, it's huge and almost all of it seems to be filled with interesting terrain. I was happy to take a trip to someplace unlike anyplace else I'd visited before - even the most varied and epic desert landscapes are still epic desert. This strip of the Anti-Taurus mountains wasn't.

With the assistance of an old hiking guide (whose business dropped off after the second Iraq War), we mapped a circuit of beautiful trails around a historic mountain, which became the Nemrut Region of the Abraham Path, one of my favorites.

I didn't seem to have gotten any pictures of the trek from Karadut up the the Mt. Nemrut summit, until this view from the top - looking down south at the lake formed by a dam on the Euphrates, over the old Roman roads that led up the mountain, and to the distinctive gap that led from the valley below Nemrut to the spreading Euphrates plain


Around the snowy summit...


...to one set of the Greco-Persian tomb decorations that make the mountain famous. The summit contains the final resting place of King Antiochus of the Commagene, of whose kingdom I'd never even heard. Apparently it was one of the fragments that persisted from Alexander the Great's empire, and was soon absorbed by Rome


Snow in April means it's chilly up there once the sun goes down




Heading down from the summit


Treated to views of the ranges to the north along the way


This place was great for the kind of time-worn, snaky paths - or dirt roads - I love to find


After an intensely steep descent down the mountain's slopes, we reached the lush lowlands near Arsemia, where the Commagene kings sat when they weren't ordering slaves up the mountain to carve elaborate tombs for them






At Arsemia, there isn't much in the way of castles you can visit, but this dungeon delved much deeper into the cliffs than I cared to go without a rope


Now it's time to flip back to Karadut and find the second route to Arsemia. This day proved to be my favorite, starting out along a rushing river...


And climbing up into the country hills between high mountains, through several quaint little Kurdish villages I neglected to get good photos of


Turning away from a wide dirt road, we began to follow a donkey path over the mountain - our guide told us, and the worn status of the path confirmed, that people still use it to travel between villages. From the top, we got my favorite view of Nemrut. Nearby this spot, we found hunting blinds used for partridge-trapping; later we got to see a captured partridge


Partly cloudy and mountains on mountains. What more do you want?


Soon it was time to descend from the ridge and follow a rough track down the valley seen ahead here


Lower elevation, more green - the opposite of Wadi Dana, back in Jordan


So many plentifully-stocked water sources were a sight for sore eyes. Even the non-desert portions of Israel, Palestine and Jordan aren't like this


Old mountain architecture is much more charming than the blocky houses of most of the rest of the Abraham Path




One last view of the valley of Karadut, below Nemrut...


And it's time to go



Bonus pictures from walking around Urfa, 2 hours south of Nemrut and, by local tradition, the birthplace of Abraham. They really love them some Abraham there. Everybody you meet seems to be named Ibrahim or Halil in his honor. There's a beautiful park/mosque complex around the birth cave, filled with holy carp and other attractions. 

 




Spot the architectural origin of this mosque. The city's tourist pamphlet mentions it was once a church, but not who built it, or what happened to them. This is because what happened to the Armenians a century ago was the reason the word "genocide" was coined, and it's still a bit of a delicate topic around these parts


Dark history (and present proximity to the ISIS border) aside, Urfa was no like place I've ever seen. A mountain, home to Abraham's birth cave, stands above the city. Springs from its base fill the network of pools and canals around the mosques, all of it amid what seems more like an exotic pleasure garden than a holy site. The dozens of cafes and restaurants along the water don't help the atmosphere of sanctity either. I found myself wishing Philadelphia had a park this nice






You're free to feed the sacred carp, but it's bad luck to catch them, much less grill one up for lunch


Not sure where else you'd want to be on a summer day. Of course, this was early spring, so I had to chase the sunlight around the park to stay warm while I read.