A big mountain, a beautiful palace and a lesson in religion


I arrived in Dogubeyazit, a large town 35km from the Iranian border,  late at night and after being dropped off on the roadside I started the 30 minute walk into the centre. It was dark but I was still hoping to sight Mount Ararat – the tallest mountain in Turkey at an elevation of 5,137 metres. Unfortunately I would have to wait until the morning, but it was well worth the wait:

Mount Ararat.

I was offered the opportunity to climb Ararat for €350 but after some research this price seemed too cheap and I didn’t fancy going up there without proper equipment or guides. It looks like a fairly easy walk but the peak is always snow covered and requires the use of crampons and an ice axe.


Ishak Pasha Palace with the town of Dogubeyazit in the background.

The other main tourist attraction in Dogubeyazit is Ishak Pasha Palace, a stunning ancient palace overlooking the town. Situated in a spectacular mountain location, it was constructed in 1685 and is considered one of the most important palaces in Turkey. There has been a massive restoration project going on for a few years but even the modern additions like a glass roof to prevent weather damage fit in well. I liked this place a lot.

Looking through the dungeon doors.

The courtyard of Ishak Pasha Palace

The dining room. This was definitely my favourite.

The new glass roof provides some excellent shadows.

Another arial shot.

A mosque and the ruins of a 2500 year old castle. 

I was happy to find out you could even climb to the top of the castle.
While wandering the palace and the surrounding castle, I met an agreeable 22 year old selling souvenirs trying to earn some extra money while on holiday from University. He spoke good English and he very kindly invited me to his house that evening to drink tea, meet his friends and eat some food – sounds perfect I thought. I was welcomed into their house with big smiles and very curious eyes, the majority of the residents were teenagers and were very excited to practice their English. It soon became apparent that this was a religious community, cool.

We all sat on the floor to eat dinner together and I was seated next to the teacher. Conversation started innocently enough with questions about me and my travels but inevitably the subject of religion took precedence. I explained to the teacher that I don’t follow a religion and didn’t believe the bible, I then made the big mistake talking about the Theory of Evolution. “Evolution is only a theory” was the main response… I smiled to myself and thought of the Tim Minchen line - But evolution is only a theory!”, which is true, it is a theory, it’s good that they say that, I think, it gives you hope, doesn’t it, that - that maybe they feel the same way about the theory of gravity… and they might just float the fuck away. 

I kept that to myself though.

The 3 hours that followed involved a lot of talking (with me contributing very little) and a very long passage of the Qu’ran (which was a very nice story of a King as a metaphor for God). I clearly didn’t stand a chance here so I did what anyone with a dislike of confrontation would do; I pretended to be very, very sick. This worked and after convincing my teacher the hospital wasn’t necessary, I was whisked back to my hotel to contemplate whether I was a genius or a coward. They had good spread though, so the evening wasn’t a complete disaster. 

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