Named after the Urartians according to the most scientific view, despite many rumors, Van has Turkey’s biggest lake and occupies 2.5% of the country’s entire territory. It is Turkey’s sixth largest city based on surface area and the pearl of Eastern Anatolia. Dating back to the 7000’s B.C., Van was a capital in Urartian times, previously called Turshpa. Van hosted 16 different civilizations throughout history. The Armenians, Kurds, Turks, Azeris and Persians co-existed here for centuries. Van is a city that blends love, brotherhood, unity, and togetherness.

It is one of the rare cities that have the ability to take you back with Akdamar Island and Church, Van and Hoşap Castles, which dates back to the Urartian period, Gevaş Halime Hatun Dome, Bartholomeus Church, Hüsrevpaşa Mosque, Kaya Çelebi Mosque, Yedi Kilise, İzzettin Şir Mosque, Altınsaç Church, Meher Gate, Şeytan Bridge, Bend-i Mahir Bridge, Çavuştepe Castle, Çarpanak Island and Monastery, Twin Domes, Adır Island and Lim Church.

Mount Artos, one of the few places in the world to host 200 species of butterfly population, rises in all its grandeur just across Akdamar Island. The only mountain in the world displaying similar characteristics to Artos is located in New Zealand.

Despite its unique position as Turkey’s largest lake, Lake Van hosts only one fish species called pearl mullet due to its soda- and salt-containing water. Pearl mullet lives only in Lake Van’s closed basin in the world. Due to its unique life cycle, pearl mullet migrates to rivers in huge groups every year because Lake Van’s salt- and soda-containing water does not allow their breeding. Pearl mullet is given the nickname, Flying Fish, as it flies over waterfalls and puts up great struggles against streams in its sad journey.

214 of nearly 450 bird species are located in Lake Van’s basin as it lies on their migration route. Flamingo is one of the most striking species, and it moves with as high as 10,000 members in some years. Lake Erçek is one of the world’s biggest flamingo stopover spots. “Wings of the East, Lake Erçek Flamingo Festival” takes place in mid-October every year in İpekyolu district, where flamingos are seen most frequently. Located next to Lake Van, Lake Erçek is a real bird paradise.

In Van, unity, and solidarity are paramount values. Van breakfast culture is one of the best examples of local people’s cooperation and hospitality. The biggest characteristic distinguishing Van breakfast from others is the entire range of natural products grown in Van’s fertile soil. However, herbed cheese made out of sheep’s milk has a different place in Van as it contains up to 25 different types of herbs. In fact, herbed cheese is the cheese variety with the highest amount of vitamin C.. The lavash bread, and Van’s yeast bread are cooked in stone ovens and indispensable with freshly brewed urn tea.

All in all, Van is a city which forms memories with its profound history while making one both long for and feel longed for… Neither pages nor broken sentences would suffice to describe Van. So much so that this great city witnessed many sultans, kings, and principalities… It suffered numerous heartbreaking wars, calamities that were cried over. However, there is a reality: whoever witnessed the pages of history on these lands, they became integrated with nature, while occasionally acting combative and harsh like Botan or courageous and chivalrous like Muradiye waterfall. They have been as magnificent as Mount Erek and as vast as Lake Van.

Ahmed Arif summarizes Van very well in one its poem: “Van embraces everyone from any language, nation, and religion…”

We hope to see you one day at a brotherly/sisterly Van breakfast table that is complemented with urn-brewed tea…
by Emrah Akın

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