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Route planning

Heads up: Kickstarter campaign begins next week

by Matt Krause on July 25, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

[Status update: The trip starts with a flight to Chicago in 11 days!]

Next week I will begin a Kickstarter campaign to raise financial backing for the walk across Turkey. The campaign will simply be called “Walking Turkey” (yes, there is a little self-deprecating humor in that name).

Please note that I will be walking across Turkey regardless of what happens with the financial backing on Kickstarter. The walk is too important to let it not happen, and the money I’ve already put away for the trip is enough to get the ball rolling. I bought my plane tickets months ago, I’ve already walked 1200 miles to make sure my body’s up to the task, and my equipment is ready to go. If finishing the walk means I need to stop along the way and dig some ditches, I’m cool with that. I am “all in” on this walk and nothing that happens on Kickstarter can change that.

So what’s this Kickstarter thing?

Kickstarter is a crowd funding website where project owners post a project (a film, a debut album, or in my case, a walk across Turkey) and then solicit financial backing to help fund that project.

The Walking Turkey campaign will aim to raise $3900 between August 1 and October 1. On Kickstarter the average backer contributes about $44, at which rate I would need to line up 89 backers to clear the $3900 hurdle.

The campaign will have various backer levels, ranging from $5 to $2000. Each backer level on that $5-$2000 spectrum comes with a reward or set of rewards — postcards from the road, books I write during the trip, a copy of the trip journal, etc. My personal favorite is the reward for the $15 backers — they get a picture postcard made from a photo I take along the route, at a location specified by them.

When the Kickstarter campaign begins next week, please back it with a few bucks. I will greatly appreciate it!

If you don’t want to back the walk for whatever reason, please tell a few friends about it. (“Hey, this guy I know is walking across Turkey, check out his Kickstarter campaign.”)

And, of course, anyone can follow the walk at www.heathenpilgrim.com, whether they backed it on Kickstarter or not. Remember, the walk starts September 1.

The last leg — Lake Van to Iran

by Matt Krause on June 10, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

This leg is 157 miles long, so it will take me about 3 weeks to cover it. I will spend the first two weeks walking along Lake Van at about 5500 feet. In the third week I will part ways with the lake and climb to 7600 feet, the highest point in the trip, before descending the final 8 miles to the Turkey/Iran border.

I will probably be walking this section in late March or early April, meaning I will have been on the road about 8 months. Temperatures will be around 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, 32 at night (10 to 0 degrees Celsius).

Leaving Tatvan, looking back on Mount Nemrut

Road between Tatvan and Van

Lake Van from Edremit

Lake Van from Edremit, a town I'll be passing through

City of Van

The city of Van

Near the border at 7600 feet

Near the border at 7600 feet

The Kapikoy border crossing

The Kapikoy border crossing

I’ll start by leaving the city of Tatvan, on Lake Van’s western shore, and walking to Van, a city on the eastern shore.

Lake Van is a big lake. The main body is 60 miles across in one direction, 30 in another, plus there’s a 30-mile-long arm that juts off from the lake’s main body. It’ll take me a couple weeks just to walk from one end of the lake to the other. I’ll only be walking along its actual shoreline about 1/3 of that time. Most of those two weeks will be spent walking through hills about 5 miles inland.

There isn’t really an easy way around the lake. One route, the southern route, the one I plan to walk, is pretty mountainous. It’s difficult and expensive to build and maintain roads in that area. The northern shore’s route is flatter, but it’s longer (about 145 miles compared to the southern route’s 95). A train ferry shuttles automobiles and trains the 60 miles across the lake, but of course my goal is to walk, not take boats.

This area is prone to earthquakes. In October 2011 there was a quake that registered 7.2 on the Richter scale. Hit hardest was Ercis, a city of 80,000 people on the lake’s northeastern shore, about 35 miles north of Van.

The city of Van has a population of about 368,000 people and an elevation of 5600 feet. The city is mostly Kurdish. It’s near a bunch of borders, and over the years it’s passed from one set of hands to another. At one point it was Armenian, then it was Persian, then it was Armenian again, then it was Byzantine, and now it’s Turkish. Even Alexander the Great had it for a while.

From Van I have about 63 miles left to the end of the walk at the Kapikoy border crossing. It’ll take me about a week to cover that distance. During that week I will hit the trip’s highest elevation, about 7600 feet, before descending the last 8 miles to the border.

The border crossing at Kapikoy is one of three land crossings on the Turkey/Iran border. It is the newest of the three, having opened in 2011.

When I mention I will be at the Turkey/Iran border, some Americans bring up the American hikers who were arrested in Iran a couple years back. They worry that I might get arrested, too.

Those hikers got arrested crossing the border illegally while wandering through the mountains. Lots of people, including Americans, travel to Iran every single day and don’t get arrested.

I do not plan to celebrate the completion of my trip by crossing the border. I also do not plan to celebrate by wandering off to hike through unmarked, mountainous territory. After I touch the fence at the border crossing I plan to hop a bus back to Van and hoist a celebratory beer. Cheers!

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

East of Diyarbakir

Plains east of Diyarbakir

This section is 149 miles long. I’ll spend about three weeks walking it, probably around the first half of March. The first couple weeks the temperatures will be about 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, 30 at night (10 to -1 degrees Celsius). My elevation will range from 2000 to 3000 feet.

This is a fairly sparsely-populated section, mostly just mile after mile of rolling plains, some irrigated and some not, with some villages scattered about. On the map it looks like there’s a lot of agriculture for the 50 miles east of Diyarbakir, a big green spot irrigated by waters from the Tigris and Batman rivers.

Yes, you heard correctly, Batman. In eastern Turkey there is an entire province and city named Batman. Batman is not a large province — it will take me all of about 3 days to walk across Batman.

Silvan from the hills

Silvan from the hills

Malabadi Koprusu

Malabadi Bridge near the Batman Dam

There isn’t much in the way of cities in these parts. For the three weeks between Diyarbakir, where the leg begins, and Tatvan, where it ends on the shores of Lake Van, the largest city I’ll pass through is Silvan, population 42,000, about a week out of Diyarbakir.

Silvan used to be a more bustling place than it is now. It is one of two possible sites of the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia. From its heyday as capital of an entire kingdom (or at least a possible one of them), the city began its decline, getting sacked by the Romans, taken over by the Byzantines, and passing through the hands of Arabs. By the 12th century AD it was merely a shell of its former self.

About 12 miles east of Silvan I’ll cross the Malabadi Bridge. The Malabadi bridge is less than a half mile downstream from the Batman Dam. The Malabadi bridge was built in the 12th century AD, but in the 1950s a more modern bridge bypassing it was built a few feet upstream.

Bitlis

Bitlis, William Saroyan's parents' hometown

Iran on roadsigns

Iran starts showing up on roadsigns

Mt. Nemrut's crater lake

Nemrut's crater lake

View of Tatvan with Lake Van on left

Tatvan, on the western shore of Lake Van

A note for the folks in my old stomping grounds near Fresno, California: about 70 miles east of the Malabadi bridge I’ll pass through the village of Bitlis. Bitlis is the hometown of William Saroyan’s parents, who moved to Fresno from Bitlis. Bitlis the village sits on Bitlis the river. Bitlis the river is a tributary to the Tigris.

(If you’re not from the Fresno area, William Saroyan was an Armenian-American author who died in 1981. He’s a local hero in the Fresno area.)

In the last week of this leg I will climb onto a higher plateau at about 6000 feet, where I will find Lake Van. If it’s a light snow year, the snow will have cleared from the plateau by the time I get there, at least at the road elevations.

If it’s a heavier snow year however, there might still be lots of snow on the road. If that’s the case, I may drag my feet (figuratively) on the Euphrates-Tigris leg, so I arrive at Lake Van later than planned.

Near this last section of the road to Lake Van is the Mount Nemrut volcano. Mount Nemrut is 10,007 feet (3050 meters) high. The volcano hasn’t erupted in over 400 years, but it isn’t extinct — low-level volcanic activity keeps the crater’s lake really warm, about 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius).

By the way, this Mount Nemrut is not the same as the more famous Mount Nemrut 200 miles to the west near Adiyaman. That Mount Nemrut is the one with the statues of heads with cone hats, photos of which adorn the covers of many travel books.

At the foot of the Nemrut volcano, and marking the end of this leg, is Tatvan, a city of about 96,000 people. Tatvan rests at the edge of the Armenian Highland plateau, the higher plateau I’ll be on for the last leg of this journey. Lake Van is on this plateau, as is the border with Iran. I’ll be writing about that section, the walk’s final leg, in the next installment.

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Euphrates river at Birecik

Euphrates river at Birecik

This leg starts when I cross the Euphrates at Birecik, and ends 170 miles later when I cross the Tigris at Diyarbakir. I expect to be walking this section in mid-January through the first of March.

Temperatures will probably range from about 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to the low 30s at night (10 to -1 degrees Celsius). Elevation is 2000 to 3000 feet, with a spike up to 4000 feet midway through the leg.

Road east of Birecik, heading east towards Urfa

Road between Birecik and Urfa

Walking through this area will take me about three weeks, but I plan on staying over a while in two of the cities, Urfa and Diyarbakir, so I will probably be here for 6 weeks or longer.

In the previous writeup (“Osmaniye to the Euphrates”) I mentioned that my imagination had run out, and that I didn’t know what to expect beyond Osmaniye. I might have run out of imagination, but this section has something that’s more important than imagination — meaning. For some reason I barely understand and so won’t even bother trying to articulate at this point, this section of the walk is what possessed me to undertake the walk in the first place.

Part of my fascination with this section is rooted in its being sandwiched by the famous Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Both rivers’ headwaters are in Turkey’s Taurus Mountains, the mountain range I will have spent over 4 months walking in or near. The Euphrates flows through Turkey for about 750 miles before flowing through Syria and Iraq, and the Tigris flows through Turkey for about 250 miles before flowing through Syria and Iraq. The rivers then meet in southern Iraq and empty into the Persian Gulf.

Ataturk Dam

Ataturk Dam on the Euphrates

In the 1970s Turkey began building a series of 22 dams to make use of the rivers’ irrigation and hydroelectric potential. The project was known as “GAP” (Guneydogu Anadolu Projesi, aka the Southeastern Anatolia Project). My route will take me within 30 miles of the largest GAP dam, the Ataturk Dam.

Of course, the rivers were a factor in relations amongst the region’s nations well before the 1970s. In the 1920s, after World War I, the new nations of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq negotiated who would get how much of these rivers’ waters in the Treaty of Lausanne. Most of the time, subsequent negotiations have gone fairly smoothly and the countries cooperate reasonably well on water-management issues. Sometimes, though, things break down. In 1975 Syria’s building of the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates angered Iraq so much Iraq threatened to bomb the dam. Syria and Iraq eventually reached an agreement after intervention by Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union.

Oldtown Sanliurfa

Urfa's oldtown

About a week after leaving behind the Euphrates I’ll arrive at the city of Sanliurfa. For a few decades Sanliurfa has been the city’s official name, but the city usually just goes by Urfa, its older name. Urfa’s population is about 500,000, its elevation 1800 feet.

Urfa's Balikli Gol

Urfa's Balikli Gol ("Fish lake")

Abraham, considered by the three big monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) to be their common father, may have been born in Urfa. There’s some dispute about this. Muslims say he was born in Urfa, but Christians say he was born to the south in Iraq. Some people say he was an actual man, others say he was made up like a composite drawing, an Everyman for the region (lived in the desert, moved from one oasis to another, etc).

Whatever. I don’t really care whether Abraham was born in Turkey or Iraq, or whether he was one man or a composite. I’ll be in Urfa, and in Urfa they say Abraham was one man, and he was born in Urfa. That’ll be good enough for me.

One of Urfa’s most famous sites is Balikligol, “Fish Lake.” Fish Lake is a pond next to Halil-ur-Rahman, a mosque built by the Ayyubids in 1211. The pond is filled with fish. The story is that when King Nimrod burned Abraham to death, God turned the fire into water and the burning coals into fish. Catching and eating the fish is, shall we say, not cool, but if you see a white one, legend has it that you’re definitely going to heaven (unless you eat it I guess, and then all bets are off).

At one point my plan was to end the walk’s Turkey leg here in Urfa, heading south into Syria, Jordan, and Israel. But as Syria became more unstable my hand hovered closer to my back pocket, where I was keeping a backup plan in case Syria didn’t calm down. I pulled the trigger on that backup plan earlier this year, and now it doesn’t matter what happens in Syria, I’m just going to keep going past Urfa to Turkey’s eastern border.

Having to cut Syria, Jordan, and Israel out of the deal for now is fine with me. This walk across Turkey is a practice run for something else I want to do, a walk across Iran, and word on the street is that having been to Israel makes getting a visa for Iran difficult.

Road north of Urfa

Road from Urfa to Diyarbakir

From Urfa I will turn to the northeast and head towards the city of Diyarbakir. The territory between Urfa and Diyarbakir looks pretty barren, some of the most barren territory of the walk. It’ll take me about two weeks to walk between the cities, on a plateau rolling between 2000 and 3000 feet, with one spike to 4000 feet near a village called Guvercin (“Pigeon”).

Tigris river at Diyarbakir

Tigris river at Diyarbakir

Diyarbakir is a city I’ve wanted to go to for years. An American friend of mine who lived in Istanbul was a partner in a taxi business there. Another friend of mine from Istanbul now lives in Diyarbakir with her husband, and I am looking forward to visiting them while I’m there.

Diyarbakir is the capital city of all things Kurdish in Turkey. Kurds make up about 25% of Turkey’s population overall, more than that in the southeast. Turkey has had a rocky history with the Kurds over the years. In the 1980s the PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party) started an armed rebellion, and by the 1990s Turkey was embroiled in an all-out civil war. During the war a lot of villagers fled to cities throughout Turkey and western Europe, leaving the countryside more sparsely populated and the cities scrambling to absorb the refugees.

The Tigris river flows along Diyarbakir’s eastern edge. When I cross the Tigris I will have walked 1000 miles (1600 kilometers) since the trip began in Kusadasi — a milestone I refer to as “rolling the odometer.”

Back in the hills — Osmaniye to the Euphrates

by Matt Krause on June 4, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

This leg is about 120 miles long, so it’ll take me a couple weeks to walk it. I’ll probably be passing through this area around late December and early January, meaning this is where I am likely to be for Christmas, my birthday, and New Years Day.

In describing the previous section, Silifke to Osmaniye, I blew right past the Cukurova plain east of Adana. Perhaps that’s because the plain looks like it has lots of warehouses and peach trees, and I’ve pretty much been walking past warehouses and peach trees 5 days a week for the last 6 months getting ready for the trip. In my description here I won’t backtrack all the way to Adana, but I will start by not short-changing Osmaniye, the end of the previous leg and the beginning of this one.

Osmaniye

The city of Osmaniye, where the flats of the Cukurova plain turn back into mountains

Osmaniye is a city of about 190,000 people. The area is watered by the Ceyhan River, and they grow a lot of peanuts. When I reach Osmaniye I’ll be over halfway across the country, having completed 716 miles of a 1305-mile journey.

Osmaniye sits at the eastern edge of the Cukurova plain, next to the foothills of the Nur Mountains. Once leaving Osmaniye it’ll take me a day or two to climb up into the Nur Mountains and onto the rolling hills east of them. The elevation of those rollers fluctuates between 2000 and 3000 feet, with a few spikes to 4000 feet. At that point I’ll be closer to Syria than to anything else — the highway is 10-30 miles from the Turkey/Syria border.

Road west of Gaziantep

Back in the hills for the next 600 miles, and I'm cool with that

By the way, “Nur” means “Holy Light,” but the mountains also go by the name of “Gavur Mountains.” “Gavur” means “infidel.” The mountains don’t seem to care whether you think they are holy or infidels, they are there either way.

One more thing: Osmaniye and the Nur Mountains mark the point at which my imagination of what this trip will be like runs out. The first half of the journey, from the very beginning at Kusadasi right up to Osmaniye, has sea and some Roman ruins. I’ve spent enough time traveling around Turkey to know what to do with those things. Sea: “Oh wow, the water sure is nice, let’s go for a swim.” Roman ruins: “Oh wow, that’s really cool, and old.” But beyond Osmaniye there isn’t any sea, and very few of the ruins are Roman. If I were to make a map of “This is what Matt expects from the trip,” I would just draw a line at Osmaniye and east of it write, “Here there be monsters.” Fortunately, one of the skills I want to improve on this trip is peeling away imagination to embrace reality, so seeing my imagination run dry dovetails with that just fine.

Rolling into Gaziantep

Rolling into Gaziantep

Birecik on the Euphrates

Birecik on the Euphrates

About a week or two out of Osmaniye is Gaziantep, a city of about 1.3 million at 2800 feet elevation. Gaziantep, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, has plenty of olive orchards and vineyards, but it is most famous for cranking out an insane quantity of pistachios. In fact, the Turkish word for “pistachio” is “antep fistigi,” “Antep nut,” Antep being Gaziantep’s older name.

Incidentally, since Gaziantep is only 30 miles from the Syrian border, it is closer to the Syrian city of Aleppo than it is to the Turkish city of Adana.

About three days out of Gaziantep I’ll hit the small town of Birecik, where I will cross the Euphrates river.

The Euphrates is dammed many times in Turkey before it reaches Syria. A few miles to the northwest of Birecik the Euphrates is dammed by the Birecik Dam, but Turkey’s main dam on the Euphrates is the Ataturk Dam, further upriver about 40 miles to the northeast of Birecik.

For about a month after crossing the Euphrates I’ll be walking across the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, the cradle of human civilization. I am excited about that. More on that in the next installment.

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Along the Mediterranean

Along the Mediterranean

I’ll reach this section about three months into the trip, after about 9 weeks of walking and a couple weeks of downtime. I’ll finally get to see the sea again, having seen only river valleys and high plateaus since saying goodbye to the Aegean on Day One. This time around the sea will be the Mediterranean, though, and I’ll get to walk along it for a full week. Not just close to it. Right next to it, as in, much of the time I’ll be able to throw a rock and watch it land in the water.

Roman viaduct

Lots of old Roman stuff around here

I expect to be walking this section in December. Since this area is at or near sea level, the climate is Mediterranean, and in December that means average temperatures in the mid-40s (Fahrenheit) at night to mid-60s in the day (middle single digits to high teens Celsius). It may be raining a lot, as often as 3 days a week, so I might see water coming from the sky.

Road between Silifke and Mersin

Road between Silifke and Mersin

Some of history’s biggest names have passed through these parts. Christian Apostle Paul was born in Tarsus, a town I’ll pass through on this leg. Marc Antony and Cleopatra met in Tarsus. Alexander the Great passed through this area on his way to conquer Persia.

Originally I had planned to get to this area by descending off the Central Anatolian plateau via the Cilician Gates (Gulek Bogazi in Turkish). For thousands of years the Gates has been one of the most popular routes for anyone traveling between Europe and the Middle East, so a lot of people have been through the Gates at one time or another.

Then Kate Clow, a treasure trove of information on traveling this part of the world, mentioned that the Cilician Gates was extremely narrow and clogged with tanker trucks. She pointed out an alternate route, descending from Konya to Silifke, which I wrote about in a previous installment. I weighed the two options — a dangerous week defying death on non-existent shoulders, dodging hundreds of tanker trucks careening downhill in one direction and belching forth tons of exhaust climbing in the other, or a week strolling along the Mediterranean. No contest. Thanks for pointing out the alternate route, Kate.

Cennet Cehenne

"Heaven and Hell" - This is a picture of Heaven. I'll let you know what Hell looks like when I get there.

Not only will I spend an entire week walking with the Mediterranean on my right, I’ll be passing a bunch of old stuff on my left — after all, this stretch was basically a bedroom community of the Roman Empire. I’ll see Cennet ve Cehennem (“Heaven and Hell”), a pair of canyons a couple miles inland. I’ll also see Kanlidivane (“Bloody Insane”), an ancient city built around a sinkhole. The origin of Kanlidivane’s name is unclear, by the way. It could be a reference to the area’s reddish soil, or it could be the legend that in Roman times criminals were thrown to their deaths in the sinkhole.

Mersin

Mersin, Pearl of the Mediterranean

About a week out of Silifke I’ll hit Mersin, Turkey’s largest seaport and a city of about 850,000 people. Mersin is nicknamed “Pearl of the Mediterranean.” At Mersin I’ll say goodbye to the Mediterranean, for this journey at least — from Mersin I’ll be moving inland.

Homes in Tarsus

Homes in Tarsus

From Mersin the narrow belt of flat land along the Mediterranean opens up into the wider Cukurova Plain. About two days onto the plain I’ll hit Tarsus, a city of about 240,000 people. This is the city that’s the birthplace of St. Paul and is also the place where Antony and Cleopatra met. Tarsus doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of more recent famous people though. The closest they get nowadays is Muhtar Kent, the current CEO of Coca Cola, who went to high school in Tarsus.

After Tarsus I have almost two weeks of walking through some of Turkey’s most fertile and productive agricultural flatlands. I’ll also be passing through Adana, home to more than 1.6 million people and known for its spicy kebabs.

Not much changes in the space of a couple thousand years — the Cukurova is still a major transit hub for overland traffic between Europe and the Middle East, so there are plenty of warehouses and truck depots for me to spend an entire week walking past. Walking southern Turkey’s warehouse district might be kind of an aesthetic letdown after a week strolling Mediterranean beaches, but it will be followed by about two months walking through the cradle of human civilization, so I’ll get over it.

Cradle of human civilization coming up in the next couple installments.

Rolling the odometer over the Tigris River

by Matt Krause on May 10, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

I am on track to roll the odometer, knock on wood, with some friends in Portland over Memorial Day weekend.

(By “roll the odometer” I mean walk my 1,000th mile — I have 869 so far.)

Bridge over Tigris River

Bridge over Tigris River in Diyarbakir

That naturally got me to thinking, where will I roll the odometer in Turkey? So I consulted my route planning guide and a map, and lo and behold, the 1,000th mile in Turkey is the Tigris River. In Turkey I’ll roll the odometer when I cross one of the most significant rivers in the history of human civilization. Nice!

It also so happens that in Turkey the Tigris River is on the eastern edge of the city of Diyarbakir. In Diyarbakir I’ll be visiting a good friend of mine from Istanbul who lives there now. In Portland I’ll be rolling the odometer with friends, and when I roll it again in Turkey, I’ll be with friends, too.

A couple of “by the ways”…

I will have crossed the Euphrates at mile 833. Also, I am well aware that in Turkey I’ll be switching to kilometers as the standard measure of distance, so the people for whom a mile is the standard measure of distance won’t be with me when I cross the Tigris.

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Hill south of Konya

The leg from Konya to Silifke is about 160 miles, so it’ll take me 2-3 weeks to walk it. I estimate I’ll be passing through this area in mid-November.

The route climbs from Konya’s 3350 feet to over 5000 feet, and then drops to sea level. Most of the drop occurs over a 25-mile stretch 80 miles outside Konya, so for a week after I leave Konya I’ll still be on the Anatolian plateau.

The first part of this leg, while I’m still on the plateau, follows the route of the Istanbul-Baghdad railroad. The railroad was built in the early 1900s, mostly before World War I. Envisioned as part of a rail link between Berlin and Mesopotamia, the railroad would have extended German and Ottoman economic control into Mesopotamia, balancing British and Russian influence in that region. However, construction was slowed by political and technical difficulties. After WWI the Istanbul-Baghdad railroad was eventually finished, and parts of it are still in operation today, but the vision had for it when construction began in 1903 never came to fruition.

Karadag

Karadag, home to 1,001 churches

At the edge of the plateau is Karaman, a city of about 132,000 people. This area is known for the extinct volcano Karadag (literally: Black Mountain) and the Binbirkilise, which literally means 1,001 Churches. There aren’t really 1,001 churches, more like 50 ruins, but the area was a hotbed of early Christianity. Once Christianity moved into the cities though, these kinds of outposts out in the boonies often fell by the wayside.

By the way, before Karaman took its Turkish name, it was known in another language as Larawanda, which literally meant “a sandy place.”

Sertavul pass

About to begin the descent

About 15 miles out of Karaman I’ll reach Sertavul Pass at 5400 feet. Over a two-day period I will drop from Sertavul to about 600 feet. Imagine driving up a hill that requires you to shift down a couple gears and go slow just to make it — that’s what the slope is like, except, of course, instead of going up I’ll be going down. It’ll take me over half a year to cross Turkey, and I won’t see too many slopes like this one, so I imagine it will be a refreshing change of pace.

Alahan

Ruins at Alahan

Shortly after beginning the descent from Sertavul, near a village called Gecimli, I’ll pass the Alahan Monastery. Alahan was a Christian monastery built in the late 5th century and then abandoned a couple hundred years later. UNESCO is considering Alahan for inclusion on the World Heritage Site list.

Laal Pasa camii in Mut

The town of Mut

A day or so after Alahan, I’ll reach the town of Mut. Mut has about 29,000 people and lies at the foot of the Taurus mountains. The area is known for its apricots, but since I’ll be passing through in November, I don’t expect to see any of those.

Goksu River between Mut and Silifke

Goksu River between Mut and Silifke

After passing through Mut I’ll still have a week of walking up and down rolling hills before reaching Silifke near the Mediterranean.

Much of the road between Mut and Silifke follows the Goksu River. The Goksu (literally: Sky Water) originates in the Taurus Mountains and drains into the Mediterranean. In 1190 during the Third Crusade the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa drowned in the Goksu River. If all goes well, I will not share his fate.

Entering Silifke

Entering Silifke

After about a week rolling along the Goksu I’ll head into the town of Silifke, population 55,000. It looks like the weather around these parts will be a nice change from Konya and the Anatolian plateau, where November’s nighttime temperatures hover around freezing. Silifke’s Mediterranean climate means that even in November the temperatures are likely to fluctuate between the mid-50s (Fahrenheit) at night and the mid-70s during the day (mid-teens to mid-20s Celsius).

Silifke is about 5 miles inland from the Mediterranean, so I probably won’t see the sea until my first day out of town, when I’ll begin an entire week walking along the Mediterranean. As in, so close to the sea that I could pick up a rock, throw it, and it would land in the water. Since by this time I will have been inland for about three months, I will probably be very happy for the change of scenery. More on the post-Silifke walk later, though.

On the plateau – Lake Egirdir to Konya

by Matt Krause on April 21, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

This leg is about 150 miles long, so it’ll take me two or three weeks to cover it.

Leaving Lake Egirdir

The first week or so will be a time of lakeshores and memories of St. Paul. I’ll spend a couple days walking along Lake Egirdir — it’s not a huge lake, but remember I’m walking, so my pace is slow. Two days after leaving the shores of Lake Egirdir I’ll pass near Yalvac, formerly known as Antioch, the capital of the Roman province Pisidia. St. Paul visited Antioch many times in the early days of the Christian church. He was from Tarsus by the way, a city I’ll be walking through later on in the journey.

Ruins at Yalvac

In fact, when first arriving at Lake Egirdir I will intersect a trail called the “St. Paul Trail,” an offroad trail which runs north from Antalya, climbs the Taurus mountains, skirts Lake Egirdir on the lake’s western shore, and ends at Yalvac. The St. Paul Trail project was organized by Kate Clow, a British woman who also developed the Lycian Way trail and some similar projects officially recognized by Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. In researching this trip I’ve corresponded with Ms. Clow a couple times. I highly recommend that anyone interested in old Roman roads or the pre-Ottoman history of this part of the world talk to Ms. Clow. She has spent many years building up a wealth of knowledge on the subject and bringing it to life via tangible trails and guidebooks.

Lake Beysehir at sunset

A few days after passing Yalvac I will come upon Lake Beysehir. Lake Beysehir is the largest lake in Turkey’s Lake District, about 28 miles long and 12 miles wide. At its southeast corner is Beysehir, a city of about 45,000 people. Hundreds of years ago, before Beysehir was known as Beysehir, it was known as Viransehir, “Wasted City,” even though it was a great place for people from nearby Konya to build summer residences next to the lake.

Between Beysehir and Konya

This entire leg, lakes and all, is on the Central Anatolia plateau. That doesn’t mean everything’s board flat though. In the two weeks (about 125 miles) out of Egirdir, I will climb from the lake’s elevation of 3100 feet to about 5200 feet. The land along that climb becomes pretty arid once I leave the shores of Lake Beysehir. I’ve seen territory like this once before, on the road west of Ankara, but I was in a bus and have never walked through an area like this. I am eager to see it.

Arriving in Konya

After reaching 5200 feet I drop quickly, over the space of about two days, into Konya, a city of about 1,000,000 people at an elevation of about 3350 feet. Konya is said to be one of the more religiously conservative cities in Turkey, so I am looking forward to seeing how it compares to the big bad den of iniquity known as Istanbul.

Whirling dervishes

Konya is also the home of the Mevlevi Order, its whirling dervishes and all things Rumi. Rumi was a 13th century mystic who also goes by the name Mevlana. He was Persian but came to live in Konya when his family fled the expansion of the Mongol Empire.

After laying over in Konya for a week or so, I’ll head south off the plateau and down through the Taurus mountains to the Mediterranean. More on that next leg later.

Plan B

by Matt Krause on April 3, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Syria’s looking a little choppy these days, so I’ve been working on a Plan B. Maybe Syria will have it all sorted out by the time I show up, but you never know.

Plan B would have me walking the full length of Turkey, from the Aegean coast to Iran. 1300 miles, just no Syria, at least not now.

More details to come later this week (route, elevation profile, etc).

Climbing onto the plateau — Denizli to Lake Egirdir

by Matt Krause on February 20, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

This leg begins at Denizli, a city about 1,000 feet above sea level, with a population of about 500,000. From Denizli I will climb about 2,000 feet onto the edge of the Central Anatolia plateau. The climb is very gradual — it’ll take me about a week, since I’ll only be covering about 12 miles a day.

Near the top of that climb is Lake Acigol, a name which is a little redundant since “gol” already means “lake” in Turkish. “Aci,” by the way, means “spicy,” “bitter,” or “painful.” Acigol is a relatively small salt lake, about 2% of the size of Utah’s Great Salt Lake. It is also a shallow lake, less than 2 meters (6 feet) deep, meaning that even if I swam out to the middle my feet would still touch the bottom. It may be small, and it may be shallow, but I am looking forward to walking past it. Passing it means I have definitely left the river valley and climbed onto the plateau.

I’ll be on the plateau for about four weeks, and during that time I’ll be skirting the north edge of the Taurus mountain range. The Taurus is a 1200-mile-long mountain range separating Turkey’s Mediterranean coastal areas south of the range from the Central Anatolia plateau north of the range. The range runs from Turkey’s southwest corner, where I’ll be at this point, all the way east to the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Many of the range’s peaks are 10,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level. I, however, will spend most of the month walking the relatively flat plateau at elevations ranging from 3,000 to 4,000 feet. After a month on the plateau I’ll take a right and head south, dropping off the plateau for a brief one-week foray through the lowlands along the Mediterranean coast. When I make that descent from the plateau, I’ll be threading my way through the Taurus mountains. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though; I’ll save writing about that portion of the journey for a future installment.

Acigol also marks the beginning of Turkey’s Lake District. The Lake District is an area on the plateau with about a half dozen lakes. The largest, Lake Beysehir, is only about a tenth the size of the smallest of the Great Lakes in the US, but this is not a part of the world famous for having a lot of water, so you don’t have to have a lot of big lakes to have a lake district.

Between Denizli and Acigol the land usage transitions from farming to open pasture, and past Acigol I’ll definitely be seeing more pastures than farms. The area past Acigol is sparsely populated. Each day I’ll be passing through one or two small villages with populations of 5,000 to 10,000. Only once during this two-week period will I pass through a larger city, Isparta, population 225,000. In fact, during this two-week period there may be a day or two where I see individual houses, but probably not any villages.

The city of Isparta, a provincial capital, is also known as “The City of Roses.” It is the hometown of Suleyman Demirel, former prime minister and president of Turkey for most of the 1990s.

Isparta is directly north of the coastal city of Antalya, about 70 miles as the crow flies. Separating Isparta and Antalya are the mountains of the Taurus range though, so it’s definitely not a clear shot to Antalya’s Mediterranean shores. There is, however, a two-lane highway running south from Isparta, dropping off the plateau to Antalya and the Mediterranean Sea. I won’t be walking that road though. I will be continuing east.

About two days after passing through Isparta I will arrive at Lake Egirdir. By then about two weeks will have passed since I left Denizli, and I will have been walking for about four weeks total. I suspect I’ll be ready for some downtime, so I’ve targeted Egirdir for a one week layover, a time of rest before continuing further along the plateau.

By the way, Egirdir used to be known as Egrirdir, which means “it’s bent” or “it’s crooked.” In the mid-1980s the name was changed to the only-slightly-more-flattering Egirdir, which means “it’s spinning.”

Menderes river valley

by Matt Krause on December 3, 2011

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

The journey will begin in the Aegean port town of Kusadasi. Kusadasi means “bird island.”  The city’s primary industry is tourism.  Tourists come by sea on cruise ships, and by air and land from Europe and within Turkey.

The city’s base population is about 65,000, but during the summer tourist months the city’s population can rise to half a million, what with all the tourists and the people who come to the city to serve them.

One of my favorite sites in all of Turkey, Efes (Ephesus), is just a few miles outside of Kusadasi.  I wrote about Efes in my book A Tight Wide-open Space, in the chapter called Scandals, Romans, and Jacuzzis.

From Kusadasi I will begin hiking inland through the Menderes river valley.  The river valley is flat, but the mouth of the Menderes is actually south of Kusadasi, so when I leave Kusadasi I need to climb about 1,000 vertical feet and then drop down into the river valley.

The main city in the river valley is Aydin, which is also the provincial seat.  Aydin has a population of about 188,000. The area’s main crop is figs.

I’ll be walking through the river valley for about a week and a half.

After a week and a half I begin to climb out of the river valley.  Over the space of a week the climb will take me from an elevation of about 500 feet to 3,000 feet.

Early on in the climb I’ll pass through the city of Denizli. Denizli’s population is about 499,000.  The main industry in the area is textiles, especially towels and bathrobes.

Near Denizli is Pamukkale, one of Turkey’s well-known tourist sites.  Pamukkale means “cotton castle.”  The site is a natural collection of hot springs and the carbonate mineral deposits the flowing water has left behind over the years.  I’ve never been there, but for many years have wanted to go.

After Denizli I’ll spend about a week finishing the climb out of the river valley onto the plateau.

Bridge over the Euphrates

by Matt Krause on November 11, 2011

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

This is a bridge over the Euphrates river in southeastern Turkey. I will be crossing this bridge, from left to right, in the fourth month of my trip.

Seeing the Euphrates up close, that’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing.

Yesterday’s route planning

by Matt Krause on October 28, 2011

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Some tentative results from yesterday’s route planning…

Click here for the spreadsheet showing the pinpoints and how much distance is between each one.

Any suggestions? Remember I have never done this before and am happy to get any intel or suggestions I can.

A little route planning

by Matt Krause on October 27, 2011

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Today I am doing some route planning for the Turkey leg.

At this point, I am thinking of starting at Efes (Ephesus), because it was one of main cities in the Roman Empire and an important starting place of Christianity (one of the books of the New Testament is named for it).

Efes is on Turkey’s Aegean coast, near the town of Kusadasi, south of Izmir but north of Bodrum.

From Efes I suspect I will be walking to Konya, approximately 300 miles away as the crow flies. I suspect the route will pass through Konya mainly because Konya is the main city in that direction, but also because Konya has a reputation for being one of Turkey’s more religiously conservative cities, it was the final home of the mystical Sufi poet Rumi (Mevlana), and is the home of the Whirling Dervishes.

From Konya I suspect I will head towards Adana and then Gaziantep, before doing the leg to Urfa.

The total distance of this portion (Efes to Urfa) would be about 650 miles (1040 kilometers). I estimate it would take about 3 months or so.

Going to Urfa would not take me all the way across Turkey. In fact, it would only take me across 70% of the country. But the southbound portion of the journey, the one that crosses Syria and goes into Jordan and Israel, would begin in Urfa, and the primary goal at this point is not to walk across Turkey per se, it is to make a pilgrimage.

Now I will do some more detailed planning. More on what I find to follow.