Mythical monsters and more.
Tourism had been on the rise, but with the increase of violence in the region and now in Turkey as well, figures are indicating that the number of tourists is down. Sadly, the political and economic instability in Turkey, as well as the threats and trouble of neighboring countries, is having a negative impact. Also the increase of those who pose as "tourists" with the purpose of coming to Turkey to cross into Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is making it difficult for legitimate tourists to travel round the country.
Traveling in the south part of the country and eastern Turkey is, once again, becoming risky. I was lucky to have traveled extensively in these parts in the 1980s when the nation was more stable. Van was one of my favorite places. During the late 1990s and onwards, Konya and NevE-ehir and Gaziantep were helped to develop economically, and some have attracted tourists. However, much more could be done. The region has never been developed to the potential it could be. For example, Mount Ararat could be a great tourist destination with a Noah's Ark theme or Van could have a monster theme, but it has not happened.
When I traveled in the east, I found it somewhat similar to how the cowboy films portray the American Wild West. The Old West: the myths, legends, stories and beliefs that collected around the western territory from 1865 to 1890; life beyond the settled frontier (i.e., the six US states) from North Dakota south to Texas and west to the Pacific Ocean. I could not resist a quick stop while visiting friends in the area in the famous western city, Dodge, located in Kansas. When I was just a kid, our family went to Dodge City on vacation. It is a tourist site with reconstructions of state houses, dance halls and saloons reminiscent of the Texas cattle drive trade.
Throughout much of the Old West, there was little to no local law enforcement and the military had a concentrated presence only at specific locations. Buffalo hunters, railroad workers, drifters and soldiers scrapped and fought, leading to shootings where men died "with their boots on." The fort at Dodge City offered some protection to wagon trains and the US mail service, and it served as a supply base for troops. By the end of 1872, the railroad crossed Kansas. Dodge City acquired its reputation for lawlessness and gun-slinging and its infamous burial place -- Boot Hill Cemetery, which is now a tourist place full of fun and fascinating history. Every country has their "Wild West."
What can you find in Van? It is surrounded by agricultural areas with fruit and grain, and it has ancient ruins. You've probably heard about the monster in Loch Ness, Scotland. Well, in Van, there is also supposed to be a monster.
Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey. The lake is saline and of volcanic origin with no outlet. Several small streams feed into the lake. It is 119 kilometers across at its widest point, averaging a depth of 171 meters with a maximum depth of up to 451 meters. Interestingly enough, since around 1995, there have been some reported sightings of a "Lake Van monster." Supposedly about 1,000 people claim to have seen the monster. It is said to be about 15 meters long. What else is there to see in Van? Van Castle on the Lake's eastern shore is an important historical monument. The Lake Van region is also the origin of the popular Van cat breed, famous for their unusual eyes: one blue and one green.
Turkey is struggling to determine which image it wants to project to the world and its visitors. One thing is for certain, in eastern Turkey there are a lot of historical ruins and natural beauty, and friendly people who could benefit from the area being more developed for tourism. After all, many would rush to see the Van monster! Even if it is not found in the lake, you can see a four-meter-high statue honoring the monster in Van city.
CHARLOTTE MCPHERSON (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN
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