Stories, thoughts, observations, rants and dribble. Just another of my attempts to keep the interested people informed ...

Friday, July 28, 2006

Episode 6: In which they visit the tomb of a god

Location: Karadut and Mt Nemrut
Date: 24.05.06

As the crippled car pulled into the guesthouse carpark, we were told if we wanted to go up to the summit to watch the sunset, we would not only have to pay what seemed like a lot of money, but we would also have to leave immediately.

We had enough time to throw some warm clothes into the back of the SUV and scramble in. This seemed ridiculous when the temperature was still in the thirties, but more than one person had assured us it would get cold as soon as we neared the top of the mountain.

The summit carpark was 12 kilometres away. After the first four or five, the driver started operating entirely in first and second gear. The huge truck was shuddering over the rough stone-paved road. I admitted that the car breaking down may have been a blessing in disguise – this road would have been impassable had we tried ourselves. And then we would have been stuck part way up a very steep mountain.

A 600 metre uphill trek awaited us as we got out of the truck, bundled up in anticipation of the cold that didn't disappoint. I convinced myself that it was the altitude and the painfully cold air in my lungs that was making every step such an effort. It seemed to take me a very long time to reach the eastern terrace to join the others, and meanwhile the sun was ever on its downward journey towards the horizon.

We had come up the eastern side, the total lack of other tourists justifying what was initially a doubtful decision. King Antiochus I had created a burial mound for himself on a scale as massive as his own ego. The top of the tallest and most impressive mountain was lopped off at his whim and replaced by the pyramid that serves as a backdrop for the 10 metre tall statues he installed on the east and west sides. Antiochus considered himself not just the king, but also a god. His statues were as tall and impressive as their comrades – Apollo, Zeus and Hercules. Huge eagles and lions also looked out at the vistas surrounding Mt Nemrut, guarding his last resting place.

These days the heads have all toppled down, and sit in front of the partially rebuilt bodies. The view extended through the clear dusk air all the way to the horizon, huge Atatürk Lake snaking around the fields and reflecting the orange light. We enjoyed the quietude on the eastern side before joining the throngs on the west.

There was a decided lack of clouds in the sky, which made for a pretty but unexciting sunset. The light reflecting off the statues was beautiful though, of course leading me to take far too many photos. The applause of the tourists was entirely inappropriate and unnecessary, but I try to ignore mass hysteria in all its guises. They disappeared almost immediately afterwards, which left me with that weird feeling that I get when I am the only person in the theatre that insists on staying until the movie credits finish rolling. A combination of "why are they leaving?", "should I be leaving?" and "hehe, I get the place to myself now" (and also that sense of smug satisfaction when there IS something else to be seen).

It's quite hard to be smug when you're cold though. Strange.

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