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After Ararat
Noah's Ark
Azrep - Armenian Khachkars
Van - Akhtamar Island

Van - Akhtamar Island

28 August 2005. We depart Dogubayazit and we drive towards Van. Our return has started but we will first visit Van, the famous island of Akdamar and the Church of the Holy Cross. We arrive in Van after a four hour journey. We embark a small boat which takes us to the island. The lake is literally like a sea and the water is salty. This is the island of Akdamar that I have been hearing of since I was a child. This island and church is yet another Myth that has been engraved in me. As we approach the island the church starts to be visible. A typical Armenian church. All the Armenian churches are built with the a familiar, unique architecture.


The boat ride was about 10 min. We start our walk up towards the church over a little path. Unbelievable to be here. My parents and all Armenians that I know have dreamed of being here, but now I have that luxury. The church is beautiful. It is one of the few Christian churches around the world (possibly the only one) that has decorations and reliefs on the outer side of its walls. According to Christ one does not have to be rich on the outside, but it is important that we are rich within our selves. However, this church does not follow that trend. The walls outside are sculptured with images of the Bible, and with images of every day Armenian life. The church of Akdamar is currently being renovated under UNESCO's directive to preserve sites of World Cultural Heritage.


With big disappointment I notice that the church is almost destroyed. Looking closer at the walls of the church I notice countless bullet holes all around. It is evident that people were using the decorations of the walls as targets in a shooting range. We take a quick peak inside, behind the protective barriers that have been erected due to the construction work. The chief Architect there gets angry and aggressive when he saw as taking photos of the inside. I manage to take only one photo. Regrettably, the inside does not resemble a church. It is burned, and the walls are black. There is a sign outside the church which provides some historical information. Upon reading the sign, I was not surprised to realise that the information is totally misleading. Destruction of the church and distortion of truth by the Turks. Will they never learn to speak the truth? Will they never respect culture? Is this how they aspire to enter my "home", the European Union?


The churche's courtyard is full of Armenian Khachkars. Isn't this proof that the stones in the Azrep village are not "Anchor Stones"? The ones on the island are beautiful. Most of them have engravings with Armenian writing. The stones are preserved in good condition compared to the ones in Azrep. Actually, one has to keep in mind that countless Armenian churches have been destroyed all around the historical Armenian lands. However this church is still in tact, presumably due to the relative inaccessibility to the vandals, being on an island.


Next stop was the Ourartou palace and the old city of Van. So who are the Ourartous? And what happened to their civilization. Historically, Ouratians are the ancestors of Armenians. The evolution of the Ourartian civilization gave birth the Armenian people and their civilization. Yet there is no mention of Armenians in any of the guide books, and signs that I see around Van. Yet another effort to provide a different version of history by the Turks, with a deliberate attempt to omit any reference to its Armenian past. Van, once the glorious city of historical Armenia, is now reduced to a poor province of Turkey with 300,000 Kurds living under the heavy supervision of the Turkish military forces.

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