When I’m not travelling, which is 90% of the year, I’m planning where I’d like to go next. I make a mental list. The list is long and I’ll need to live to be a very old, wealthy and healthy woman to accomplish it. I also enjoy looking at photos of where I have been. So here’s this Tuesday’s choice – Isak Pasa Sarayi.
Dogubeyazit is a small town in the far east of Turkey. It is only 35 kms from the Iranian border and the little dusty town has a large military presence. The farmer and I arrived there by bus one day in August 2003 when we were making our way around the east of the country seeing as many sights as we could in a couple of weeks. In my diary I have recorded how we went for a walk, visited the market and bought peaches, all the while admiring the glimpses of the beautiful mountains in the distance. We came to a fenced military compound and the farmer decided to ask the guard on duty if we could photograph the mountains from inside the compound where the view wasn’t blocked by a nasty lookout tower. As he approached, swinging the plastic bag of peaches, he was met by the soldier shouldering a machine gun and looking as though he knew how to use it. How naive we were! The poor young soldier probably thought his days were numbered. He wasn’t to know the plastic bag contained only fruit. It could have been full of explosives.
The following day we took a taxi to the palace. It is built on a terrace 7 kms from the town and was completed in 1784. It is in a desolate place, surrounded by bare hills, a dusty road and a narrow mountain pass to Iran. Although it is now a ruin it is easy to imagine how elegant it must have looked. It once had central heating ( snow-capped Mt Ararat is nearby so it gets chilly), a sewage system and running water. The gold doors of the main portal were removed by the Russians on one of the cross border wars and they are on display in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Inside the fortress/palace there used to be 366 rooms . There was a library, a harem and a mosque, all set around a fine courtyard. There were only four other people visiting Isak Pasa Sarayi that morning and two of those were fellow Australians visiting their Turkish homeland.