Lake Van and Environs
Van is the commercial center of Eastern Anatolia, and modern streets are lined with shops both modern and traditional and choked with traffic. There's a definite sense of bustle to the town, with restaurants and cafés filled with young people, many of them students from the local university. With its collection of rather uniform-looking and ugly cement buildings, what Van really lacks is a sense of history, which should not be surprising. The Van of today dates back to the early 20th century, when it was rebuilt some 5 km (3 miles) farther inland from Lake Van after being destroyed in battles with the Armenians and Russians during World War I. Old Van first appears in history 3,000 years ago, when it was the site of the Urartian capital of Tushpa, whose formidable fortress—built on a steep cliff rising from the lakeshore—dominated the countryside. What remains of Old Van, in a grassy area near the lake, is a melancholy jumble of foundations that cannot be sorted out; only two vaguely restored mosques, one 13th-century, the other 16th-century, rise from the marshland.