Van is not a city where I would want to spend two weeks voluntarily. I could spend a week making day trips in the region surrounding the city, being a tourist and remembering the fate of local refugees, which I know about from films. But the city itself gives the impression of being a temporary concrete-block settlement from which everything that used to be an indigenous culture has disappeared. All the same, I recently heard that the Church of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island in the middle of Lake Van has been permitted to once again hold religious services. During the time I was there, it was being used as a museum of religious cults that have become rare in this region.
The most impressive memory I have of Van is my encounter with the schoolchildren. They were so openhearted, but also so expectant, as though they were waiting for something or someone to come from outside and help them to live a real life. I did not see these young people with their shining eyes in the streets of Van again. Perhaps they don’t yet know that the space in which they live belongs to them.