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In the Land That Lies Beyond

A story by Barbara Bowen



In the Land That Lies Beyond Erzerum and Trebizond Lived a robber, Rushan Beg As we crossed the 10,000 foot range from Trebizond, we saw abundant golden rhododendrons such as Xenophon saw when he cried out Thalassa! (the sea, the sea!) coming the other way. Our next major stop was at militarized Kars, an ancient Armenian city that looked across a wide ravine to the Soviet border armaments, I thumbed my nose… Sketching a splendid abandoned church, one of our soldier-escorts asked me to draw him… I started when his companion cried out Sautoy, Sautoy! Fearing that I was violating some Mohammedan precept, forbidding human images, I quickly tore up the sketch – learning later that, Sautoy meant watch out, an officer is coming! We passed Mount Ararat, but none of us suggested stopping to climb it in search of the remains of the Ark. We did stop at Diyarbakir, a Kurdish center, and were put into a huge restaurant and told not to leave it until our bus had undergone a fairly significant repair. We were not told if the danger was being shot by a Kurd (a murderous lot), or merely being robbed by the same local Rushan the Robber. Later on we stopped in Bitlis where a companion (wearing trousers) and I (wearing a skirt that showed my legs) became the target (me) of small boys throwing stones. A sturdy elderly Kurd took each of us by the arms and led us to the entrance of a large building whose door was gingerly opened by a (Christian) monk who admitted us for half an hour. We spent time ogling a magnificent golden altar, but when Noreen and I moved as if to caress it, the monk indicated emphatically No! There was a lovely picnic on an island in Lake Van in the shadow of another Armenian church rich with biblical sculpture (when built, few indeed could read the Bible so it was illustrated instead). And then farewell except for brief detour to the site of migrating bald ibis, inspired by a companion who was a dedicated ornithologist.

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 Armenian,Bitlis,Kars,Mount Ararat,Trebizond
May 19 1967


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