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PALU

                                                        Population: 9,200

palu1Market day: Wednesday

Out east of Elazığ on the Bingöl road and heading south from the nondescript small town of Kovancılar you will come to Palu, a modern village on the banks of the Murat Nehri (Murat river) that lies in the lee of an abandoned historic settlement dating back at least to Urartian times. 

Backstory

Palu's precise history remains obscure. The Urartians certainly settled the castle site that continued in use until the 17th century, but the town's flowering appears to have taken place from the 15th to the 17th century when it was the seat of an obscure Kurdish beylik.

It's not even entirely clear when it was abandoned although since it seems to have been around the time of First World War one can probably assume that it was after much of its Armenian population had been expelled. It was here apparently that the followers of Seyit Riza made their last stand in 1938 after the disatrous Dersim Uprising.

The Merkez Cami seems to have continued in use until the 1950s. 

Around the ruins

Signs direct you first towards Palu Kalesi, a dramatic craggy rock into which the Urartians hollowed their castle - only the fittest would be able to climb up to it now. 

In the foothills of the rock though a dirt road leads to the late 16th-century Cemşit Bey Mescid in a pretty garden shaded by a mulberry tree. Chances are you'll arrive to find the mosque locked although you'll be able to get into the colourful tomb of the founder, a military man who helped seize Palu for the Ottomans, and his family at the back. There are spectacular views of the castle and of the Murat river from beside the mosque. According to legend it was built on a site decided by firing an arrow from the castle.palu2

Up an easy path that starts close to the mosque lie the ruins of the large Merkez Cami built from yellow and black stone as recently as 1875 and still intact in 1973 according to the sign at the site. It once formed the centrepiece of a shopping area of which no signs now remain.

palu3Right beside the ruined mosque stand the ruins of the brick-domed Alacalı Mescid, built from black and white stone in the late 16th century. Today it's used as a cattle-shed. 

The dirt road winds round until it comes to the ruins of the late 16th-century Küçük Cami (Small Mosque), with, across the road from it, the Ulu Cami (Great Mosque). According to the sign at the site this was registered in 1741 although it may be older than that. Inside the building many of the supporting arches still stand. The mihrab has also survived at least in part.

Beside the Ulu Cami are the ruins of a multi-domed hamam built in 1654, presumably as part of a complex with one of the two mosques.

Another dirt track forks uphill beside the Küçük Cami. In October 2013 the ground was being cleared here for a hotel-restaurant overlooking the river and the ruins. The site caretaker assured me it would not be a concrete monstrosity!

On the way back to the main dirt track look out on the left for two arches in the ground that apparently mark the site of a lost hanpalu4Ulu Cami

Beyond the Ulu Cami the dirt road continues round the base of Palu Kalesi until it comes to the ruins of a huge domed Armenian church. Inside it's just about possible to make out the bottom of frescoed figures on either side of the arch above the altar and slight traces of writing around the arch. 

The road then winds downhill until you'll see, on the left, another smaller but distinctive rock that can only be accessed through a farmyard. The sign says that the Urartians also used this for defensive purposes although I was unable to make out the steps cut into the rock or the niches it mentioned.

On the lefthand side of the rock at the bottom are the ruins of another simple church, perhaps Byzantine, that was converted into a mosque. It overlooks some dramatic rock formations above the river.

palu5Below the rock you'll see the suspension bridge that carries the railway over the river with, beside it, the newly restored 4.Murat Köprüsü (Murat IV Bridge).

There are other ruins dotted about the site too. My taxi driver told me that there were once seven churches here and several hamams so there's plenty more to look for. 

Transport info

Half-hourly buses to Palu leave the Doğu Garajı (Eastern Garage) in Elazığ. Free servis buses run there from near the Orduevi taxi terminal in the centre of Elazığ.

Day trip destinations

Bingöl

Elazığ

Harput

Tunceli

Read more about Palu: http://turkeyfromtheinside.com/blogbloggingaboutturkey/entry/92-palu-a-forgotten-town-near-elazi%C4%9F.html

alu7Merkez Cami

palu6Armenian church

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