Van Lake and Akdamar Island: The city takes its name from the Van Lake. It is the biggest sodium carbonate Lake in the world. The Lake is covered with high mountains. There four islands in the lake; named, Akdamar, Adır, Çarpanak, and Kuş Islands. It had been given many names to the Lake in the history, like Little Sea, High Sea, and Nairi sea. The water of the Van Lake is very salty and full of sodium carbonate. It foams without using any soap. One can wash his/her clothes in the Lake without using and detergents. The color of the Van Lake changes at any time of the date and at any time of the year. The unspoiled and green shores effects the visitors. The islands on the lake are also interesting, most of them housing many monasteries and churches. The most important of these is the Akdamar Island with its 10th century church of Holy Cross. The church is now restored as a museum and its richly decorated walls have Old Testament reliefs. This church on the Akdamar Island in Lake Van was built during 915-921. The architect eas Brother Manuel, and was built by the Armenian King Gagik I. It is in the shape of a crucifix. With its stone engravings and reliefs it is among the important works of Armenian architecture. Akdamar Church was commissioned to architect priest Manuel by King Gakik I of the Vaspurakan dynasty during the years 915 - 921 B.C. The church has a four leaved clover plan with a domed center, and it is built from red colored cut tufa stone. At the exterior of the structures there are stone reliefs depicting religious themes from the Bible and Tevrat as well as earthly themes, such as life at palace, hunting scenes and human and animal figures. Upon the outside walls of the church are extremely beautiful but much weathered stone reliefs by Armenian master carvers. These reliefs depict Biblical scenes with Adam, Eve, Abraham, David and Goliath, and Jesus as well as earthly themes, such as life at palace, hunting scenes and human and animal figures. A remarkable design of vines interspersed with animals carved in high relief encircles the exterior of the church. The manner these themes are worked show an influence of 9th and 10th century Abbasi art, which was itself influenced by Central Asian Turkish Art. Early descriptions and local legends tell that the relief carvings and the door to the church were set with precious stones, pearls and gold encrustations but these have long since disappeared. The interior church walls are decorated with frescoes showing religious themes but vandals and the elements have much degraded these once lovely paintings. The interiors of the church walls are decorated with frescoes showing religios themes, which are practically disappearing today. These wall paintings have a special significance as the most comprehensive and oldest examples found in this region. After visiting the museum you may rest at the beneath lakeside the almond trees, where there are good opportunities for picnicking and swimming. Akdamar Island, is 55km. from Van and a twenty minute motor ride from the jetty on Van - Tatvan highway. It is known for its original church.