Osmaniye: Karatepe-Aslantas and Hierapolis-Castabala

1 week late, but better than never…

Last weekend I caught the train to Adana. Saturday night was German AIESEC trainee Uta’s last night in Turkey. With Toygun and the other trainees we ate Adana kebab (I ate ciger – liver) at the restaurant near the train station. This was followed by ice cream at Mado. Uta had not eaten ice cream at Mado before – an essential for anybody spending a while in Turkey.

Something else Uta had not eaten was sirdan. Sirdan (pronounced shirdan) is very commonly sold in Adana. Boiled sirdan is a popular late night snack after a few alcoholic beverages. Sirdan is sheep’s penis.

Once we found out Uta had not eaten Sirdan there was some pressure on her to ‘do the right thing’. Uta was kind enough to sample the sirdan. The photos will come later.

After sirdan we found a bar still open had a beer. The bars and pubs are quieter and close earlier during Ramazan as many people don’t drink alcohol at all during the fasting month. Even non-fasting people may choose not to drink alcohol during Ramazan.

By the time Uta got home her early morning flight was only a few hours away.

The next morning Toygun and I woke up and left his family’s house in their old Skoda car. We didn’t get far before Toygun noticed the water temperature gauge higher than normal. In the city we picked up the Manuel, the Colombian trainee. The temperature wouldn’t go down and, cutting the story short, we ended up at a Skoda mechanic’s place in the Adana industrial zone. To get there without overheating the engine, the mechanic continually sped up the Skoda, turned the engine off and coasted. There, he replaced the fan belt and we were off!

Driving east we stopped at Misis for some her famous sikma and ayran. Then it was on to Osmaniye and passing the peanut farms, we turned north to Karatepe-Aslantas Muzesi (Blackhill-Lionstone Museum). The outdoor museum is situated on a hilltop where the Hittite kings used to spend their summers. There, the three of us were guided around the north and south gates. Guides are compulsory to stop people taking antiquities (mainly foreigners) or smoking/littering (largely Turkish people). The hill is surrounded by Lake Ceyhan, a dam flooded in the 1980s.

The north and south gates contain reliefs featuring Hittite writing and carvings. There are also sculptured bulls and sphinx. The themes reminded me of Persepolis, Iran.

On the walk between the gates we saw 2 chameleons on the path edges. The first was a male, the second, a heavily pregnant female. They were only 10 or so metres apart so I guess they were partners. The small, around 10-15 cm animals moved slowly, the male slightly changing colour as we observed. They were the first chameleons I had seen in the wild, if not ever.

A new indoor museum was under preparation, although not open yet.

On the way back to Osmaniye we turned off the road to visit Hierapolis-Castabala (as described in 1905 by Gertrude Bell – see photos 130 onwards), a ruined city surrounding a castle-topped hill. The columns, theatre, churches and bath were in substantial ruin. Further on there was a spring. Several frogs swam in the space immediately below the water outlet.

At first we struggled to find a way up to the top of the castle. The hillsides were steep and there seemed no way in. Eventually, we got there, despite the lack of thirst gained from walking around during the hot day. The way down was an uncontrolled run. All 3 of us were lucky enough not to fall over and see our lives disappear before us.

In Osmaniye we stopped for a drink and some sweets. No place in Osmaniye sold “atom”, a high-energy drink made of pureed fresh fruit, honey and other ingredients. At a small supermarket we settled for a soft drink. This was not Manuel’s first choice, though. He wanted a cold beer. However, small markets in provincial Turkey during Ramazan may not have their beer fridge turned on!

Back at Adana we went our own ways home, I went via the train to Mersin.