Snakes and Castles

Early this morning was another wonderful exhibition of drum banging. Several times the drummers went past. I say drummers because I heard 2 in cahoots at least once during my partial conciousness. I will buy earplugs very soon! Enough complaining.


After finishing the Adana work office on Saturday afternoon I visited Ebru, a friend who had previously served on AIESEC Turkey’s national committee. Her house was in the middle of renovations. Then, it was on to Toygun’s place for dinner and to fall asleep in front of the NBA basketball on TV.

The expedition to Anazarbus (Anavarza)

On Sunday morning Toygun and I ate a good Turkish breakfast, filled his family’s Skoda with LPG and headed east to Yilankale (Snake Castle) and Anarvarza (Anazarbus). The day was warmer than expected. I was sweated in my Port Adelaide Football Club polo top. We didn’t actually get to Yilankale, a castle visible from the highways to Antakya (Antioch) and Gaziantep. Yilankale will have to wait until next time.

After skirting the town of Ceyhan we headed north, following the directions of the Lonely Planet guidebook. After 90 minutes of driving we successfully made it to our destination. Anazarbus (Anavarza in Turkish) is a historical place, most famous during Roman times. It has a castle on top of a hill as well as a ruined aqueduct, arches, tombs and other ruins. In my post-trip research I find that Anazarbus is also famous for saints a, b, c, d, e, and coins.

We drove the ancient town’s entrance gate with the castle on the hill standing guard in the distance. Turning left we headed to the aqueduct. Some of the aqueduct’s arches were still complete, amazing for something so old. We turned into a field and followed a road towards the hill on which the castle is situated. In the corner of my eye I saw a rock face with what looked like a cave. Upon stopping the car and walking to the sight, the cave had pictures and words inscripted above it. We were looking at this tomb.

All around, farmers were busy pulverising or burning their dead corn fields oblivious to the history of the area.

Toygun then drove the car back past the entrance gate, through the nearby village and narrow pass and around to the back of the hill. From this side, the caste looked closer. I wasn’t planning to climb to the top and I told Toygun I would go a little way up the rocky hillside. Well, the castle kept coming nearer but still remained intangibly far away. I made it through the spiny plants up to the castle. My shoelaces and cargo pants not appreciate the journey greatly, particularly the spines!

The Top

At the top, Toygun and the vehicle were mere specs. In the middle of Turkey, next to the walls of an ancient fort, overlooking the forever-tended fields, what did I do? I called Toygun via mobile phone!

All around the hill there were many lizards. I also saw two turtles and, in the castle, a tiny 30cm snake. My first ever snake sighting in Turkey!

Several of the castle walls were intact with the stairs built into the side still climbable. The castle stretched all along the top of the hill and I did not have time to see all of it. There was a ruined church with frescos barely visible inside. Above the entrance to the church writing in a language unknown to myself was etched. The views on both sides were stunning. To the west were the village and the outline of ancient city walls with various columns and ruins. The northern view contained a water channel and many fields, several of which had smoke rising from them. In the distance, minarets marked the location of tiny villages.

The descent

On my way down I passed two Turkish men and an American woman. I mischievously told them, I had seen a snake. I don’t know why people have such fears about snakes or other supposedly dangerous animals. Further down the side, many rock-cut tombs laid around, a few with still visible patterns on their sides. There were even staircases cut into the side of the hill.

At the base, Toygun had been chatting to some of the local men. One of them came over and showed me some ancient coins found around the area. They were good, however, I was not interested in their purchase. Back in the nearby village we marvelled at an archway, the most intricate ruin but one in the area. At the small open-air museum locals had uncovered an ancient pool with a near-perfect mosaic of the goddess Thetis, reminiscent of the mosaics in Antioch.

On the road home

Back on the main road to Adana, we stopped at Misis for some of the town’s renowned ayran (yoghurt drink) and sikma (a type of savoury pancake). The drink was very refreshing after a hard day. In Adana Toygun dropped me off at the train station before he went home for the iftar (fast-breaking) meal. At the train station I met Didar, a first year medical student from Adana studying in Mersin. On the train back to Mersin we chatted about many issues. I enjoyed listening to a person with a different perspective.

After arriving in Mersin, walking home, cooking and eating an omelette and having a bath, it was time for bed.

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