3km to town. That’s less than 2 miles. I could walk that for sure. After all, I’d just spent the past 10 hours on an overnight bus so the concept of sitting in another vehicle to drive me that short distance was not terribly appealing.
The scenery around was new to me. After all, I’d just left the urban hubbub of Istanbul for small town Turkey. My goal was to basically cross the entire country by bus, but that’s a long trip so I needed to break it up somewhere and Amasya, the town I was now walking through, was the perfect candidate thanks to its convenient location smack dab in the middle of the Anatolia (Turkey).
But it wasn’t like I randomly pointed to a place on a map. Amasya was suggested to me by fellow blogger Katie Aune, who had passed through a week or so before me. And my reasons for stopping in here soon came into view. Striking cliffs across the river with dozens of classic Ottoman-style houses below. It was incredibly picturesque and charming. But those cliffs held something else…
Tombs. Not just any though. Tombs that belonged to the Pontus kings of yesteryear… Wait a second… Pontus kings? Suddenly I was having visions of the story of a certain Pontus king named Mitridate (which Mozart turned into a rather obscure opera).
Almost Petra-like in their nature, these tombs date all the way back to the 3rd Century BCE. Now empty, they sit high above, overlooking the atmospheric town and the surrounding mountains, jutting dramatically towards the sky.
After settling on a cheapish Ottoman-style Pension (no, not something you get upon retirement, a Turkish guest house of sorts housed in a traditional building) and stocking up on some food, I set out for a little exploration. First order of business? The tombs, of course!
It was a relatively easy hike up to their cliff-side perch, where you could get up close and personal with these squares cut into the rock. Not that there’s much detail to see or anything, but they’re interesting and the views of the town are quite nice. There are also the ruins of a 15th Century Ottoman Hammam (Turkish bath) on the site.
But tombs aren’t the only secret the mountains around Amasya hold… Perched high above the tombs sits a pretty spectacular castle!
Wait… A castle? This isn’t England…what’s a castle doing here? Castles are, in fact, quite common in historic Turkish towns, always situation on a strategic spot on a hill overlooking a city. Their use wasn’t so much to house royals, but to defend the cities around them. Think more of a medieval fort, though Amasya’s actually dates back as far as 3200 BCE.
Whatever it is, my hike up there on my second day was a great little adventure, as I followed the bright yellow “KALE” signs up and up the mountain. I should note that the Turkish term for these places (Kale), is pronounced Kah-ley, not like the leafy green vegetable!
By the time I reached the top of the mountain, I was wiped. Nothing like a hike to remind you how out of shape you are! Exhausted as I may have been, the rewards were fantastic! Here I meandered the ruins of the fortress, as it traversed its way up to the peak, where a large Turkish flag flew.
Thankfully, the weather, which had been threatening rain all day, held out to give me even better vistas of the town below than I got from the tombs the previous day. That said, it was a struggle to even remain standing with the high winds coming in! But I didn’t care. This is what I’d hiked up all this way for!
A Mere Stop
By nightfall, I was off again, continuing my cross-country trek (next stop, Erzurum), glad that I’d stopped in Amasya. Not only was it a convenient way to break up my journey, it also turned out to be a pretty nifty town!