This past weekend was one of exciting new discoveries - we were looking for things to do and see that could be accomplished in a day's drive from Adana.
On Saturday Carol and I joined with Jim and Chelly for these adventures. We start at 8:00 in the morning headed east for Osmaniye on the autobahn. We make a rest stop just before leaving the autobahn at Osmaniye and park next to a large cache of citrus fruit: oranges, tangerines and lemons, some crated, others simply piled a meter deep on the parking lot; the color in the sunlight is brilliant and blinding. No, we don't eat nor buy any, something we thought more about after leaving.
We exist the autobahn just shortly past the rest stop, pay our toll, circle around back under the autobahn and head north toward Karatepe. It isn't far from this exit that we see the historical sign for Kastabala/Hierapolis; a site that includes a castle and several Roman ruins. We don't stop here today (we've been here before) but it's well worth a stop especially on a nice day like this one. I would set aside at least an hour or two to really walk around this site. Our goal today is the Kilim Co-op and the Karatepe Open Air Museum of Hittite ruins, so we press on toward our assigned pursuit.
The road is paved and well maintained, it curves and rolls with the increasingly hilly topography. We've chosen an excellent day for this drive; we desperately need rain but there is none in the forecast for today. We crest a hill and the road flattens out when Chelly say, "there! turn right there". We descend a short slope and begin a drive down a curving narrow paved road. We're in the forest and we're descending toward a quaint little collection of homes, a small village - Karatepe. As we enter the village the road narrows even more and there are barbed wire fences on both sides of the track. There are many chickens running hither and yon along with a few cows slowly wondering from one small patch of green to the next. We don't travel more than a couple hundred meters and there's a green gate to the Kilim Co-op, it's open and we pull in to park. The parking area is interlocking brick and well kept.
There's room for no more than a dozen cars here but today we're the only visitors; this is far from peak tourist season. A couple of parking spaces are covered with newly produced kilims; it appears they are drying after being washed. There's a long rope strung between the building and the trees and that holds six or eight kilims; one of them is a very old and beautiful piece. I feel like they must be using the old piece as an example piece, maybe copying the motifs.
We're not parked more than a couple minutes when the lady who runs the operation comes to join us. Jim and Chelly have been here before but Carol and I have not; Chelly tells us, the lady and her husband own and operate the co-op. It's a school for training the finer points of kilim weaving. There are kilims for sale here as well. We get a full tour even though there are few weavers and no one else around.
Our first stop is the room dedicated to dying the wool and storing it. There is no dying going on this time of year; it appears little is done in the winter. Next we visit the showroom where we are offered the usual Turkish hospitality, tea and a warm heater. The facility is not heated and it's quite cold. We're led into the inner office where a small gas heater is lighted (to take the chill off) for our comfort as we enjoy a cup of freshly made tea. The showroom has a number of kilims hung on the walls and a few in a pile that have tags indicating their prices. All of the kilims are very new and hold no draw for us, nothing to compare with the awesome beauty of the old piece outside. There are bench seats covered with kilims all around the showroom that would indicate many people can be accommodated here at one time. I believe during prime tourist season there are probably many people milling about within this space.
There are a number of photographs in one corner on the wall reflecting those who have passed through and newspaper and magazine clippings highlighting the co-op by many news agencies. On the desk in the inner office there's a recent photo of Turkey's PM, Mr. Erdogan, who visited the co-op some months ago. The view from the office window is a panorama of mountain and slopes falling toward us. There are fields of green all around us as well - the view is lovely.
After tea, we're escorted across the parking lot to an adjacent building and shown the kilim looms. We're shown into a large hall with 12 or 14 upright metal weaving looms divided evenly along each wall. Sunlight blazes into the room from all the windows down each side. Here we're greeted by the gentle smiles of four young women who are working on individual kilims. Two young ladies on their own with small kilims and two others working together on a larger piece across the floor; the space is heated but it's barely noticeable. There's a small wood space heater in between the looms that are in use; the center hallway between the looms is not more than six feet and each loom must be eight feet wide and at least that in height. The distance between looms is only enough for the ladies to sit and not have their backs against the loom behind them.
We thank our guide - the lady who met us in the parking lot - and we depart to complete our day's journey. We wind our way back up the hill to the main road and head to the Hittite ruin that caps Karatepe Mountain. This is not tourist season, for sure, since it's January; we see no one as we enter the gate to the mountain museum. We're very thankful the gate is open; we park the van and begin our walk to the mountain top. Two thirds of the way up we see the museum building and immediately think 'Frank Lloyd Wright' (a famous architect who designed structures to complement their surrounding landscape); the building is a compliment to the forest here atop this mountain. It graces this site as if it were meant to be a part of it, unfortunately it's NOT open but a guide is readily available to show us around the site.
We pay the cost of admission (a Lira each - about 70 cents) and begin our trek up the mountain behind the guide. The incline as we ascend is quite graceful and fairly easy. The reward at the top is worth ever foot of our climb. We standing on the south wall of the fortress at the entry gate; we are looking out across a lake that is reflecting the sky back toward us and the water is smooth as glass. We pause here on the crown of the site to consume the vista laid out before us; I try to imagine this site so many centuries before. I know this location was chosen for strategic reasons but I have to wonder if there were those who simply tarried where I stand today to contemplate the view I have. Mere words fail to adequately convey the awe I feel on this mountain top.
As I turn back toward the guide, the south entry gate meets my gaze. I'm confronted by a collection of stones, a meter high wall on two sides of the entry way, each carved to depict life at that time in history; there are several with hieroglyphics, one with a galley (large rowed boat), there's a hunting scene, a mother nursing a child, a fight between loins, a depictions of marching warriors, a very lovely 'Genius' - human body with head and wings of an eagle and many many more. Just a few meters into the entry on our left is a pavilion with a stone carved statue of the Storm God - Tarhunzas.
Our guide leads us over the mountain top now and we begin our descent down the other slope, this time it's not as graceful and falls quite sharply in places. We progress down slowly but determinedly and make our next stop at the north entry gate. Here we see many more stone wall carvings; one especially nice is the north gate Sphinx. We don't linger here for long as it has the same distinction as the south gate. Our guide motions for us to continue down the trail and we follow along. We leave the gate behind and continue to drop toward the museum again. Once we arrive at the building it's obvious we've made a large circle of the mountain top. We thank our guide and return to the van.
Our guide spoke only Turkish so we missed some of the significance of these ruins; we understood to some degree what he was telling us but we should be far more familiar with our host nation language.
Back at the van we discover that a craftsman has come to share his wares. This gentleman carves spoons and other kitchen utensils. We ask the gentleman to show us how he creates these lovely items in wood. He brings out his tools and takes up a partially carved spoon and completes the hollow of the spoon for us. Chelly and Carol buy several different examples of his handiwork - Chelly says she has several pieces from past purchases and has used them successfully for some time. His pieces are beautiful and well crafted; we thank him for his demonstration and the items we've bought and we leave.
We drive on now to Kadirli because we want to go west to Kozan to see the castle in their city. We drive through Kadirli and little appears to be open - it's after NOON on Saturday so we figure that the shops don't remain open all day or on weekends. Just west of Kadirli we stop at an OPET station to have lunch; we notice there's a lokanta that appears to be open. Our day continues to be more beautiful every hour. We park the van and go into the lokanta to see what's in the cooler for lunch. Three of us opt for Adana Kabobs and one for shish kabob. We were each given a huge salad; there were three side dishes of pickles, radishes and pickled cabbage. Did we have a wonderful lunch!!! We made it our vow, should we return to this area later on, we'll return here for lunch.
After our leisurely lunch we continue on toward Kozan. The countryside here is rolling hills with steep gorges and a beauty all its own. The farmers have cultivated every open space possible and some I question as being possible-the land seems so straight up and straight down. The roadway has been laid atop the ridgeline and little else along here is flat enough to sustain a road surface. Houses cling to the hillsides where ever they are built and we pass many that are quite close to the road. The day is sunny and many a farmer is out in the field doing what farmers do on lovely days - planting, cultivating or simply adding that tender love only farmers can give the earth.
We're nearing Kozan now and there in the distance we see it, the castle nestled atop the mountain that acts as a backdrop for Kozan. As we make our way into the city we look for a place to ascend the mountain to visit the castle; it isn't to be. We find no indication there is a way up there; at least it isn't evident on this route. We're only an hour from Adana though and we decide this city needs more exploration. Maybe if we drive around more we can find the way to the castle. We turn back south after getting halfway through the city and head on toward Imamoglu. We had considered staying in a hotel here but we see none on this our initial pass through the village and with all the shops closed again here, we simply decide to continue our drive right on down the road.
That's the extent of our discovery today. Not far from Imamoglu are the outskirts of Adana and we simply opt to spend the night in our own homes. Tomorrow will be a new adventure. Once Jim and Chelly get us home we make plans to meet again in the morning at nine o'clock for our departure on another day's discovery; we'll be traveling to Pozanti on the autobahn and returning to Adana by way of the old road through the mountains.
Sunday, it's another beautiful day and we're well on the road to Pozanti. The autobahn is pretty lackluster after our drive in the mountains yesterday. As we reach Pozanti, we leave the autobahn behind and decide to drive through the city. At the first signal light we turn left and head over the railway and up the hill into the village. Pozanti is situated mostly on a hillside; the city to the west of the main highway and a broad river bed to the east. We've never driven into town before and want to see what's here. All the shops are closed but there appear to be many and we'll return one day to explore but for now we make our way through the streets and on to our usual truck stop. We want to buy some simit for the trip but again, it's Sunday and none are available so we go into the little 'quick-stop' shop and get some potato chips for the road. While in the shop Carol sees some hand knitted gloves she can't live without (HaHaHa) and we buy those as well. Before leaving the truck stop Jim decides he needs a cup of tea, so we go into the cafeteria area for refreshments and then head for the old road over the mountain back to Adana.
Once we return toward the entry to the autobahn we come to the turn off for the old road. I'm amazed as we begin our trek, this is very good road. We're on a two-lane asphalt that appears to be relatively new. Our climb begins at once; the road curves and takes us through the trees and up the mountainside. We don't get far before we find ourselves right behind a tractor-trailer truck moving at a snail's pace. We all collective wonder why in the world this guy would be on this stretch of road when the autobahn is right there for him. We only wonder for a few minutes because we come to the first village on the road and our big rig pulls to the side of the road and parks. Obviously he knew exactly what he was doing despite our thoughts to the contrary.
The road is clear for us now and we get on with the drive. The mountain vista is wonderful; the air is clean and crystal clear. With see a wisp of snow dusting a few of the highest possible peaks around us but nothing to the degree that we should be seeing this time of year. The winter months are supposed to be rainy on the plain where we live and storming up here but this winter has brought us none of either of these weather conditions. Unless winter begins to be stormy, water is going to be very hard to come by in August.
We're in Camliyayla now, another village of some size and as we drive through the place it appears there are many shops to be discovered; none are open today though. Every turn of our head brings another view of mountain spender, sheer rock cliffs and pines as far as the eye can see. We've chosen a very beautiful day for this drive. The road continues to rise and fall with the slopes; we curve first this way than that way and rise again. This is an extremely nice wide road even though it's two-lane. The surface is well maintained and we encounter little traffic; it's as though we're the only people in the world up here. A lot of the homes we see are shuttered, an indication that these must be summer homes. I find myself in envy of those who must live here during the summer months.
We've completely escaped civilization now for a bit; we're the only people out here. The first several miles we could see the autobahn every once in a while through the trees down the slope below us but up here there's nothing but landscape. Off in the distance, one mountain range behind the next, two, three, four, this one must be very high in elevation because there's snow covering it and it looks DEEP. As I ride through these awesome creations; I think about the autobahn far below; yes, it's faster and maybe safer, but this view is priceless. I can't take it any longer, I ask Jim to pull over; I want a photo or two of this magnificent vista.
Back on the road now we come to Camalan and then to Gulek. It's lunch time and we decide to stop for a picnic. Every village, city and town in Turkey has a sign as you arrive and one as you leave. Some of those signs are very elaborate others quite modest, Gulek has covered picnic tables under their farewell sign; it's as if they really don't want you to leave. We decide they have it right and we turn the van around and park next to the tables. It's a lovely day and the air is crisp but we set up in the sun under one of the pavilions. We spend an hour enjoying great company and awesome views.
Reluctantly we get back on the road toward Adana. Just out of Gulek we see a brown sign indicating there's a castle just 3 kilometers off the road; we have the time and make the turn. We're entering the forest on a very narrow lane that seems barely passable. As I'm prone to do, I ponder out loud, how in the world do we pass anyone on this lane? My companions all know my ways and simply ignore me. The lane continues to rise and curve onto the heights of this mountain. Several lanes branch off this one and we see summer homes and gated housing sites as we climb.
Oh, there's our first challenge, a car is coming down the lane. We move to the side and they slide easily by. This lane still doesn't look that wide to me; I'm very thankful I'm not driving. OK, this is interesting, it appears we've come to the end of the road and there's no castle. We're at the junction between a few houses and we're going to turn around when Chelly says, up there, through the trees, there's the castle. Jim abandons the turn around and takes the drive between these houses. Once beyond the homes we find there is far more lane ahead. The incline has increased and the pavement has evaporated. The pathway goes left then back to the right and the van moves with grace over the terrain. We're under the castle walls now, they loom well above us still but Jim pushes on.
I'm now in serious thought and deep contemplation about what in the world we're doing in a van on this steeply elevated cobblestone dirt path! We've got to be 10 or 12 thousand feet above the autobahn now; we can see it far below, it looks like a shiny gray ribbon dropped haphazardly across the landscape. I can find no marking to indicate our height but it's well over our usual altitude. Jim makes one last turn and there just above us is the entry arch to the castle. Jim sets the parking break and we make the rest of the trip on foot. As I get to the entry gate I turn back and photograph the van sitting on the trail. There are no guardrails up here, there are few trees up here and those are short stubby things.
Jim and I walk through the gate and into the castle climbing the whole way. We are finally atop this mountain, there's no where to go now but down. I walk from one cliff side to the other and get a photograph of the autobahn in both directions. The view from here is beyond my capability to describe in mere words, suffice it to say, it's magnificent. We spend an hour walking around inside the castle walls. I'd like to get photos of the outside but that's impossible with the sheer cliffs all around it. This is another of those times I stand in awe and ponder how did these people get all these blocks of stone up here to build this huge structure? (One of our archeology books says this castle is at the Cicilian Gates of ancient times (the only way through the Taurus Mountains) and the 'dust' of invading armies could be seen two days away. Needless to say, this castle was as safe as anyone could be from those 'hordes'.) There are so many castles in this region of Turkey and all of them seem to be perched on an unworkable rocky peak. This has been the pinnacle of our day - literally!
We get back to the van and Jim makes the turn around and we head down and down and down some more. Oh my stars, there's a car coming up toward us, OK made it, then further down one more car challenges our way, no problem, again we pass or I wouldn't be bringing you this account, but it still gives me chills as I sit and write these words.
As is the case with most trips, it seems so much quicker coming back than going; it's no time before we're back to the main highway. We will not soon forget that little side adventure. We travel in silence for a good while now simply enjoying the scenery. Then, on the left we see a set of brown signs indicating there are historical sites to see; Kuzoluk Hani, Kizkalesi and Kislarkalesi or 'castle' off to our left. It says the Hani is just 10 kilometers and the others are closer so we make the turn and head out into the countryside on another paved but unmarked and narrower two-lane road. Shortly after we start down this road we cross over the autobahn; we're now in wine country, we have vineyards on both sides of the road and the landscape begins to roll with the road curving one way then the other.
We travel a good distance and see nothing, the road has had a couple of other roads connecting to it but we've seen no sign telling us to turn and Jim says we haven't come ten kilometers yet so we press on. Once we make the ten kilometers we begin to think we've missed everything but in the valley just below us we spy the ruin of the Hani. Jim pulls to the side of the road and we get out to look. I note we passed an incline not two seconds ago but it was NOT even a pathway fit for our van. We opt to view the ruin from above and look for other ways down; there are none. Should we be able to find someone with a four-wheel drive, this could be a greater discovery. I take a photo and we turn around and head back.
On our way back we take a little more time to study a large block structure atop a hill we saw while driving toward the Hani. We believe it very well could be a portion of a castle ruin but there is simply no way to get up to it; the pathway we think leads to it is again not something for us to drive up. We feel like the van has had enough challenges for a good while. This site too will have to wait for another time and a possible four wheel drive truck.
Back on the main highway again, we head toward Adana. We pass through the small village of Dortler with a little commerce stretched out along the highway on both sides of the road. We note this little village so we can remember where we found the historic signs when and if we're able to return this way one day.
On our return trip we decide to take another side road (there are several nomad tents along the road) to see if we could find a road to the castle from the other side. We drove out into the country even further than before, turning first one way then another. At one juncture, we had the choice of two routes and made an unfortunate turn. We traveled onto an unimproved lane and into a riverbed across a recently-laid gravel build-up. On the other side things looked somewhat better and we simply followed the road, then again there was a decision to be made we went left. Out in the countryside even further now we wind up in a villager's courtyard with NOWHERE to go but back the way we had come!
Not discouraged Jim simply turned the van around and drove out of the villager's courtyard, with one very stunned villager wondering, "who were those people?" We go back to the small collection of houses turning left over the railroad tracks (instead of right into the riverbed and the villager's back yard!) and discover another 2-lane paved road going southeast. Again, we see several nomad/migrant workers tent cities. Migrant labor is heavily used all year round in this area of food growing. Finally, up ahead we see the autobahn and guess this road will end of up in Yenice, the first town on the rail line west of Adana. We were right-and also glad to see the sign pointing to Adana, only 30 minutes now to the end of our adventure and home.
It's a new day. Monday is a holiday for us and Jim and Chelly are busy at home so Carol and I venture out alone. We decide we want to do one more look at the area of these historic sites. We drive to the autobahn and head west out of Adana. I've decided the way to go is to leave the autobahn at the Karaisali exit. Once we get off the exit we circle under the autobahn and head north; the road is two-lanes wide and well-maintained.
It's only 35 or 40 minutes to Karaisali and I want to go west from there to a village listed on the map as Istasyon. We get to Karaisali and the main street is under construction as they are laying interlocking pavers; (essentially they are hourglass-shaped bricks which make a nice driving surface and are easily 'taken up' when repairs are needed). Anyway, this calls for a detour and Turkish detours are not well noted for providing great direction but we get around and I come to the city center with no indication how to head in the right direction. There are absolutely no signs to Istasyon, so I stop at the police station with my map in hand and they point me in the direction of west. They tell me to turn around and go down the street and make a right; sounded right and was in the direction I wanted to go, so off we go.
The road is still good and I'm headed west and all is great. It isn't long and we come to a village named Bucak. On the horizon we see a mountain with a very large break in it. At the foot of the break is an old bridge we can see in the distance; I believe it to be Seljuk. As we come to the bridge it has a high rise in the center and it's a narrow one-lane, we cross over it and pull to a stop for photographs. There's a river coming through the mountain and the scene is beautiful. I take the camera and climb the hillside to get a better picture of the mountain cut; I can't get high enough to really see through the mountain and I don't have the nerve to climb the hillside very far up, let alone the physical ability. I get a photo back toward the village and consider that an accomplishment.
Once back on the level Carol calls me to come down to the riverside. There's a walk along the bank - I walk back a ways and get another photo. The sound of the water in the gorge is very loud with nothing but it in the air. We make our way back to the car and drive on. The further we drive the less roadway we have beneath us. I begin to get concerned that what little road there is will simply fizzle out in some field! The road begins to become graded ruts and course gravel making me drive less then 10 MPH. At one point I make a turn and there's a village, I have prickly pear cactus on both sides of the car and there's NO WAY anyone could pass me here. I'm convinced this is NOT the way to Istasyon and come upon a building with a large porch and several men having tea and playing tile games. I stop the car and with map in hand break into their leisurely day.
One of the guys hears me say Istasyon and points down the hill and motions to the right. I thank him and get back into the car. I head down the hill and turn right - there it is - the train station is dead ahead! Oops, that was not quite what I had in mind. There are more gentlemen milling about here so once again I try my luck at directions. This time I'm told to go back up the street (I use that term loosely here) and head in the direction I was going to begin with. I do as directed and we find ourselves on a road that simply defies anyone's definition of road. I couldn't believe things could get worse. I'm barely crawling along now but there's been no rain and the direction is truly right for where I want to be so we press on. Finally we look off in the distance and there's the castle ruin we saw the day before but still we can find no way to get up to it.
Miraculously we crest the hill and we find we've come out on the same road
(PAVED) that we were traveling on yesterday. We don't discover a route to the
ruin but we do discover more of this incredible country right outside our backdoor
and feel very good about being on asphalt once more. Our day is not a loss at
all; we discovered that beautiful bridge, the river and its waterfall and we
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