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Hattusha and Amasya


The Muezzin woke me at 10 past 5, still black outside. It now dawned on me why they were such late risers in this country, it was because they got woken up in the middle of the night to pray. How many actually did so was another matter. I rose at 6 to the cockerels crow and honk of geese outside in the main square and by 0630 was out on the road headed uphill for the ruins of Hattusha.


Upon heading down from the Great Fortress, the last and largest ruin which had housed the royal palace, I spotted one final gate which had eluded me in the early morning gloom. Still having the 2nd site at Yazilkaya to visit I had come up with a cunning plan to go bush as a short cut and simultaneously dodge the ticket office which was now open (anyone see a pattern forming?), but upon exploration a sheer cliff scuppered that plan. You could see why they had chosen this site for their city! It was obvious however that this other gate would lead directly back into the village, cattle had clearly been regularly driven through its quagmire, and I ended up back in the village centre quicker and better off than anticipated, if somewhat muddier. I'd hardly eaten the day before but with no cafe in town I ODed on chay at one of the grungy teahouses on the square and resolved that I could now kill 2 birds with one stone by catching the museum on the road out to Yazilkaya. In the teahouse the TV showed a boy, I presume the Turkish Finance Minister, giving the 2006 Inflation Report. It would have made interesting listening.

Out at the tiny museum I already knew that it would be underwhelming compared to the pick of the atrifacts I had seen in the big city museums. It did however bring to my attention that some of the items were Phrygian, they had resettled parts of the site after the Hittites had dissolved into oblivion. The most impressive however were actually a collection of very fine Byzantine bronze crosses, worthy of any museum. Just like the ruins, the museum was deserted, the lone caretaker pointed out a few obvious facts but I knew he was just on the make to try and sell me a guidebook. He was as successful as all the others. The museum had also described the site at Yazilkaya which was small and consisted of rock tombs covered in carved reliefs. After arguing with myself over it I decided I had already seen plenty of such carvings and could well do without the 6K round trip walk. I was selling myself short and knew it but it would ensure I would surely catch a bus sooner or later to Amasya that day.

I had only just returned to the hotel when Mustafa the owner called that the dolmus was leaving and I asked him to hold it for me. It ran me out to the highway where I would catch the coach at one of its rest stop points and it was by chance perfect timing, the coach was already there and about to leave. That unfortunately meant that I still had no chance to eat however. I had to make do with more tea which the concierge strangely served straight after their stop, daft. He also put an onboard movie on called Transporter 2, some garbage about a dude going around in a shiny black Audi and getting into one fight after another. Utterly ridiculous and not a patch on Black Scorpion 3 (eh Baz?) I saw women sat in circles in the fields around large piles of beets, they chopped and sorted them whilst the men hoed the ground by hand to dislodge more. Boys collected all the cuttings which were piled high on trailers, presumably for animal feed, and other men spread seed by hand along freshly ploughed furrows. Half an hour later I saw lines of literally hundreds of large trucks loaded with sugar beet queued up outside a refining plant.

My good fortune continued that day when most unexpectedly rather than being dumped at the Otogar we were transferred onto a minibus and the kindly old boy driver after enquiry dropped me right by my proposed digs. It was actually the only budget option recommended in the guidebook which gave me reservations about going there, but a half hearted and heavily loaded search for an alternative proved fruitless. The boy on the desk quoted me the book price to which I readily agreed, only to discover en route to the room that the whole hotel was a building site. Walls had been torn down to reveal gutted rooms, materials lay around the corridoors and the carpet lay thick with dust. One of the few times I hadnt asked to see the room first and now I remembered why. On first sight it was actually the plushest room I had stayed in, apparently one of only 2 still intact, with a spotless en suite and even a TV. I was in dire need of a shave and shower and the habitually loose dangling shower head readily gushed hot water. I switched the TV on to find a Fenerbache match just starting, these were the minutae which stopped me just short of complaining, not an easy thing to do in Turkish anyhow, but they must have known they were chancing their arm and I couldnt help feeling a little ripped off. To top it all I got pestered by a mosquito that night for the first time since Cyprus.

After my first real food in 36 hours I headed off for the nearby Pontic Tombs, last resting places of the kings of the local Pontic Empire, staring out over the whole town from the mountainside just the other side of the river. It was quite a clamber in parts and though devoid of any inscription or embellishment the tombs were impressive for their dramatically perched location which afforded great views of the whole town and along the valley. They had actually been excavated around all sides and though hewn from the solid rock stood distinct like houses within enveloping caves. It was too late by this time to hoof the 3Ks up to the even higher castle but the views from the tombs had been good enough. A walk along the riverfront and back along the main drag revealed some fine buildings including an especially aesthetic Hamam (bathhouse) and I popped inside a nice mosque too. It was the traditional Ottoman style houses along the river for which the town was known however, together with the hemmed in location they made it just about the prettiest town in Turkey.

Posted by andyhay 23:00 Archived in Turkey

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