Castle Climbing

I believe it is finally “fall” in Adana, Turkey. This means that, for the past couple of weeks, we have managed to be out of doors for longer than five minutes without melting. And, we are finally able to catch up on the nearby sites and hikes.

Over Columbus Day weekend, we visited the impressive Anavarsa castle (which I’ll talk about in a bit), but the weekend before we drove out to Snake Castle (Yalinkale)–only about 20 minutes away. Considering that it was scheduled to be a crisp 85 degrees on that Sunday, castle climbing seemed quite doable. (And boy are we glad that we waited until the fall—we wouldn’t have had it in us to spend nearly the amount of time clamoring over boulders, exploring and picture taking had it been 105 or 110 degrees!)

This is Yalinkale from the road leading up to it:

Apparently, the exact history of the castle is unknown, but architectural historians believe it was built by an Armenian prince in the mid 1200’s. It’s perched at the top of a small mountain and it has an easy view of the surrounding land—the perfect place for a walled fortress!

The name Snake Castle comes from a handful of local legends. According to one story, Yalinkale once housed a ruler who was half man and half snake. He used snakes to maintain his power until he was killed while attempting to kidnap the daughter of the king of Tarsus (another nearby city). People also say that the fortress was eventually abandoned and left in ruins because of an infestation of snakes.

Fortunately for us, this was the only type of “snake” we encountered.

Just like the castles in Kizkalesi, these ruins are relatively untouched and untended compared to many historical sites in the U.S. Driving up, we found a small parking area around the other side of the hill and then, other than a short path that takes you to the outermost wall, it’s up to you to decide where you’d like to climb and the to figure out the smoothest way to get there.

(And, yes, we went all the way up to the top!)

Anavarsa

The following Sunday, the 10th, was even cooler (I actually wore a long-sleeved shirt that morning–shocking!). We rode out with our friends Linda and Shane and we were all looking forward to seeing why so many folks have told us that Anavarsa is their favorite castle.

We now understand! Just the landscape alone is so unique and incredible–the remnants of a buried Roman city and a Byzantine castle only added to the otherworldly feel.

Here is the main gate to a buried Roman city at the base of the mountains. You can see a bit of the castle through the arch.

Most of the city was buried during an earthquake, but once we were up at the top of the mountain, we could look down the cliff and see where certain buildings would have been because of the tops of pillars and walls still sticking up out of the ground.

After taking a brief look at the city, our guide book said to drive on into the village and that a tour guide would find us. Sure enough, as we wound our way through a narrow, muddy road a man popped his head up over a fence and flagged us down. After showing us his badge, he asked to get in the car with us to show us where to park. He then led us up to the first section of castle, pointing out jumbled stone tombs and caskets that seemed almost strewn about among the boulders.

The views from the top of the castle were fantastic! In many ways, the nearby hills reminded me of the Burren region in Ireland, with grasses and flowers growing up between water-worn stone in the ground. The similarities to Ireland were limited, though, by the blasting of Turkish music from the wedding that was apparently taking place below. Although we couldn’t see the festivities, we all had quite the soundtrack for our hike. It almost seemed louder by the time we got to the top. Sounded like quite the party!

 

Here is the view from the parking area. The pictures of the castle below were taken from those little structures that you see at the top of those cliffs. Guides are wonderful people!

These are some of the caskets that we saw on our hike up.

This is only a fraction of the pictures we took and likely not the best of them. J took a ton on his camera, but I don’t currently have access to those…BECAUSE… I am writing this from a little flat in another Turkish city called Bodrum. I will be here for three weeks for a yoga teacher training. Today was the second full day, and I’m already sore! Day three is always the worst, apparently, so it should be all sunshine and roses from here on out!

More to come!

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