This past week I’ve been a bit incommunicado as it was a combination of two holidays – Kurban Bayramı and Cumhuriyet Bayramı – so I have been traveling for the past ten days. Cumhuriyet Bayramı is Republic Day in Turkey, and celebrates the founding of the modern Turkish Republic. Worth noting, though, is that Kurban Bayramı is the Feast of Sacrifice Holiday, and it celebrates the moment in Islam when Abraham almost sacrificed his son Ishmael – not Isaac, as in Judaism and Christianity – to God. Just an interesting note.
Anyway, for the holidays I decided to visit my old host family in Ankara with a three day stopover in Amasya on the way, which allowed me to visit my friends Kate and Erin posted there. I already had fairly high expectations of Amasya from what I had read online, as well as the photographs I saw Erin post on Facebook; however, I was not prepared for how blown away by the city I would be.
Calling Amasya a city is a bit of an overstatement – it only has a population of 90,000 which makes sense when you consider it’s geography. Amasya is situated on the banks of a river, hemmed in on both sides by significantly steep craggy mountains that remind me of the Cliffs on Insanity from The Princess Bride… Although you are free to make your own judgments based on the pictures, which unfortunately do not do justice to the beauty of the city.
I arrived into Amasya past 1 AM Thursday night, so I had no choice but to take a cab to Erin’s apartment. It was well worth it, since the cabbie drove along the river and pointed up at the central mountain in the town, which was illuminated by spot lights. Carved into the cliff face were gigantic tombs from the Pontic Kings of old, over two thousand years ago. Seeing these, I was immediately captivated and felt as if I was in nothing but a fairy tale – nerdily, I kept gazing at these tombs and picturing Gondor from The Lord of the Rings.
After being greeted by Erin, Kate, and a large plate of cake I passed out. Friday was spent exploring the city, as well as meeting Erin’s coworkers – Mehmet and Ismail – who invited us to show experience the nightlife of Amasya. So, after a bit of exploration along the river that night we met up with her coworkers at a guest house. The house was an old restored Ottoman mansion, meaning timbered beams, whitewashed walls, stone interior courtyards and – of course – a live band. Although I love Malatya, going out proved a wonderful change of pace as I am the only non-married person in their early twenties in Malatya besides my students.
Saturday was spent running more errands, before meeting up with Mehmet and Ismail again in perhaps the most bizarre amusement park type thing I have ever seen. The two of them lead us to the second floor of a supermarket, which for some unexplained reason was outfitted with bowling alleys, ping-pong tables and carnival games. Unnervingly, the games-area – I’m not sure what to call it – was also light in extremely low, flickering lights. All of this was completely ignorable, up until a child starting riding the tea cup ride. This triggered, inexplicably, “Old McDonald Had a Farm” to play through the loud speakers; however, the music was an octave too low and extremely metallic. If I was alone, it would have been identical to a nightmare – luckily I wasn’t, so we went bowling instead.
Sunday quickly arrived, and with it the knowledge of it being my last day in one of the most magically enchanting cities I’ve ever been in. To cap it off, Erin and I hiked up the center mountain of Amasya up to the old Pontic Tombs. I have no idea how the people of Pontus managed to build these things – they are chiseled straight into the mountain face, as well as having built a wall down the mountain. They must have been goat men or something. The tombs themselves were amazingly peaceful at the top, as well as presenting the most beautiful views down onto Amasya itself. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of my photos do it justice…
Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to go back.