It’s Sunday! And on this Sunday we are going on a trip to Cilicia. It will take about 2 hours to get there from Gaziantep, so we leave at 9am. Most of our excavation team is on board for this trip, so we are driving with 3 cars. The road takes us to the west. We pass small villages and leave the barren country behind us. The fun starts on the highway E 90! The big highways here in Turkey are in good condition and there is almost no traffic. Only the speed limit stops us from living our wildest dreams that we know from our German highways. Soon, the first dance-off starts in the front row, while others relax in the backseats – everyone enjoys the road trip. And the view from the window seats is beautiful! While our last Sunday trip took us to Göbeklitepe, ca. 150 km to the east, where we drove through plains and soft hills and saw the horizon in a sandy-brown view, we are seeing much more greenery today. The hills transform into mountains as we get closer to the Amanos-Mountains (Nur Dağları). For almost the entire tour, this mountain range is always by our side, and we marvel at the beautiful view. It’s impact dividing Cilicia and Ancient Syria is easy to grab while driving through it.
Our first stop is Epiphaneia. The ruins of this Ancient City have been excavated since 2006, and due to the ongoing work there, at the moment, large parts are only viewable through a fence.
Worth a visit is the Aqueduct to let fresh thoughts flow through your mind, while you wonder about those long gone water streams in such a hot summer. Or have a seat in the local theatre – well, this works only if you had been living 2000 years ago, but the heat helps to bring your imagination to life. Because of the closed areas, we are not able to see the special characteristic of the city. According to this article (https://www.haberler.com/mozaikle-kapli-sutunlu-cadde-gun-yuzune-cikiyor-10108831-haberi/), beautiful mosaics were found not only in the ancient bath, but also as a paving for the colonnaded street.
Since we cannot see as much as expected, we hurry to our second destination. The ancient city of Hierapolis is not far located from Epiphaneia, so the ride is short. In Hierapolis we find the remains of a colonnaded street from the 2nd Century, with some columns still keeping their capital high. We take a walk on the ancient path, but aim for the theatre. There, we have a rest in the shadows and have our lunch of delicious Turkish bakery goods. While eating and enjoying the view above the entire theatre, we are joined with the company of a very cute dog. But he is rather interested in our food than he is in us, thus making his way back down the stairs.
Baklava and other baked goods give us new energy to explore the theatre more! It is still in a good condition, so we stroll through the stairs, gather under olive-trees and let the enormous building gouge our minds. And being kissed by a muse, one even takes the footsteps of the ancient actors and recites a poem.
But as the muses leave us, so do we leave the site. There is still enough time to visit something else, so the road leads us through pine forests, which are typical for this region, and as we see water glittering through the branches we arrive at Karatepe. It is directly located next to the large Aslantaş Dam lake, which once was called Pyramos river. Karatepe takes us way back to the 7th century BC, and we find ourselves in a late Hittite scenery. Omnipresent is the worship of the storm god Tarḫunt. We find him not only as an enormous statue, but he also appears on a lot of the numerous reliefs that give an insight into Hittite imagery and belief. While some of us try to decipher the bilingual inscription «Call of Azatiwada» on the enormous statue, which is written in Phoenician and in Luwian hieroglyphs, others try to mimic one of the lion sculptures with their cheeky smile.
The given route in this park goes in one circle around the hill through the forest, with a view of the blue water of the lake waiting behind one or the other tree. The way leads us to every relief, and it is obvious that this open-air museum is perfect for hot days: the pine forests provide shade everywhere and there is always a soft breeze blowing – cooling the air and spreading the pine scent.
After ending our trip with a cold drink at the exit, we say our goodbyes to the pine forests and the Amanos Mountains and drive back home. Passing the artistic Turkish roundabouts and seeing the landscape turn softer and brown again, we arrive perfectly in time to freshen up before having our weekly barbecue on the roof terrace.
Written by: Miriam Hanitzsch