Riding the roads of Turkey can be summed up as
adventurous, dangerous and often times downright crazy.
If you have never been to Turkey, reading this story may
stray you away, but at the same time curiosity will get
the best of you.
My goal was to visit as many castles in one day as
possible. The first hurdle was locating these castles
on the map. I have included a
map using Google
to give everyone an idea of each sites location.
The next hurdle was figuring out where the gas stops
were and which one to use. I know that the Owner’s Manual
states that I can get about 180 miles to a full tank,
but I start looking at 120 miles. Locating each gas
stop was a near impossible task considering Turkey’s
roads are not well labeled. If you are on the main
highway your chances of locating something is great;
however, venturing out into the rural or country roads
can be a daunting task. Most back roads are labeled by
the local residents using scrap wood
hand painted signs with arrows for direction of travel.
If this creeps you out there’s more. You have to
consider live stock; herds such as goats, sheep, horses,
cattle’s and occasionally you will see dogs and people
crossing the highway.
Most of the towns on the eastern half of Turkey do not
cater to tourism. This is good news to me considering I
don’t enjoy fighting a mob of tourists; however, this
could also be bad news if I decide to stay overnight.
The further east you travel the more you are exposed to
Yilankale in the
barrier. English is not considered a “Universal
Language” in this part of the world. This is why I
always travel with a pocket size English-Turkish
Turkey is considered a “Land bridge between Europe and
Asia.” The region that I will be traveling is known as
Anatolia; an ancient Greek word which translates to
“land of the sunrise” or Asia Minor; in present day it
simply translates to “east.”
There are no accurate dates of this region however
historians have dated it back to 3,000 years. The
documented ancient settlements of this region include
Hittite, Romans, Greeks, Assyrians, Byzantine and
Ottoman Turks just to name a few. Each group of
settlement will refer to this region as something
different which makes it more confusing if you try to
read its history.
My first stop was Yilankale also known as “Snake
Castle.” This was a short trip of approximately 30
miles from Adana which was my starting point. Built in
the 11th century, this Crusader Castle of the Middle
Ages is located on an ancient and historic road that
runs between the Toros mountains and Antakya. It has 8
round towers and Regular Army door in the southern part
of the castle; there’s also a church in the walls of
this castle. The former name of this castle was Gavara.
I never climbed this castle since riding boots were not
made for climbing plus the road that leads to this
castle was not paved. I am not fond of riding uphill on
loose gravel with two wheels; therefore, I took this
picture near the base of the castle. This castle is
frequently visited considering it’s located along the
main highway D400.
away from the major highways and entering the rural
roads brought mixed emotions. The town of Dumlu is a
very small sleepy farming community with no gas
stations, stores, pit stops or restaurants. There is
nothing else in this town other than the castle which is
why this is not frequented by tourist. I have done a
lot of searching but could not find any information
about the castle. The only information that I could
find was it was part of the Byzantine Empire and it was
constructed around the 5th century AD. I
did not climb up to this castle since there
Dumlu Castle were no
roads leading up to it. I snapped this picture and
pressed on to the next stop to prevent riding in
This castle was
only about 10 miles from Dumlu. I almost past the turn
to Anavarza since the direction to the castle was hand
painted on a particle board and staked to the ground. I
reluctantly made the turn following a partially paved
single lane pathway. Out of nowhere I see an arch that
clearly signifies an entrance to the castle’s boundaries; however, as I continue down the narrow path,
I discovered that this was one of many archways. More
ancient ruins of walls and archways emerges as I travel
inward, but still no sight of Anavarza Castle.
Within these walls and arches were remnants of buildings
and partially standing pillars. It was only then
that I realized that this was
ancient city. I was suddenly inspired to discover
more about this ancient city.
A couple of searches on the internet
gave me this information “This
site which was known as Caesarea or Anazarbus during the
times of the Roman Empire…” This brings me back to the
days when I was studying Western Civilization. Actually
standing there and seeing their accomplishment versus
reading it on a text book brought a whole new meaning.
I can’t help but marvel at their achievements.
Everything was built using lime stones. Just imagine
carving one to an exact desired shape and positioning it
at a specific location. At this point I could no longer
contain my excitement. Finally about 1.5 miles from the
first archway sighting, I see the castle which I
captured on film along with another arch entrance. There was no information about Anavarza
prior to the Roman Empire. The
Caesarea was created by Emperor Augustus who visited the
city in 19 B.C. Thrilled about my new discovery, I
had this overwhelming desire to reach the top of the
hill and explore more. Disregarding the fact that
riding boots were not made for hiking, I didn’t care at
this point; curiosity got the best of me.
end of the paved narrow road were a couple of locals
that informed me to park my scooter along side of the
road. This made me very nervous since I was parking
uphill on loose gravel, but I had to satisfy my urge to
discover more about the Anavarza Castle.
parked my scooter as instructed and paid my dues to
enter the castle. The cost was 3 ytl (lira) which
equates to about $2 (USD). The price was for the
entrance fee only, but there was another person there
that was offering an English guided tour which would
cost an additional $13 which I respectfully declined.
There was also another person who spoke no word of
English but was offering me ancient Roman coins for
sale. I have been told to decline purchasing any
historical remains to preserve the local culture;
besides, it would have gotten me into a heap of trouble
trying to get it through customs.
Anavarza Stairs below
journey was done over the Thanks Giving holiday of 2008.
Although the region that I am traveling in does not get
snow, it does get cold in the morning. I started
this trip with the temperatures in the low 50’s.
Turkey is a region with high humidity; humidity and
speed equals FREAKING COLD. The temperature was a
balmy 75 degrees with no breeze by the time I reached the base of the castle; perfect for riding,
hiking on the other hand is another story. At the
base of the rocky hill, I begin questioning my decision
to venture further on my quest and the decision for
civilization was kind enough to carve out stairs towards
the castle; however, I never took consideration
of the grade of this ancient staircase. The only English
speaking person at the entrance informed me that there
were over 500 steps up to the castle. “Great!” I thought
as I proceeded on.
More historical archives
revealed that Anavarza suffered from 2 earthquakes one
in 525 AD and 561 AD; then in the 6th century
it experienced a plague epidemic. In 1945 the region
experienced one more severe quake which surprises me
that most of its arches and buildings still remain
beyond the castle walls, everything
you’ve read about castle life comes to life. The
entire tour within the castle walls took me 2 hours.
There was much to see that I didn’t want to rob myself
from this experience.
satisfied and descending down to the entry way of this
historical site. The only English speaking person
offered me to view his back yard for more ruins. He has
informed me that his father has unearthed a couple of
roman baths along with a couple of sarcophagus. This
person owned an orange and mandarin farm. The Turkish
government authorized him and his family to allow the
public to view these ruins on his property. In return,
he asks each visitor for a donation for viewing and
offers you oranges and mandarin picked from his
It was time for a
late lunch and proceed on to my last stop which was
about another 40 miles away. On my way out of Anavarza I
experienced two traffic jams, one with a herd of sheep
and the other one was of cows.
With my belly full
it was time to conclude this journey. On the highway, I
passed a motorcycle gang of four on one bike who was
obviously struggling with his overworked scooter. I
sped up and pulled over to get my well deserved burn break
and still had time to grab my trusty camera to capture
this biker gang’s image.
By the time I reached Toprakkale,
I was tired with no desire to climb into this castle. I
pulled off to the side of the road to capture this
This castle was
built around the same period as Yilankale. It is
commonly referred to as the “Black Castle” due to its
dark appearance. This castle was created using mostly
volcanic rocks which explains its dark appearance.
I have been in
Turkey since June 2008 and nothing surprises anymore
about this country. If you think something is not
possible, it is in Turkey. In the past six months I
have enjoyed many Journeys to the Past. Since
purchasing my bike, my goal has always been to travel
and explore everywhere I can on two wheels. Turkey has
added the adventurous, dangerous and often times
downright crazy part.