I have never been a tourist in my own country so I decided to go with the bearded stranger and the driver. I manage a taxi rank in Ceyhan, in the south of Turkey, and the stranger came along asking to go to Anazarbus. None of us had heard of it but a passer-by suggested it might be the ruined castle at Anavarza. We agreed a price: covering the journey of 70km each way plus an hour at the castle.
The journey took a while. The approach track to the castle was so eroded by flowing water that the tyres sometimes got caught in a crack and changed the direction in which the car was travelling.
The castle was a succession of fortifications climbing up a hill. The stranger said it was Roman, then Byzantine, then Muslim and finally Armenian. To me they were all just ‘Rumi’ and anyway the Mamluks (Muslims) destroyed it in the 14th century after Christ. He pointed out a Roman road going north-south through the whole area; an amphitheatre, a cemetery. There were ruined gate arches, ramparts, steps, pillars, buildings.
It was tough work climbing up the hill, though there were ancient stairs cut out of the rock to help us. We climbed and climbed and came to a bit where the path narrowed. There ahead of us was a tower several stories high, but this narrow bit had 200 meter drops on either side. Scrambling is not my strength but we got across. I’d have hated to be a soldier attacking this place.
We then met some obstinate sheep who wouldn’t move to let us through the gate, and an aggressive Kurdish shepherd who talked about Germans being there in 1917 and about the Papas. We found the ‘Papas’ further up: Christian saints painted on the walls of an ancient ruined church.
It may have been interesting tourism but it was bad business. First, it took me almost an hour to huff and puff my way to the top so I had to allow the stranger another hour to explore. Second, we had a puncture; and then the driver didn’t do the nuts up tightly enough so the pressure on the back axle from the wobbles meant I had to take the taxi out of circulation when we got back.