On September 21st 1972 I was in the village of Recep Koyu, driving to Nemrut Dagi, an ancient site on the top of a mountain in the south-east of Turkey.
When we left Malatya we wanted to find a more direct road to Nemrut Dagi than we could easily find on our maps. We asked a few people but got conflicting information. We decided to give it a try as we had previously driven in parts of Turkey where the maps didn't conform to reality. We were quickly in glorious country on gravel roads passing through Yesilyurt and Celikhan, well tended fields, people wearing fine traditional clothes, increasingly mountainous. The road became narrower and more earth than gravel. We went through a beautiful ford and hoped we were going on a through road in the right direction. As evening drew in we got stuck behind a dolmus taxi which kept sputtering to a halt. We helped it once and eventually had to tow it off the track so we could get by. Finally we found a spot where we could pull off the road and sleep with enough space for other vehicles to pass, although I don't think any did. This was beside a torrent which fell down the hillside into a gorge somewhere below us in the darkness.
We were up at 5am to watch the sunrise and soon a party of men came down the hillside to talk to us. They were extremely hospitable, offering us water first of all, as so often in Turkey. The older man, the headman of the village, was interested in the water we had in a jerrycan, tasted it and told us which spring we had collected it as we had driven along the road past Celikhan. The water in his village, Recep, was the best in Turkey he assured us. He then invited us up the hill to his house. The steep paths were built of stone, the house of stone and wood, light and airy. His wife was delighted to entertain us and to talk to the women in our party, a strong good-humoured woman, wearing a similar costume and headdress to ones we had seen the day before. They served us ayran, fine bread and butter. As we talked on about the directions in our simple Turkish and their simple German - one of the sons had been to work in Germany as so often in rural Turkey - the plan arose for our host with one of his sons to accompany us first to the next village and eventually to Nemrut which was in his patch but which he had never seen.
Slowly we wound down the valleys as we made our way towards Adiyaman, with frequent stops early on as the headman was greeted by friends and checked on directions. We turned away from Adiyaman towards Kahta and eventually crossed a river on a bridge built by the Romans but still in use. By Kahta we were in a more populated area and the roads were becoming more developed. They went to a hotel for the night while we camped nearby.
Nemrut Dagi was already on the tourist trail by 1972 with a more or less motorable road up and dolmuses available. The site is at the top of a mountain at 2100 meters, where Antiochus, a first century BC king of Commagene, built himself a sanctuary. Antiochus had kept his kingdom fairly independent of the Romans and I had some memory of the history. The top of the mountain has been levelled and huge heads and a tumulus placed there. It is a spectacular place to visit, especially soon after sunrise, and a suitable end to two days of driving through a remote and unspoiled mountain area.
|The Roman Bridge|
|Stone heads at Nemrut|
View Larger Map