Our arrival into Amasya was unexpectedly bumpy. The overnight bus from Trabzon was scheduled to reach Amasya at 6:00 a.m. in the morning, but arrived a full hour ahead of time and deposited us in the city's main Otogar (bus station) about 3 kms away from the city center. As one might expect, the city was still asleep and the dolmus service (minibuses that form the core of the public transport system) had not started for the day. The few others who disembarked with us were picked up by waiting cars and quickly dispersed. This left the two of us along with a young Chinese woman (Kim) who we had met on our trip to Sumela (in Trabzon) and had travelled with us on the same bus, wondering what to do. We found a dark waiting area and settled down on the iron seats to wait for daybreak.
It was a cold morning and soon enough impatience got the better of us. A quick tour of the Otogar revealed a few waiting taxis just outside the door. On enquiring about the cost of a ride to the city center, the driver (who we had to wake up) pointed to the meter, something we normally take as a good sign. So the three of us got into the taxi and asked to be dropped off at a hotel that we had previously identified. It was going to be less than 3 kms away, so how expensive could that be? But even as the taxi left the main gate of bus station and sped in the direction away from the city, we soon realized that it was going to be a long way before it could make a turn in the direction of the city. At the same time, our eyes kept widening in disbelief as we watched the meter race away wildly, adding the incremental fare literally every few seconds. This was turning out to be a very expensive taxi ride for a short distance! Finally the taxi did get us to the right hotel and looking at the fare on the meter we were convinced that the meter was somehow rigged. But without enough Turkish vocabulary to question or argue about it, we paid up without a fuss and got out.
Once at the door of the hotel, waking up the manager on duty turned out to be a bigger challenge. It took several minutes of ringing the door bell and knocking on the glass door to shake him out of his slumber. Disoriented and still half asleep, he delivered the bad news. The room rate was way higher than we had anticipated and more that what we were willing to pay. We had seen several other lodging options nearby as we rode in, so decided to take our chances elsewhere, a questionable decision given the time of day.
So the two of us with our big backpacks and Kim with her super-sized suitcase on wheels, marched up and down the side streets looking for something suitable. There were a few hotels but either they did not respond to the doorbell or seemed too seedy. We almost settled on one and but on examining the room changed out minds and finally decided to go back to the original (expensive) place that we had rejected.
In a sequence of events too complicated to explain, Kim left her suitcase in our care so she could check out on some options across the river. So as we checked in to our hotel (waking up the manager for the second time was not much easier), we had in our possession a large suitcase whose owner had no idea where we were and whose contact info we did not possess. So M walked all the way back to the place where we originally parted hoping that she would come back there to reclaim her suitcase. Standing on the street on a cold morning, not knowing when and if she would turn up was a little disconcerting but turn up she did and everything ended well. But this was a good reminder for us to get contact information before we accepted responsibility for anything on the road.
After the excitement of the morning, a brief power nap is all it took before we were ready to visit some of the historical sights in this charming city. Known to be inhabited since 5500 BC, the city was conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century and then became the capital of successor kingdoms ruled by Persian provincial governors. In the 3rd century BC it entered its golden age as capital of the Kingdom of Pontus that dominated a large part of Anatolia. Conquest by the Romans in 47 BC foreshadowed its decline. After successive conquest by the Byzantine, Seljuk and Mongols, it was an important military base under the Ottomans. After WWI, Ataturk came to Amasya and it was here that he held initial meetings to plan the Turkish struggle for independence. A large statue in the main square commemorates this seminal moment.
The town itself is set in a ravine between two high ridges and has a scenic river snaking through the middle. On the northern bank is the sheer rock face and high above looming over the town are tombs of the kings of Pontus. Dating as far back as 4th century BC, they were used for cult worship of the deified rulers. All of the 18 tombs are now empty, but a path through the rocks takes you to some of them for a closer look. It is also a great place to get a panoramic view of the city whose skyline is dominated by several mosques. As it turned out, we were at the top enjoying the view when it was time for Azan (call to prayer) and the simultaneous rendering from all the mosques in the vicinity using loud speakers resounded throughout the valley!
Video of Amasya from Tombs
Against this rugged backdrop, restored old Ottoman houses line the streets below making for a quaint and attractive neighborhood. Some of them have been converted into hotels and restaurants but they have remained true to the the Ottoman style and don't appear out of place. Within this neighborhood is a museum dedicated to Ottoman architecture where the rooms are fully furnished in period style and have models to illustrate their use.
We walked past several mosques and medresses notable among which was the Burmali Minaret Cammi (Spiral Minaret Mosque). It was built by the Seljuks between 1237 and 1247 and has an elegant spiral carving on the minaret.
After a satisfying day of sightseeing we hurried back to our hotel to catch up on news related to the US presidential elections. One on the reasons we picked that particular hotel in the first place was because they had specified presence of TV in the room. While the promised TV did exist in the room, they did not appear to carry any English language channels. But fortunately their wifi was adequate to allow streaming of TV channels online, so we spent the next several hours propped up in bed watching live election coverage on our respective computers.
Google Maps Link
That's a lazy lot - 6.00 AM and everybody is fast asleep ? Suggest to the imams to advance their Azan timings !!
Boo for watching the elections when you had so much more to do :) From , on Nov 20, 2012 at 12:40AM
This brings me to my mind the following. In 1968 leaving LA, I landed in Chicago and the bus took me to the center of the city and dropped me in front of a Five Star hotel. Going in and inquiring I found the room rates started from $50 a night, a princely sum in those days was just out of the question and my resources . Lugging a 20 kg. suitcase and a 10 kg. hand bag I went in search of a more affordable hotel room for almost an hour covering about two miles. Finally, as luck would have it, settled one for $10 !
In a strange land never take possession and care of some unknown person's luggage. It is a clear case of security risk. In an unfortunate situation if the luggage contains something prohibited or contraband, you will be in trouble. From , on Nov 20, 2012 at 05:08AM
@Ramesh - The prayer calls happen well before 6 am and Turkey's loudspeakers have the highest decibel level we've ever encountered.
@kvbigman - No security risk here as this was not a stranger. We had met Kim earlier and she was like a member of our party on this trip. From , on Nov 20, 2012 at 05:40AM