Malatya and its surrounding area was probably second to Cappadocia in the “Must do and see in Turkey” lists on web sites.
Although we had set off from Goreme with every intention of ‘doing’ the Mount Nemrut area it started to look doubtful. Firstly there was our get out of Turkey quick response to the attempted military coup. Equally, we’d now struggled up one of the what appears to be many minor road 2000+metre passes and knew it would take us a long time to reach the area. Especially as Mount Nemrut itself was surrounded by 3000+ metre high mountains.
Plan B kicked in resulting in Ramo, recommended on the internet, picking us up from our hotel in Malatya to take us on a one day tour of the area.
First stop was the Roman bridge – Cendere Bridge. Having passed many dry river beds it was good to see water flowing. This gave the locals the opportunity to demonstrate Turkish car cleaning. Drive into the river and throw buckets of water over the car and the job’s done.
Our second stop was the ancient Kahta Roman castle. Looking anything but Roman; it was nearing the completion of a renovation program which was going to leave it gleaming. It had, in fact, been started during the Roman times and like many ancient buildings it had been expanded, redesigned and revamped over the centuries. We later looked down on the castle which gave a much better impression of how extensive it was and how it was built along a ridge.
From here, just down the road, we visited Arsameia, summer residence of the Commagene rulers in the 3rd century BC. A number of rock carvings depicted scenes of the period and a couple of caves were well worth exploring. Being the highest point in the area, the views were stunning.
Finally we made it to the big one – Mount Nemrut. Listed in the UNESCO World Heritage site it demonstrates some of the earliest examples of rock carving. The climb up again afforded us stunning views. The east side is more organised with the statue’s fallen off heads, remarkably well preserved, in front of the remains of each statue. The west side, where we would be able to watch the sunset, was higgledy-piggledy but had better preserved heads.
The drive back, covering 80 odd km in 2 1/2 hours due to the steep mountainous terrain, led to a variety of conversational topics one of which resulted in us arranging a local tour of Malatya, with Ramo, during the next day as we were booked onto an over night intercity bus leaving us free during the day.
The local tour was great. We visited the local ancient mosque, an ancient market place, the beheading criminals ‘blood cupola’, the old town with Ottoman houses.
But the most interesting place was Arslentepe, where ancient civilizations going back to early Mesomopotamia had occupied the same spot for thousands of years. This was another site with global significance due to its mud structure, ‘cave’ paintings, examples of first swords suggesting the start of armed combat, and what acedemics have perceived to be the development of a structured society.
Archaeologists had been able to peel back the layers to find a throne with kneeling spot, a series of rooms – some with clay pots suggesting communal use, first swords made of copper, large clay pots for storage and seals suggesting a distribution system.