Jewel in a Valley AMASYA

Mansions Overlooking The Yeşilirmak River (The Ancient Iris), Anatolia’s First Health Center, Madrasas Where Princes Were Trained And The Legend Of Farhad And Shirin... With All These, The Elegant Ottoman Town Of Amasya Is A Treasure Among The Rocks.

From the slosh of the Yeşilırmak gliding coyly between Amasya’s mansions redolent of wood, you might first think you are in a coastal town. Home to eleven different civilizations in the past, this river town boasts a spectacular 9,000-year-old culture. The French traveler, G. Perrat, who visited the city in 1861, described it as the Oxford of Anatolia, a comparison based on the fact that several Ottoman sultans spent their formative years as crown princes here, where they were trained in science and learning and the art of ruling.

A major portion of the books that earned Amasya the title ‘city of scholars’ are on display in the Amasya Beyazıd Manuscripts Library. This venue, which houses upwards of 7,000 manuscript works, also boasts 7th century copies of the Holy Quran. Anatolia’s first mental asylum to implement musical therapy is also in Amasya. Built in 1308, the Amasya House of Healing was used as a hospital up to the 18th century. As Sabuncuoğlu Museum of the History of Medicine and Surgery today, it exhibits various instruments that were used in treatment. And did you know that the the renowned ancient historian Strabo, whose statue you will see as you stroll on the banks of the Yeşilırmak, was from Amasya?

There’s an enjoyable side to flying to Amasya, a scant hour from Istanbul by air. Before finding yourself suddenly in the heart of the city, you roll into town through rustic rural landscapes. Merzifon, too, is one of the surprises along the 50-kilometer road from Amasya-Merzifon Airport to the city center. You can visit the historic mosques and clock tower in this town.

Illuminated, the Royal Rock Tombs lend Amasya a majestic appearance. These ancient tombs large and small in the valley of the Yeşilırmak number twenty-three. Some of the tombs, the largest of which is 15 meters high, are linked together by ancient passageways. After the rock tombs, our next stop is Harşena Castle. Close by this structure, noteworthy for its eight layers of defense walls, the Kızlar Palace was used as a women’s quarters in the period of the crown princes. Another wonder carved in the rocks is Farhad Canal. Legend has it that Farhad, a famous artist in the time of the Persians, was in love with the sultan’s sister, Shirin. Loth to give his sister away, the sultan laid down the condition that Farhad drill through the mountains and bring water to the city. Although Farhad, spurred on by his love for Shirin, would meet the challenge, he lost his life nonetheless in a trap laid by the sultan. The ancient waterway believed to have been laid by Ferhat is open to visitors, and the countdown has begun to the opening of the Farhad and Shirin Museum at the spot where the canal ends. Amasya tourism officials say the city is looking to host Valentine’s Day in 2014. Among their aims is that couples from all over the world will come to Amasya on February 14 to repeat their vows, and that a symbolic lock will be left in the city to represent each bond.

The Bayezıd II Complex in Amasya, Land of Mosques, is reminiscent of a university campus. Adorned with foliage motifs, the pulpit of Mehmet Pasha Mosque is a rare example of Ottoman marble workmanship. The arched vault at Bayezıd Pasha Mosque and the decorative woodwork at Abide Hatun Mosque in Merzifon are quite remarkable. Maden Mosque, a converted church in the village of Gümüş, is Amasya’s Hagia Sophia. Noteworthy for its mosaics, this place of worship has been declared a mosque of tolerance in Greece. Amasya’s museums are also well worth seeing. Welcoming some 500,000 visitors last year, the Amasya museums’ new target is a million tourists a year. The city, which aims to become a center of cultural tourism in Anatolia, is gearing up for the future with the slogan, ‘Amasya For All Seasons’. Amasya Museum, where upwards of 24,000 items are on display, also boasts the only examples in the world of Muslim mummies. Saraydüzü Barracks, where the Amasya Circular, which laid the foundations for the Republic of Turkey, was drafted, has been converted into the Museum of the National Struggle. Turning now to the historic Amasya houses, some of these 285 officially registered dwellings have been converted into restaurants, hotels and museums. And now the city is going to be transformed into the Venice of Anatolia through a project to raise the water level of the Yeşilırmak. Amasya is a candidate for becoming a tourism favorite in the near future, and it’s waiting for you.

Long known as the city of princes where numerous men of state were groomed for the Ottoman palace, Amasya hosted exactly 12 of them. Five served as governor of Amasya province but never gained the throne. But Beyazıd II (the Thunderbolt), Mehmed I, Murad II, Mehmet II (the Conqueror), Beyazıd II, Murad III and Selim III (the Grim), all ruled the Ottoman Empire after serving as governor of Amasya. You can get detailed information about them by visiting The House of Princes Museum at Amasya.

Stuffed horse beans
You can try ‘toyga’ soup, stuffed broad beans, meat stew with okra, ‘keşkek’ with mutton and ground wheat, and ‘Crown Prince’ dessert at the Yalıboyu Houses.

International Art and Culture Week is held June 12 to 22 to coincide with the issuing in 1919 of the Amasya Circular, which laid the groundwork for Turkey’s War of Liberation.

Organic farming
İbrahim Bayrak Farm in Gümüşhacıköy welcomes eco-tourists from the five continents from the U.S. to China. For information:

Lake Boraboy
Three absolute must’s in Amasya: ‘Misket’ apples, tea made in a samovar, and Lake Boraboy.

Grooming for the throne
The grooming of young princes for the throne aimed to train these sultans of the future in the most perfect way possible. As the princes learned the art of administering the state, they also acquired the ability to pen verses. Alongside attention was also given to music lessons, as well as to the capacity for writing scholarly books and engaging in sports according to their abilities.