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ARTICLE: ZERRIN BATUK PHOTO: EGE ZILCI
Southern city of peace
With its rich history, shimmering sea, emerald green highlands and mysterious caves, ‘banana paradise’ Anamur is situated at Turkey’s southernmost point.
“You tried over there to be time / Now you’re a Mediterranean epidemic...”
Edip Cansever’s poem, ‘Mediterranean Epidemic’, which he composed for fellow-writer Cevat Şakir, the Fisherman of Halicarnassus, always comes to mind whenever I think of the Mediterranean. For I spent the best years of my childhood, those scorching summer months, on the tranquil and refreshing shores of Anamur Castle and the Kızkalesi. The Mediterranean must have invaded my entire soul like an epidemic because Anamur has had a special place in my heart ever since.
A nature garden and banana paradise at Anatolia’s southernmost point, Anamur is a vibrant blue and green city of peace. And one of the best proofs of this is a mosaic symbolizing peace dedicated to the Prophet Isaiah in a church located in the ancient city of Anemurium, which thrived during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods.
With its flower-decked emerald green mountains, its rivers and its shimmering sea, Anamur offers a climate that is pleasing in every season and a holiday concept that appeals to every taste. A mountain village in the pines, a green highland cottage, a harbor bay with a beautiful view,
or a village house on the banana
ANAMUR MON AMOUR
Anamur greets visitors first with its magnificent castle. One of Anatolia’s best-preserved, Mamure Castle rises before us in all its glory 8 kilometers from Anamur on the Antalya-Mersin highway. The view you will see as you drive down the gravel road from the village of Güney, laced with ruins of the ancient city of ‘Antiochia-ad-cragum’, will take you back to the fairytale world of your childhood. As picturesque as a painter’s canvas, Mamure Castle, the deserted beach below it, the rocky passage in the sea, and the banana groves will play games with your imagination. Built over ancient foundations like many Anatolian castles, Mamure stands erect with its 39 towers, mosque and bath. Thought to have been built originally in the Roman era and reconstructed in the Seljuk period, it takes its present-day name from the Karamanids. According to Şikari’s history, when Anamur and Taşeli were seized and destroyed, the Karamanid prince Mahmut Bey routed the enemy with his army of 36,000 men, took back the castle and, restoring it (making it ‘mamur’
or habitable again),
dubbed it, appropriately, Mamure. The castle consists of an inner courtyard on the east and an outer castle on the west, set off from each other by high walls, and to the south of these an inner castle built over the rocks. One can never get one’s fill of the view from the towers, like tall, multi-storey observation decks, on the south, the northeast, and the seashore.
THE BANANA, SYMBOL OF ANAMUR
After leaving the village of Güney, you’ll know when you are approaching Anamur from the increasing frequency of banana vendors along the road. The bananas grown in the greenhouses in and around Anamur are picked green. Once it has borne fruit, a banana tree will produce no more, giving way instead to a new tree sprouting up beneath it. All the roadside vendors will be happy to tell you the story of this delicate tree.
Following such a pleasant entrance, you can begin to tour Anamur. Our recommendation is to start with the ancient city of Anemurium 6 km southeast of the township so you can follow the historical development. After touring the ancient city, don’t neglect to take a brief stroll on the beach immediately below. The beach at Anemurium is under protection as one of seventeen Mediterranean beaches where the Caretta caretta deposit their eggs. When you reach Anamur you will see that the city is divided into two sections. The bananas that grace the shoulders of the statue of a black woman on the square are proof once again that you are in a banana capital. Anamur Museum should be your second stop in the city. Exhibited here in this museum, which was opened following the excavations mounted in the ancient city of Anemurium by American and Canadian archaeologists starting in 1960, are not only the artifacts that have been unearthed but also folkloric items recovered in these parts during a historical process from the nomadic era up to the period of sedentary existence.
FROM HIGHLANDS TO CAVES
Still other features that make Anamur a touristic city are its highlands, caves and the Anamur (Dragon) River. This 35-km-long stream, which originates as an underground river in the foothills of the Taurus and flows through the Çatalyatak, Yellice and Kızcağız hills, is ideal for rafting and for catching and eating trout. And the
54-meter-long, single-arched Alaköprü bridge over it is one of the jewels of the city’s history. The central arch of this architectural wonder, which was built by the Karamanids in the 14th century, is an outstanding example of workmanship.
As long as you’ve come to Anamur, we recommend that you not return without seeing the caves. For Çukurpınar Cave at an altitude of 1890 meters is accessible by a four-hour hike from Çamurlu Highland northwest of the city. Bicikli Cave, known to be the source of water for the Abanoz Highland and famous for its stalactites and stalagmites, Buğu Cave, located in the fossil-rich area 500 meters northeast of Anamur, and Köşekbükü Cave 15 km northwest of the city center are all worth seeing. At five hundred meters in width, the last especially leaves visitors spellbound and is easier than the others to tour since it has been opened up for tourism and equipped with lighting. This cave with its countless stalactites and stalagmites is also claimed to be good for asthma.
You can conclude your Anamur tour by having a seat in one of the restaurants along the shore and tasting the succulent saltwater fish. When you look at the beach and the shimmering sea just beyond it, the voice of the poet will ring in your ears: “Far, but so very far away / Oh great sea, you were an enormous teardrop / You were speaking but you could not find the words.”