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Article: M. SAİT TAŞKIRAN Photos: YUNUS EMRE AYDIN
City of Kings
Amasya is a land of legends. Strabo, an Amasya native and the world’s first geographer, tells us that the name of this city, which he calls ‘my country’, comes from the Amazons and that it was a city of kings.
The first observation that is made when speaking about civilizations in history is that they grew up from settlements on the banks of great rivers. And the Anatolian city of Amasya has fit this definition from the day it was founded right up to the present.
With a past going back 7,500 years, it is a city through which civilizations by the dozens have passed and which still preserves their imprint in all its vibrancy. Founded on both banks of the Yeşilırmak river (the ancient Iris) which flows between two mountains, the city is reminiscent of an open air museum. The first settlement here is said to date back to around 5,500 B.C. Traces of the Hittites, Phrygians, Cimmerians, Scythians, Lydians, Persians and Hellenes as well as of the Pontic, Roman, Byzantine, Danishmendid, Seljuk, Ilkhanid and Ottoman civilizations are encountered in Amasya, which was among the leading cities of the numerous civilizations that have ruled Anatolia. The Royal Rock Tombs on the slopes of the hill where Amasya Citadel stands are the best known and most striking of these remains. These royal tombs, which the Pontic peoples, who put a lasting stamp on the city, made by carving out deep troughs in the rock, are among the its most impressive monuments. And the most magnificent among them is the Mirrored Cave which takes its name from their legend.
CITY OF PRINCES
A portion of the bridges, castles and other ruins in the town date back to the Roman and Byzantine civilizations, which held sway over the area for a long time. Selcuk art and architecture came to dominate in the city starting from the period of Turkish hegemony over Anatolia. Mosques, mausoleums and religious colleges were built. One of them, the Gök Medrese, is the finest example you will ever see of Selcuk architecture as well as of its stone carving patterns and techniques. Under Seljuk protection and Danismendid administration, Amasya became a city of strategic importance. With the advent of the Ottomans, the city’s mission was further enhanced when the Ottoman crown princes were sent here to be governors of the province so as to gain experience in state administration. Known as the city of crown princes, Amasya trained many an Ottoman sultan. As it gained in importance, Ottoman culture also came to dominate the city as baths, bridges, fountains, khans and houses were built. Some of the finest examples of this building spree are the Ottoman houses which we can still see today. These traditional houses with their cantilevered balconies overlooking the banks of the Yeşilırmak are also known as the Yalıboyu Houses. They consist of one or two stories over a ‘bodrum’ or cellar with a pavilion known as a ‘şahniş’ over the first, or in some cases, the second story. Usually boasting a courtyard as well as a garden, especially the ones that are divided into separate men’s and women’s quarters have the garden in the middle so that it is closed off to the outside. In other houses privacy is achieved by means of a high garden wall. The houses in the Yaliboyu quarter were built on the ruins of the old Roman city walls in such a way as to afford a view of the Yeşilırmak. In a strategic sense, Amasya also played a major role in history during the Turkish National Struggle as the city where the Amasya Protocol was drawn up in October 1919.
OVER 20,000 MONUMENTS
Over 20,000 monuments and artifacts from civilizations ranging from the Hittites and the Romans to the Seljuks and the Ottomans have been found in and around Amasya and are exhibited today in the Amasya Museum. Among them the most interesting are the mummies of Prince Cumudar, Minister of Anatolia, İşbuğa Noyin, Commander of Anatolia, and İzzettin Mehmet Pervane Bey, all of them leading figures of the Ilkhanid dynasty which ruled in the 14th century, and of their sons, daughters and wives.
This charming and monumental city is famous at the same time for its handicrafts. The local people’s habit of drinking tea has also led to the development of the samovar, and artisans producing unique and elaborately ornamental samovars made especially of tin, brass and copper stand out in the city. Handmade wood carving and the production of walking canes and of costumes made of velvet and of the purple satin with a silver thread running through it known as ‘bindallı’ are widespread as is carpet and kilim weaving. The town’s historic past and cultural richness are reflected as well in the local cuisine, which includes such specialties as ‘toyka’ soup, stuffed broad beans, okra, a mutton dish known as ‘keşkek’ and a sweet made with paper-thin sheets of ‘yufka’. Last but not least, Amasya apples, which have been immortalized in verse and are known to practically everyone, have a fame all their own.
Turkish Airlines flies round trip Istanbul-Amasya (Merzifon) on Mondays, Wednesdays and fridays.