It suddenly occurred to me that there might be snakes.
I was about 45 minutes into a steep hike leading out of the Turkish town of Amasya, the sun beating down on me and sweat dripping off my brow. All I could think was “what if there are snakes?”
Wearing capri pants and short socks with my hiking shoes, I didn’t feel prepared for snakes. As I re-read the description of Amasya castle in my head, it warned of “scrambling over rocks and rubble and through undergrowth.” I wondered to myself if I was adequately prepared for this excursion.
Fifteen minutes later, I arrived at the castle, even more imposing up close than I imagined. Passing a yellow sign briefly explaining the site in Turkish and English, I huffed and puffed my way up an uneven, yet seemingly new, stone staircase.
And then I paused at the top to take in the scene in front of me, looking out over the lower part of the castle, the Yesilirmak River and the red roofs of the town of Amasya down below.
There was just something about the name of the city– Amasya – that I loved. I loved the sound of it, I loved saying it and I loved hearing others say it. It just had this ring to it. And as soon as I arrived, I felt like the name fit perfectly.
It just sounds like the name of a city that was once the capital of an ancient kingdom that ruled Anatolia for centuries. Arising after the death of Alexander the Great, the Kingdom of Pontus reigned for over 200 years before being absorbed by the Romans around 70 B.C.
It sounds like the name of a city with a river meandering through it, lined with green trees and Ottoman houses. Dating from the 19th century, these wooden buildings are considered some of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture in this part of Turkey.
And it sounds like the name of a city overlooked by rock tombs belonging to the Pontic kings, carefully carved into the cliffs, high above the town yet still far below the castle.
Oh yes, the castle.
I spent nearly two hours exploring that castle, which was in much better shape than my guidebooks suggested. Stone paths have been added leading to most parts of the large grounds, while clearly visible dirt paths take you just about anywhere else.
A fort stood on the site back in the Bronze Age and they say remaining remnants of the castle walls date back to the days of the Pontic King Mithridates (around 280 B.C.). There is just something cool about having free reign to explore a castle with so much history.
And while I battled the hot sun and a few large buzzing flies, I never did encounter any snakes.