Traveling Turkey: Mamure Castle to Anamur

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Editor's Note: This is part of an ongoing series of spots of interest in the area.

Since coming to Turkey, I have found one of my biggest joys is traveling around the country.

Many don't realize there's more to see in Turkey beyond Istanbul until they live here. Turkey's beauty and history extends well beyond that!

The longer I'm here, the longer my list of places to visit grows.

Fortunately, opportunities abound of ways to see the area while here, and they are provided for through several base agencies.

My latest adventure was with Outdoor Recreation to tour Mamure Castle, a fourth century Roman castle, and the ruined city of Anemurium, an ancient municipality built between 100 B.C. and 600 A.D.

The group met early in the morning and took off down the road. After a couple of hours, we stopped at a little sandwich shop for lunch right on the coast of the Mediterranean and a few miles past Kizkalesi, Turkey. The smell of the salty sea and the grill, combined with sounds of the ocean and the taste of fresh Turkish bread and lamb, was an experience for all the senses.

We ventured on down the road again, winding back and forth between the mountains and the sea. Several times we stopped to take in the magnificent sight of the towering cliffs crashing into the water. It was breathtaking to behold.

We came by a small beach village as we continued on our trip. Outside of the town was an area with some peculiar looking trees that looked like they were blowing in the wind the way they grew; only they weren't. We stopped to explore the area for a little bit, admiring the multi-colored stone beach and the view of the cove the town was part of.

Our next stop was Mamure Castle. We were greeted by a Turkish woman who offered us fresh strawberries and mulberries for a very reasonable price. After trying a taste of each, it was impossible to say no.

The castle was enormous, covering approximately 253,000 square feet with three courtyards, an east fortress, an inner fortress, a Turkish bath house, mosque and 39 towers and bastions. It was designed to protect against pirates.

One could easily spend all day climbing around the castle, or simply bring a lunch and lounge in the courtyard.

A moat full of fish and turtles surrounded the castle, and a couple of mulberry trees grew right outside the main gate.

After storming through the castle and searching through each hallway and tower, we went over to our hotel for the night. A professional hamam, or Turkish bath house, was located near the hotel.

It sounded interesting, so I took the opportunity to experience the bath house.

When dinner was over, I went on over to the hamam. I was escorted to the changing area where I locked up my things and grabbed a towel to wrap around myself. The attendant then took us into the sauna where people relaxed for several minutes until they were good and toasty. We were then brought into a marble room with a giant marble slab in the middle.

The attendants had us lie down on the table as they poured water over us. One of them was a bit of prankster and kept splashing cold water on one of the guys in there to get a reaction from him. It was pretty funny.

After pouring the water, they took a rough loofa and began to scrub, hard. Really hard. Hands, arms, legs, feet, everything felt raw at the end. Then cold water was again poured over me, and I was motioned to flip over to get the treatment again. Scrub and rinse repeated.

The scrubbing session ended with some sort of soap pillow thing. I really don't know what it was or how to describe it. It was a like a pillow case was filled up with soap bubbles and poured all over me. It sat there for a while, then I was rinsed off and handed my towel to dry myself.

The next station was the massage. The only word I can use to describe it is "brutal." The masseuse was an older retired nurse. She dug in to every muscle fiber down to the bone and stretched my arms and back beyond what I thought was physically possible to get to certain muscles. As I was being slapped I could hear the guy in the room next to me screaming. When it was all done, I never felt more relaxed nor have ever slept as well as I did that night.

The following morning we were treated to a traditional Turkish breakfast of fresh cucumber and tomatoes, a variety of cheeses, boiled eggs, bread, honey, olives, juice and tea.

We packed up our luggage into the vehicle and headed on to the ancient city of Anemurium.

Anemurium, a major city in the Roman province of Rough Cilicia, was situated on a high bluff and extended to the sea. On a clear day, one can see the island of Cyprus from the shore. Some of the buildings are still fairly intact. It was very easy to picture the city in its heyday with all of the theaters and the city walls. The city sits along the shore, and a fisherman who was out that day told me that it is a very good area for fishing.

Anemurium was another area where one could easily spend all day hiking around, climbing the city walls, fishing or picking up the several turtles crawling about.

But, we only had about an hour before it was time to head back out on the road. Before really getting started on that portion of the trip, we made a quick stop in the neighboring city of Anamur to grab a bunch of what the city is renowned for - bananas. After tasting one, it was easy to see why. They were bursting with flavor like I had never tasted before.

Once we received our fill from the vendors, we went up into the mountains following a beautiful little river through a valley and by waterfalls to a trout farm for lunch. We wandered around the area seeing where the fish were raised, where the mothers were kept and the river where the water was pulled from. We were able to watch the cooks prepare our meal, and across the river was a shepherd watching his flock graze.

The whole setting was very serene - in the middle of a valley with the mountains soaring around us, the river rushing beside us and surrounded by forest. It felt like a scene from a movie. The meal served to us was delectable, and once we were finished it was time to hit the road.

Exhausted from all the adventures, most people slept the rest of the way back to base after a very fulfilling weekend.

Take advantage of any opportunity you can to travel in Turkey!