Destination Turkey: Hieropolis Castabala and Karatepe

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sara Csurilla
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
There are so many amazing things about Turkey you find just by walking out the front gate and exploring the alley.

However, if you explore a little further beyond the alley, the vast and rich culture of Turkey comes to life in front of you.

Recently, members of my office and I took a day trip to Hieropolis Castabala and then ventured to Karatepe.

To get to Hieropolis, simply drive east on the E5 until you see a sign that says Adana-Gaziantep. Take a left here and get on the toll road. Take the Osmaniye-Kadirli exit and continue to follow the signs to Kadirli. Turn right at the Karatepe-Aslantas museum sign. Follow this road, which runs alongside a canal until you see the ruins of ancient Hieropolis Castabala to your right.

As you pull up to the ruins, you'll first notice the castle perched on a rather high hill. Follow the ancient road leading you into the historical city, bordered with Greek Corinthian Columns, some rubble on the ground and some still standing exactly where they stood in 333 B.C.

The stone road has recently been unearthed to reveal a road that was once the pathway walked by the Great Alexander. Past the road and heading toward the backside of the site is an amphitheatre built into the hillside. Nature has so well-preserved the amphitheatre that you can still sit and imagine the entertainment people once enjoyed so many years ago.

After exploring the amphitheatre, turn back up the hill and walk about a half-mile to pass through the stone gates to lead you up mountainous paths and inside the castle walls. From this vantage point, you are surrounded by Turkey's rolling hills. Looking down, you can almost see plays taking place at the amphitheatre, the bustling of busy markets on the roads and the everyday life of the townspeople.

All in all the experience is well worth the 45-minute car ride and hike. I just have to warn you, make sure you're prepared. There's going to be quite a bit of walking to see everything so be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes, bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen and Turkish Lira (there's usually a small fee to explore the site).

After exploring Hieropolis, we headed to Karatepe.

To get there, we simply returned on the same road we came in on, heading the same direction we were when we turned in to see Hieropolis. Continue east on the road, turning left at the Karatepe Aslantas (Lion Rock) Museum. Continue on this road until you come to another sign (Aslantas museum). Turn right and you will eventually come to a dead end. This will lead you to where you want to go.

Here you will pay a few TL to enter a museum with restored and preserved art, and all along the path you travel, you'll discover ancient Hittite reliefs showing liveliness and excitement. These reliefs suggest Karatepe was a summer home of the Hittite King Asitawada. Also, when the Karatepe site was first explored both Hittite and Phoenician languages were carved into the reliefs on the walls. With the aid of the already deciphered Hittite language, experts were able to decipher the Phoenician language.

Along with the many reliefs, there are also several lion and sphinx sculptures protecting both the entrance and exit of the home.

Karatepe is now just a gorgeous open-air museum, and it's a very powerful feeling to stand in the same places kings and queens once lived when the Hittite Empire was one of the strongest nations in the region.

So next time you have the time and means to get off the base and explore something new, make a day of it. Stop by Hieropolis for a few short hours and continue on to Karatepe. I would suggest leaving base around 10 a.m.; you want enough time to explore both places before the sun goes down.

Remember, you're in Turkey, take advantage of it and have fun!