Petting the Hittite sites

One of the 13 sun disks found in tombs in Alac...
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The next morning (Thursday the 27th), we saw Amasya, which had Ottoman houses like Safranbolu but fewer of them. There were incredibly large Pontiac rock tombs from two thousand years ago which – surprise – smelled like piss! We entered the Kileri Süleyman A?a Camii, wherein a cleaning lady gave me filthy looks because I was wearing shorts and said something nasty to me which I couldn’t catch. I told Dilek that the lady gave me an attitude, and Dilek had great fun telling her that “you don’t own the place,” and “We’re spiritually better Muslims than you are.” We saw the Sultan Beyazit II Camii, with two minarets, which isn’t enormous like the Dome of the Rock or any of the Istanbul mosques, but it’s so elegant that we stayed inside it forever, just staring. The Hoca inside, in one corner, was teaching little boys Arabic syllables, which they were mindlessly repeating, bah bah bay, and looking at us like “Those are the infidels.” In the opposite corner were the little girls, who were supposed to be taught the same, and were sitting at a single large desk, but were entirely unsupervised and receiving no visits from the Hoca, so they were just gossiping in Turkish about how it would be to get married, or which of their friends called them on the telephone and which ones haven’t called them. We went to a lovely archeological and ethnographic museum that had some Phrygian glassware that blew my mind – it was from 6-700 BC and yet looked more modern than Tiffanyware, with wild loops and dips and curves that were both non-functional and non-representational. The türbe in the museum grounds had a display of mummies, which pleased Elif very much, because, in her words, on this trip we’ve only gotten to see the past, now we’re getting to see our future.

From there we went to Alacahöyük, a Hattian settlement from 4000 BC which later became a Hittite settlement around 2000 BC. It was a small site with some tombs, sphinx and double-headed eagle reliefs, but the latter were copies of originals which are in the Ankara museum. It was rubble and little else, although the museum had Hittite art, which I adore whenever I see it – elks, eagles, with horns, and lots of metal work – bronze that looked like skeleton keys to haunted houses, and swastikas, pottery with beak-necks. Next we went to Hattu?a?, which was the capital of the Hittite empire from about 1375 BC until the end, about 1200 BC. This site was massive, larger than Efes and Ani combined, but totally ruined. You would drive from the site of one temple – rubble – to another settlement which looked like – rubble. The best thing was the Sphinx gate, which, although the relief was a replica, had a 200-foot tunnel which was original, and when you walked through it, you realized that the whole thing was really going through the bottom of what startlingly looked like a Ziggurat. Nowhere could I find any information about it, but it seemed to me to look more like the bottom steps of a pyramid you’d find in Mexico than Turkey.

Then we drove two miles to Yaz?l?kaya, which was a Hittite temple with, finally, completely-intact reliefs. Again, these were not what you would expect, and I swear it looked like Osirus and Nut, images of people making offerings and kings being held like children in the arms of goddesses, with Egyptian-like processions – who were these Hittites anyway? I was very grateful to see the site, but I actually wished they had removed the reliefs to Ankara. A tour group arrived with about eight Turkish businessmen wearing ties, and the guard was explaining the reliefs to them, and they were all petting the reliefs with their hands as if the reliefs were domesticated cats. Dilek, right on cue, lectured them that the reliefs had only been uncovered 50 years ago and it would be a shame if the carvings lasted 3200 years only to be abraded by some Turks wanting to feel the bumps as if the reliefs were written in Braille or something. Co? stayed in the car the whole time.

When we got back to the car, Co? announced that he wanted to go home and not see Gordion or Ankara; he’d had enough. So we headed home, and I was driving about 140km/hour when the Ankara-Istanbul highway just ended and dumped us by Lake Bolu. There, at 10PM, we were stuck in a 2-hour traffic jam, and there was so much fog by the lake, I could only see the truck in front of me, which said “Dolu,” (“full” – of explosive and flammable material). We changed drivers, I fell asleep, and I woke up in Istanbul, here at Dilek’s house, at 3 AM. I immediately started writing, and now it’s almost noon. Terminat hora diem, terminat author opus.

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