Blessed with a super-abundant historical legacy, and occupying a river valley so narrow that it’s almost a gorge, AMASYA is one of the high points of the region. Most people come here to see the rock tombs hewn into the cliffs above the town by the kings of Pontus over two thousand years ago, but Amasya also harbours some truly beautiful Selçuk and Ottoman architecture, and a multitude of colourful, restored nineteenth-century wooden houses. A great number of these have been superbly restored with funding from the Ministry of Culture, many reopening as authentic and atmospheric antique shops, pansiyons and restaurants, in keeping with the general Ottoman theme.
Amasya was once part of Pontus, one of several small kingdoms to spring up following the death of Alexander the Great; indeed, the cliffside tombs of the Pontic kings remain the number one attraction for visitors today. Pontus survived for two hundred years before being absorbed into the Roman sphere of influence around 70 BC; its downfall began when Mithridates VI Eupator reputedly ordered the massacre of eighty thousand Romans in one day and plunged his kingdom into a series of wars, which culminated in its being absorbed by Pompey into the Roman sphere of influence around 70 BC.
Under the Romans, and through the succeeding centuries of Byzantine rule, the town prospered, and it continued to do so after falling to the Selçuks in 1071. In the late thirteenth century, the Ottomans emerged as a force to be reckoned with in Anatolia, and Amasya soon became part of their burgeoning state. It became a training ground for crown princes, who would serve as governors of the province to prepare them for the rigours of statesmanship at the Sublime Porte. Amasya then became a vital staging post en route to the creation of modern Turkey: it was here that, on June 21, 1919, Atatürk delivered a speech that was in effect a call to arms for the coming War of Independence.Read More
The rock tombs
The rock tombs
The massive rock tombs of the Pontic kings are carved into the cliff-face on the northern bank of the Yeşılırmak. There are two main clusters of tombs, and bearing right from the Kızlar Sarayı will bring you to the most accessible group, as well as to a café and toilet. You may want to clamber up inside some of the tombs through the raised stone doorways, but if you find the doorways padlocked you will need to rouse the site guardian to open them. Passages cut out of the rock run behind two of the tombs and you can only marvel at the work that must have been involved in excavating them. Bearing left will bring you to two larger tombs; beside the entrance to one of them is the mouth of a tunnel, thought to lead to the river. More tombs can be found with a bit of effort – there are a total of eighteen throughout the valley.
The Ottoman houses
The Ottoman houses
Amasya’s half-timbered Ottoman houses contribute so much to the atmosphere of the town for more information about their design. A good starting point for explorations is the nineteenth-century Hazeranlar Konağı, an imposing mansion at the river’s edge. The heavily restored interior has been turned into a convincing re-creation of a nineteenth-century family home, liberally decked out with carpets, period furniture and domestic artefacts. It incorporates typical features of the time: wall niches for oil lamps, bathrooms secreted away behind cupboard doors, and sedirs or divan seating running along the walls. In the basement of the house, accessed by a separate entrance, there’s a small art gallery. Paintings by local artists are displayed and it’s often possible to watch artists at work. Follow the street west from the Hazeranlar Konaği as far as the footbridge leading across to the Sultan Beyazit Camii and it’ll take you through the heart of the old house district.