Dominated by a tall and imposing rock on which stands a powerful ancient citadel, AFYON certainly leaves a vivid impression. The town remains impressive on closer inspection: it is clean and relaxed, retaining much interesting Ottoman architecture as well as a number of attractive mosques. A few reasonably priced hotels make it a good choice for a night’s stopover en route to the lakes, and there are several interesting side trips that can be made from town.
In honour of the fortress, and the towering dark rock on which it’s built, the city until recently bore the resounding name of Afyon Karahisar, or “Opium Black Fortress”. The rock is believed to have first been fortified by the Hittite king Mursil II, and remains have also been found dating to the Phrygian era. The Romans and Byzantines – who called the city Akronium or “High Hill” – also occupied the city, the Byzantines building the greater part of the present-day fortress, which was subsequently used as an imperial treasury by both Selçuks and Ottomans.
For three weeks leading up to August 26, 1922, Afyon was Atatürk’s headquarters, prior to the last, decisive battle of the independence war, fought against the Greeks at nearby Dumlupınar. The town’s statue commemorating the Turkish victory – depicting one naked man towering over another in an attitude of victory – is one of the most moving memorials to Atatürk.Read More
A quarter of the world’s legal production of opium is harvested from the poppy fields surrounding Afyon. While the authorities are reluctant to tout the city’s eponymous enterprise as a tourist attraction, there are still telltale signs of civic pride in the traditional industry: a close look at the fountain in the town square reveals that it is a graceful bronze sculpture of poppy seed-pods.
If you want to take a look at the crop, in May/June head out of town for around 5km on the Sandıklı road, and the open fields of poppies are clearly visible from the road. Much more grows around Yalvaç and in the Toros mountains. The fields are regularly patrolled by officials, who check if the seed heads have been illegally “bled” for heroin.