Dominated by an ancient citadel that’s built atop a tall, dark and imposing rock, AFYON certainly makes an impact, and it remains impressive on closer inspection. Clean and relaxed, it retains much interesting Ottoman architecture as well as some attractive mosques. Until recently, the city bore the resounding name of Afyon Karahisar, or “Opium Black Fortress”. First fortified by the Hittites, the towering rock was later occupied by the Romans. The Byzantines built most of the present-day fortress, which served as an imperial treasury for 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.
Afyon’s fortress (220m), scaled via some 700 steps on the southern face of the rock – the 20min hike is best avoided in the heat of the day – is thought to stand on the site of the Hittite fortress of Khapanouwa, built by king Mursil II during the second millennium BC. The rock was subsequently fortified by the Phrygians, the Byzantines and the Turks, but all that remain are a few crenellated walls and towers. On the way up look out for hoopoes among the varied birdlife, and at the top for votive rags, representing wishes, tied to trees. At prayer time as many as eighty minarets resound and echo off the rock to dramatic effect.