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Anamur Mamure Castle Turkey

ANAMUR MAMURE CASTLE

Another castle built against pirates...

At the foot of the rugged walls of the Toros range dividing Turkey's Eastern Mediterranean Coast from the Anatolian Plateau, are the fertile coastal plains of Anamur. This is Turkey's southernmost tip facing the Mediterranean to the south and the towering Toros Mountains to the north. The humid and warm climate of te city is ideal for growing bananas, which are cultivated nowhere else in Turkey, as well as peanuts, dates and avocado pears. Wildlife, too, abounds, such as the loggerhead turtle, whose last remaining breeding grounds include a beach near the town.

After mating the loggerhead females clamber up the beach to lay and bury their eggs in the sand in just two hours before returning to the sea. Hot, sunny beaches, clean sea, and many fascinating historical ruins are among other attractions.

Before the advent of imported bananas in Turkey, the tiny, delicious and fragrant bananas grown here were the only kind available in markets and greengrocers. Bananas - which remain the symbol of Anamur - were in the past grown outdoors, but over recent years most farmers have begun to cultivate them under glass for protection against frost. Since both humidity levels and temperature can be controlled in this way, crops are now larger, enabling local bananas to hold their own in competition against imports. The village of Kaledran on the west is the only place where you can still see bananas growing outdoors. Here they are the only crop, and the banana groves are so thick and so green, that from the road on the hillside above you seem to be looking over a great forest.

In the Saturday market, villagers in colorful traditional costume sell delicious summer fruits direct from their own fields and orchards, including plums, pears, black grapes, and strawberries. People come here to sell their produce from villages and high pastures as far afield as Ermenek. In between serving customers, the stallholders eat grape molasses mixed with snow as a refreshing antidote to the heat. Densely packed snow sawn into blocks is brought down from the Toros Mountains to the market, and a few spoonfuls are scraped off onto a plate. Grape molasses or sour cherry syrup poured over the snow and stirred together makes a popular old-fashioned substitute for ice-cream known as karlı pekmez, or 'molasses with snow'.

It has an ancient history going back to the Hittites. In the 1st century BC Anemurion, as the city was called, came under Roman rule. Emperor Caligula ceded the place and all the other coastal cities of the eastern Mediterranean to the Kingdom of Commagene whose capital was Adiyaman. During the Byzantine period the city was sporadically attacked by Islamic armies, and in the 12th century came under Seljuk Turkish rule. When the Seljuk state went into decline, it became part of the Karamanogullari Principality, and in the second half of the 15th century was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.

Mamure Castle, one of the best-fortified castles in Turkey, lies on the road east of the town and is thought to date from the Roman period. During the fourth-century, building on the ruins of the old Roman castle the rulers of Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia replaced it with another castle to protect against pirates. The Mamure Castle was rebuilt and repaired again respectively by Byzantines, Seljuk and finally by the Ottoman Empire.

A small mosque with a single minaret originally built by the Karamanogullari in 1300 stands in the west courtyard. The mosque, which is still open to worship, is largely 16th century Ottoman in character. The ruins of the ancient city of Anemurion and the nearby beach are both spectacular. The beach is of oval pebbles of colored stone and the sea a clear turquoise. The ruins of the ancient walls and buildings of the city cover Anamur Point and the hillsides behind.

As you lie beneath one of the rush work umbrellas on the beach the ruins nearby present such a vivid picture and are so well preserved, that you seem to hear the voices of its former inhabitants and the sounds of bustling streets. Anemurion lay in the region of Cilicia, which gained importance in the Hellenistic period and developed still further under the Romans due to its proximity to both the island of Cyprus and the major Roman city of Germanikopolis in the Taurus Mountains. It was an important port for the export of raw materials produced in the region. Excavations carried out by Professor James Russell of British Columbia University uncovered hundreds of graves on the point, aqueducts, odeon, theater, baths, and Basilica.

The interior of the mausoleums is adorned with mosaics and frescos. Another of the sights of the city is Kosekbuku Cave near the village of Ovabasi which contains stalactites and stalagmites. The cave is located in a rocky area surrounded by Scots pine, and by it is a cafe selling delicious savory pastries known as gozleme (cheese pie) and the ayran yogurt drink. Alternatively, you could try grilled trout caught in the ice-cold waters of the River Anamur. Round off your visit with a dip in the river waters which whirl and race down the steep sides of the Toros Mountains, but I lay the wager that you will not be able to stand the freezing water for more than a minute!