Monday, September 26, 2011

The Cilician Gates

image via wikipedia
I remember taking down pages and pages (and pages) of notes about Alexander The Great in Mrs. Wilcox's class. That must have been 9th grade, I think. Maybe we called it World History too. Anyhoo, I recall something about the strategic importance of the Cilician Gates from back then.

ATG, as Mrs. Wilcox preferred to call him, was in good company. Hittites, Crusaders, Saint Paul... they all travelled the steep, 68 mile gauntlet through forest and sometimes flood waters of the (now Gökoluk) river gorge. It took five days to cross from the Cilician plains to Cappadocia, if thieves didn't have their way with you first.

The pesky gates spoiled the plans of Pompey (also The Great), who wanted to ride back to Rome victorious on a contraption pulled by four elephants. The pass was too narrow and he was forced to use horses.

I say! Get off your high - elephant - you haughty Roman, you. And you kinighits - those are not horses. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you need to brush up on your Monty Python.)

Even now, the way is only wide enough for a slim highway to slither through, and that's after extensive blasting. The late Ottomans built some tunnels and viaducts for a narrow gauge train track that's just visible every now and then on the other side of the river.

One time we went up the old, still-twisted road instead. (I don't recommend it, unless you have nerves of steel.) The switchbacks were treacherous and someone had lost a load of cotton bales down a hillside.

It was very quiet in the car.

When we got through to the Anatolian plain, my father remarked that he had no idea Turkey had such mountains. I can only say whatever ideas I had, Turkey shattered them. I was always discovering something new. Or old. It was only new to me.

When I see this, I know home is on the other side, but I hold my breath until I get there. Behold the Taurus Mountains at the Cilician Gates:

And for the record: Mt. Ararat is the tallest mountain in Turkey at 16,854 ft. Yes, that Ararat. The one with the Ark.


Sarah said...

Fabulous. I'd love to travel that route sometime. The pictures are amazing!

Old Kitty said...

Awwwww - I feel sorry for Pompey the Great - forced to use horses instead of elephants!! Darn those gates!!! LOL!

The pass does look and sound most disturbing and ever so exciting! The Taurus mountain range is stunning! Take care

Matthew MacNish said...

So beautiful. You always get to tell us about such epic things.

Lydia Kang said...

Wow, I'd love to go where you go. :)

LTM said...

is there really an ark on Ararat? I'm just wondering... but how lovely. Perfect setting for the imagination to roam~ :o) <3

Southpaw said...

Oh wow, that is gorgeous. I loved the story of your driving there too. Yipes.

BTW, I learned all my history from Monty Python.;)

Carolyn V said...

Wow. That's a great story (I need to know more about history)! And beautiful pictures too.

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Delightful! Discovered this while looking up the Cilician Gates after reading A. Christie's autobio. said...

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