Afyonkarahisar––Afyon from now on––was one of the most peculiar spots we had yet encountered. Part of that sense stemmed from the inclement weather. Near-freezing temperatures and thick snowfalls created a layer of slick, dirty slush on the ground that often came up to ankle height or greater. Puddles and patches of mud were also unavoidable. Since I had packed only one pair of shoes that proved inapt at navigating narrow slanted streets covered in melting snow, I had some difficult getting around and had thoroughly soaked socks by the conclusion of our time there. These minor tribulations met with more than adequate compensation, however. Before discussing further, some historical background is needed.
Afyon is the Turkish name for opium, a plant still cultivated by farmers in the area under strict government licensing restrictions. All of the opium serves as raw material in morphine production. If we passed any poppy fields on the road, they were bare since harvest time is around August and growing conditions were sub-optimal in the January snow. It is an ancient city, one that houses around 175,000 people today, mainly in older houses in the ancient part of town and in packed apartment blocks that ring the city’s core.
As evidenced in the photos, Afyon spreads out from the base of a large mountain capped with an impressive ancient fortress complex. Hittites and Phrygians made this a strategic location, and the pictures of the city often rightly emphasize the imposing character of the mountain.
Many of the group braved the 500 steps that led up to the peak––I was not among them owing to my aforementioned shoe problems––and were treated to some expansive views of the city. While they took in vertiginous sights from the ramparts, a few of us retreated with our guide and Professor Howard to an old Ottoman mansion that a local business converted into a coffeeshop and restaurant. After a short tour of the place, we settled in gratefully for some conversation and Turkish coffee.
Before that, though, we explored the interior of another mosque, this time a rather distinct structure with a wooden construction that still had its original pillars and now-faded decorations. These are nearly 800 years old since the structure has been extant since the late 13th century Seljuk period. Its comparatively lower ceiling and more modest construction set it apart from some of the other grand mosques we saw in Bursa or Edirne.
Despite the difficulties some of us had with our footwear, the group had a positive experience in Afyon. Doubtless, those who were properly equipped had an even better time. In any case, we stayed for only one night here before leaving precipitously early in the morning to head south toward Laodicea and Pamukkale, which will be the subjects of the next post.