Don’t get shocked when you see the rows of apartment buildings on both sides of the street when you arrive in Bozyazı. Because further down there is a beautiful coast, a small island linked to the mainland through an isthmus, a lovely brook, some houses that display the traditional features of civilian architecture and a rich history.
The brook called Sini flows through the middle of the town and reaches the sea. The town has a population of 20,000. A two-lane street leads to the coast. There is a marketplace next to the clock tower. It is a very colorful marketplace where fresh fruits and vegetables growing on the fertile plain of Bozyazı are sold along with textiles and other good brought in from big cities. On the coast there are fishmongers and cafes. On the beach there are showers and WC for the bathers. The Sini Stream also serves as a shelter for small fishing boats. Once they pass under the new bridge built over an antique one, the boats are protected against the waves and storms of the sea. It is sufficient to tie the rope to a tree trunk and leave it there.
There are a lot of fish in the brook. Especially carp is very common. Fish from the sea also come here to lay their eggs. Trout caught closer to the source of the stream up in the Taurus Mountains is tastier than the ones closer to the sea.
When you turn right after crossing the bridge you enter a narrow street flanked with old houses, some of them dilapidated but others in good condition. Walking down the narrow street you arrive at the seaside where you will see the small offshore island linked to the mainland by a narrow strip of road. The narrow road looks like a breakwater has sandy beaches on both sides.
There are historical houses along the coastline too. The chimneys of these houses have very interesting shapes. Each one is different. If these old structures are renovated and used for tourism, Bozyazı will definitely become a more interesting spot.
There are makeshift restaurants and cafés along the shore. They also provide beach chairs and umbrellas for the bathers.
When you turn left after crossing the bridge the meandering road takes you towards a hill passing between old houses in gardens. As you climb up, the road gets worse but the scenery gets better. It is not a long and tedious road anyway. From the side of the hill you get scenery of rooftops of the houses on the slopes, the sea and the island. The only attraction on the hill is not the scenery. There are also the ruins of an antique city here. We can see the ruins that are above the ground surface.
The Antique City of Nagidos
Bozyazı partly sits on the antique city of Nagidos. Greek historian Strabon mentions Nagidos along with the city of Anemourion. It is thought that the antique city of Nagidos has been founded by Nagis of Samos in the 5th Century B.C. However, another historian of Antiquity, Hekataios, says that this city was founded by a Semitic leader called “Nagis Kubernetes.” This person mentioned by Hekataios could have been a mythical character. But it is historically confirmed that this city was part of the Kingdom of Tarhundasha founded by the Luwi people in 2000 B.C. In the 8th Century B.C. the Assyrians had come as far as the Göksu River but it is not known whether they were able to come to Nagidos.
The city was a trade colony of the Greek island Samos in the 7th Century B.C. The islet offshore was a big advantage then for a port city. Silver coins found at excavations indicate that Nagidos was very powerful economically during the 4th Century B.C. During the period when the Persians ruled the area, Nagidos became a military garrison under Persian control between 6th and 4th Centuries B.C. It was one of the settlements of Middle Mountainous Cilicia.
Archeological excavations began in 1998. The findings are on display at the Museum of Anamur.
Part of the antique city probably lies under modern Bozyazı now.
The Inscription of Peace
The inscription that was found coincidentally during a construction work in town in 1990 is now exhibited at the Museum of Mersin. The 56-line inscription is thought to be the minutes of negotiations between two cities to solve the problems between them. It says:
“The King of Egypt, Ptolemaios III has instructed the commander from Aspendos, the son of Apotonios, to establish the city of Arsione on the land given to him in the Greek colony of Nagidos founded 600 years ago. This city will be administered by retired soldiers. In order to prevent border fights between the two cities Trasseas of Cilicia has been appointed governor of Nagidos. A peace committee has been sent to Ptolemaios III by the new governor. According to the agreement the trial of incidents that may take place within the borders of the two cities will be presided over by the judges of each city respectively. The governor of Cilicia is authorized to arbitrate on matters of conflict between Nagidos and Arsione. This Peace Inscription will be written in two copies and one of them will be erected in the Aphrodite Temples in Nagidos and Arsione respectively.”
Stone buildings in Nagidos are the main architectural features of he area. The amphoras found during the excavations and especially the handles with seals indicate that the city traded with Rhodes, Knidos, Cyprus, Egypt and northern Aegean. Recent findings also show that Nagidos was a place where amphoras were manufactured as early as the 7th Century B.C.
A Traditional Summer Dish: Batırık
Long and hot summer days in Mersin have shaped the culture of the people living here. Batırık is a dish, or rather a bowl of salad eaten in the area during mid-afternoons in the summer.
Cracked wheat called locally düğürcük is dipped in hot water and left until it softens. Tomatoes and onions are cut up finely and mixed with hot pepper paste. According to season boiled cabbage leave or vine leaves, cucumbers or other vegetables are also added and the mixture is served with pickles. If you are resistant to hot pepper, it is not a bad snack at all.
Maraş Hill (Ruins of Arsione)
On the 2nd kilometer of the Bozyazı – Mersin road there is a hill named Maraş rising smoothly on the seaside. Some experts think that the ruins on this hill belong to the city of Arsione.
The existence of Arsione is known from the writings of antique historians like Strabon and Pilinus. The Inscription of Peace found in Bozyazı also confirms the existence of Arsione.
There are remnants of an antique civilization on the ground surface on the rocky promontory. To the west of the ruins, there is a cove, which could have been used as a natural port. On the northern slopes of the hill, there are ruins among the bushes that indicate the existence of a Roman – Byzantine settlement. The foundations and some of the walls of the buildings are still standing. There are the ruins of three Byzantine churches at the center of the settlement area. Church walls are built with unhewn rocks and the foundation plan of the buildings can be discerned from the remaining parts.
To the west of the settlement area there are vaulted and domed Roman tombs again built with roughly hewn stones. On the exterior surfaces, marks of mosaics can be seen.
This settlement seems to be abandoned during the early Middle Ages but resettled in later times.
Sycae (The Softa Castle)
There is a castle on the left of the road a little further up from the Maraş Hill. The castle standing inland from the road attracts attention by its well-preserved condition. The castle seems to have a long history. It was probably used by the pirates and later by the Romans. It probably took the shape as we see it today with towers during the Middle Ages. It was repaired and restored several times during the Byzantine and Ottoman times.
There are cisterns in the castle for collecting rainwater, a bath, a Seljuk mosque, a church and food storage places. There is a secret underground passage between the castle and the town, which has collapsed partly. This passage probably led to the rumors that the castle was used by the pirates.
The Bay of Toslaklar and a Strange Tree
Across the Softa Castle after passing the hotels you arrive at a well-protected bay. It is called the Bay of Toslaklar. Along the road where there are no hotels or houses, there are a few lemon and orange gardens.
There are tea and coffee gardens in the bay. People can sit under the trees in the shadow. The sea is always smooth here even during windy days. That is why people prefer this beach for bathing. You can also set up your tent and stay here.
Next to the Toslaklar Bay, at Kaledibi, the tree in the garden of the hotel with a botanical garden is worth seeing. This huge tree is not as old as it seems. It is about thirty years old. Its roots cover a very big area both under and above the ground. Its fruit looks like myrtle and tastes like figs. The tree has an interesting feature. Because of the positioning of its branches and leaves it creates a continuous breeze for those who sit under it. There are many interesting plants around the tree. It is called Israeli rubber tree and it was planted by Ahmet Pekmezcioglu, one of the academics of the Mediterranean University. In Turkey there are only three of these trees.
The Cave of Çaltı
The Cave of Çaltı is located 5 kilometers northeast of the village of Lenger, which is 45 kilometers from Bozyazı. The cave’s entrance is on a plateau called by the same name. It is 40 meters deep and it covers an area of 2,000 square meters. There are steps descending to the cave, which has two levels. Stalactites and stalagmites formed in the cave are as thick as columns. That is why the cave is estimated to be 70 thousand years old. The stalactites and stalagmites are mainly white and red in color.
The Church Point
Within the borders of the Akkaya village 14 kilometers from Bozyazı, there are ruins of an early settlement known among the people as the Church Point (Kilise Burnu). Among the ruins are architectural pieces that indicate the presence of a late Roman and early Byzantine settlement here. There are remnants of walls, cisterns and a church here. No archeological excavations were carried out at this site. Outside the city walls, there are three monumental tombs in the northwest direction. They are thought to belong to 1st and 2nd Centuries A.D.
Useful Information About Bozyazı
- Bozyazı is on Mersin – Antalya road, 220 kilometers to Mersin.
- The population is about 44,000 of which 27,000 live in the town and 17,000 are scattered to several villages within the administrative borders of Bozyazı.
- It has an agriculture-based economy. Main products are bananas, fresh vegetables, citrus fruits and peanuts.
- It has a lot of potential for an expanding tourism industry. Since there is no industrial plants or heavily populated areas within the borders of Bozyazı, the sea along the coast is extremely clean. There are also hotels providing good quality service.
- It has the biggest and most modern fishermen’s shelter of the whole province of Mersin. The shelter is almost like a marine where yachtsmen moor their boats during the summer months.
- The plateaus of Bozyazı have not opened to tourism organizations yet but they definitely have a lot of potential with their natural beauty and clean air.