The Town on the Taurus Plateau
The inhabited areas in the province of Mersin are generally spread along the coast. Gülnar is one of the few inland settlements in the province. Its neighbor is Mut. After leaving Mut, the road crosses Through the Taurus Mountains and links the coastal areas with Central Anatolia. Gülnar sits on an altitude of 950 meters. The closest coastal town to Gülnar is Aydıncık, 30 kilometers away. Silifke is not very far either. But it is 150 kilometers to Mersin’s city center.
The History of Gülnar
The history of Gülnar goes back to the Hittites. After the Hittites the Assyrians have ruled this area. Persians and Egyptians also ruled Gülnar for short periods of time. Later on first the Roman Empire and then the Byzantines became the rulers of this town.
It was part of Mountainous Cilicia during the Antiquity.
Today, the town’s population consists of the descendants of Turkomans who immigrated here in 1230 from a town called by the same name on the shores of Lake Balkhash in Central Asia. They brought with them the name of their hometown and gave it to their new settlement here.
In 1461, Gedik Ahmet Pasha, one of the commanders of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, annexed Gülnar together with Silifke and Mut to Ottoman lands. Until the 1900s Gülnar was a village. But it was a lively village because the nomadic Yoruks or Turkomans had turned this village into a big market place for all the tribes in the region. Local people also used the name Anaypazari (Pazar means market in Turkish) for this place. The village became a self-administrating town on June 3, 1916.
Gülnar makes a livelihood out of cultivating grains, vineyards, vegetables and fruits. There is also animal husbandry. In its villages located on higher levels wheat and chickpea produce is particularly important. In recent years peach and apple production has increased.
Population increase is minimal because there is a constant migration to big cities. In the villages an important element of home economy is weaving. Almost every village house has a loom on which the women weave carpets, rugs, kilims, shoulder bags and other such merchandise.
Living on the Taurus Mountains
The Mediterranean climate that predominates the coastal regions begins losing its effect as you go away from the sea and climb to mountain heights. Instead of Mediterranean bushes in lower areas forests begin to dominate the landscape as you move higher. Temperatures start to fall and rivers born at mountain peaks begin flowing faster in these areas.
The only historical structure that has survived until the present day is a small castle. It has been built on a hill that controls the surrounding landscape.
If you take the left road after leaving Gülnar in the direction of Aydıncık, it will branch into left and right 4 kilometers later. You take the left road and after driving for 5 kilometers you come to a sharp bend towards the right. You leave your car here and take the small path among the oak trees, which will lead you to the castle. Since the castle is built on the edge of the hill, the path ends there. The castle is very well preserved.
The Prophecy of Evliya Chelebi
Evliya Chelebi in his travelogue that there is a “magic treasure of Takyanus” hidden in Meydancıkkale. We don’t know who Takyanus was but it is pleasantly surprising that the archeologists found three large jars containing a total of 5,215 silver coins coming from different Hellenistic periods during excavations here.
The coins are exhibited at the Museum of Silifke.
It is understood that the castle was built to provide security to the passengers and caravans traversing this road.
The castle near the village of Tırnak has a long history. In 1971 French archeologists conducted excavation work here and uncovered important information. This was originally the royal town of Luwi kings. During the 7th and 6th Centuries Persians controlled the castle. In the 3rd and 2nd Centuries B.C. it became an Egyptian garrison. Later the castle was abandoned for a short period before it was put into use again during the late Roman and Byzantine periods.
Its monumental portal, the tomb on the eastern slopes of the hill on which the castle stands and the ruins of what looks like living quarters under which the coins were found exist on the site today. In an inscription found inside a rock grave mentions the name of the castle as Kirshu.
The Tomb of Sheikh Omar
This tomb, which is situated at the village of Ilıpınar near Gülnar, has a lot of visitors who come here to wish for more income or better jobs. The village of Ilipinar is reached by taking the road to Ermenek and turning right. The road is quite good until you reach the village but it gets very bumpy in the village. So it is advisable that you park our car outside the village and walk a little.
The Miracles of Sheikh Omar
Sheikh Omar’s tomb is built according to an octagonal plan with regularly hewn stones. There is a popular myth about the Sheikh which is told in the area for centuries.
One of the beys (princes) of the Karamanoğulları stops over with his army in this village on his way to conquer the Mamure Castle in Anamur. The Sheikh hosts the Bey. He brings out a small pot of food for the soldiers, a bowl of barley and a pinch of hay for the horses. The Bey gets angry with the Sheikh and shouts, “Are you making fun of us! A pot of food for an army of soldiers and a bowl of barley for all these horses! Is this a joke!” The Sheikh calmly replies, “First let the soldiers eat their food and the horses feed on their barley, then we will see.” Indeed as the sheikh says a pot of food feeds the whole army and the barley and hay are more than enough for the horses, because they multiply as they are eaten.
When the Bey witnesses the miracle of the Sheikh he asks him to come and join the expedition for the Mamure Castle. The Sheikh, again calmly, responds, “You hit the road first, I will catch up with you later.” He takes a shortcut to the castle and lights candles on the horns of the cattle grazing n the fields. When the darkness falls, the inhabitants of the castle panic seeing all that light around them, thinking that a huge army has surrounded them. The Sheikh enters the castle and takes the keys from the guards on the pretext of preventing bloodshed. When the Karamanoğlu Bey arrives ready for battle, the Sheikh simply hands him the keys saying that the castle has surrendered. That is why the mosque inside the castle is called the Sheikh Omar Mosque. When the Sheikh dies, the bey builds this beautiful tomb for him at his village.
The Grandiose Plane Tree of Gülnar
There is a large and attractive picnic area one kilometer after the village of Zeyne (before you arrive at Şarlak) on the road from Gülnar to Mut. There is also a restaurant here serving trout and other dishes. The picnic area takes its name from the impressive plane tree rising in the middle of a pond where the water from the springs gathers. Spring water gushes even from the trunk of this grandiose plane tree.
During the summer weekends the place is jammed with people coming from the surrounding towns and villages. We suggest that you should also stop here to admire the plane tree and the scenery and taste the fresh spring water.