Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mut

At the entrance of Mut a statue offering you a plate full of apricots welcome the visitor. The people of Mut take pride in their apricots.

The valley in which the River Göksu flows is a wide and fertile basin. The road from Silifke to Mut follows this valley offering the traveler marvelous scenery.

A Short Journey in a Long History

Throughout the history, Mut was the last fortified city at the end of the road starting in Istanbul and passing through Konya before reaching the shores of the Mediterranean. The Sertavul pass was a strategic point on this road. It is thought that Mut takes its name from a king called Muts, or from the word that meant “valley” in the Luwi language. During the Roman Period Emperor Claudius colonized this city in the year 41 B.C. restructured and developed it and gave it his name calling it Claudiopolis. This is the information that an inscription on the castle of Mut gives us. The city came under the Byzantine rule after the year 395.

But it is known that this city is a very old human settlement. It has lived through the Hittite and Phrygian civilizations. Later on it was ruled by the Assyrians and after the year 546 B.C. Persians took over Mut. After the Persians, the city was annexed to the Seleukid Kingdom.

Today we can see the marks of Byzantine, Seljuk and Karamanoğulları periods. The Seljuks took the city in 1071 when they defeated the Byzantine armies. Karamanoğulları principality ruled the city after 1277.

Mut came under the Ottoman rule in 1466, during the reign of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror.


There are ruins of a Roman period public bath, amphitheater and water canals in the town. The Laal Pasha Mosque, built in 1444 during the Karamanoğulları rule is one of the biggest examples of Turkish-Islamic art. The architecture of the tombs at the courtyard of the mosque is quite interesting. The mosque itself is in a very good and sturdy condition. The tombs are made of regularly hewn stone blocks and a conical stone roof covers them. One of the tombs has three and the other four coffins inside. According to the Ottoman traveler Evliya Chelebi, one of the graves belongs to Laal Pasha.

The minaret of the mosque was rebuilt after it collapsed about fifty years ago.

The square-shaped caravanserai at the center of the town is known as Davut Pasha Barracks among the people.

There are forty rooms with fireplaces behind the arched gallery that surrounds the large courtyard.

The Sertavul Pass and its Caravanserai

The Sertavul pass is located at the highest point of the road linking Karaman to Silifke as the winds past the Taurus Mountain Range. It is 38 kilometers to Mut. There is a caravanserai built by the Seljuk Sultan Aladdin Keykubat at the Sertavul Pass, which has been an important strategic point during the history.

The Castles of Mut and Mavga

The castle which is the symbol of the town of Mut was probably built during the rule of the Karamanoğulları. The exact date of its construction is unknown. It does not have a plaque or an inscription. In 1992, the building was restored. It is 13.5 meters high. Around the building there is an open-air coffee house and a restaurant with a closed space. During the summer wedding parties are organized in its garden.

According to Evliya Chelebi, Karamanoglu Yakup Bey lost all his soldiers when he attempted to take the castle. To take his revenge, Ibrahim Bey attacked the castle with a huge army and during the fight 70,000 soldiers died. Their bodies were buried on a hill nearby. The hill is now called Maşatlik, which means the burial place of infidels.

The keys to the castle are kept in the restaurant. If you want to see the inside, the restaurant personnel will open it for you. But there isn’t much to see inside. Of course, the castle did not consist of only this tower on the hill. Some of its walls have collapsed. To see the scenery around you don’t have to climb to the tower. You will have a good view from the hilltop anyway.

The castle of Mavga was built during the Roman times. It stands next to the Evre Mountain 15 kilometers north of the town. The huge castle has an awe-inspiring look rising on a 150-meter high rock. A plaque in Ottoman Turkish mentions the date 627 according to the Islamic calendar. It corresponds to the year 1230.


The Monastery of Alahan (Apandos)

The first Westerner to write about Alahan was Leon de Laborde who visited this spot in 1826. The book he wrote that includes sketches of “L’Eglise D'Alahan” was published in 1847. In 1955 an Italian researcher called P. Verzone made a comprehensive study of the monastery.

Evliya Chelebi also saw the monastery wrote, “It looks like its master builder has just finished the work.” Maybe, today it does not look as new as Evliya Chelebi says but it is in a very good shape and quite impressive.


To reach the monastery, you have to turn right on the Mut – Karaman road and climb up two kilometers to the hilltop. Here you have to park your car and continue on foot to make a tour of the monastery.

It is rewarding to watch below at the scenery from the hilltop. You see the valley of Göksu River from an altitude of 1000 t0 1200 meters.

The church, to the east of the monastery is in very good condition, only the roof is missing. You cannot but think that if there were a roof, the church would be ready for worship.

There is a blue-colored natural rock serving as the northern wall of the chapel. You should not be content by only visiting the interior of the church. Climb a little further up and watch the building from outside to perceive its magnificence. The eastern wall looks like as if it’s newly constructed from outside. Those who have seen Hagia Sophia in Istanbul would think that this church somewhat resembles it. They would not be mistaken because the dome of the monastery built in 440-442 A.D. is one of the prototypes of the dome technique used in Hagia Sophia.

Western Church (Evangelical Basilica), the monastery, the eastern church and monks’ cells carved into the rocks constitute the cluster of buildings to be seen here. The western church is in a ruined condition.

In both churches the nave and the aisles are separated by rows of Corinthian columns. The craftsmanship displayed by the columns, column capitals, figures of human beings, animals and plants on the portals are very attractive.

The figures of St. Paul and St.Pierre, angels Gabriel and Michael carrying a wreath and other ornamentations depicting roaring lions, eagles, fish and bunches of grapes and vine leaves have all been hewn into stone in embroidery like esthetic skill.

Other Churches in the Area

After visiting this magnificent church you should proceed a few kilometers in the direction of Karaman where you will see chapels and shelters carved into the rocks along the Göksu Valley. The ceiling of these churches are carved in the shape of a dome and decorated with frescos of geometric forms and plant figures in red, blue and brown. The floor of this rock chapel was probably covered with mosaics but today there is not much to see.

There is another underground church nearby in the valley. You can go to the nearby village of Maya and ask for “the colored church.” This is how the locals call it and the name really suits the building because it is painted in red and green.

The Ruins of Korapissus (Dağpazarı)

There is a Byzantine church among the ruins situated on the antique road descending from Karaman to Silifke, about 35 kilometers to the northwest of the town. There is a 15 by 5.50-meter floor mosaic that can be seen in the church. The church is built on a high ground in the middle of the village. Only the apse and some of the walls of the church is standing today.

The cisterns left over from those early times are still being used by the villagers for cold storage of food.
Karacaoğlan

One of the greatest poets of folk literature in Turkey was Karacaoğlan. The poet-troubadour lived in the 17th Century and his grave is on top of a hill between the villages of Çukur, now renamed Karacaoğlan and Dere. There is no precise information about the life of Karacaoglan. But as a folk poet he has become a myth and a folk hero. There many stories told about him. It is hard to separate the myth from reality in these stories some of them quite surreal. This is one of the ways how the people show the respect and value they attribute to folk heroes, by creating stories about them and by claiming that they lie in more than one grave. So Karacaoğlan does not belong to a single region in Turkey or even beyond Turkey. Some Turkic peoples have also claimed him in Asia too.

One of the stories about Karacoglan’s life is still told in this region. Karacaoglan falls in love with a dark-haired girl called Karakız. The girl’s father opposes the marriage, so Karacaoğlan takes his saz, a three-stringed folk instrument, and goes away traveling from land to land and singing his songs. Meanwhile, the girl’s father makes her marry another man. Years pass and Karacaoglan comes back to his home village and settles on the hill where he is buried today. After a while the news of his death reaches the village. Upon this Karakız runs to his grave and she too dies there. The villagers bury Karakız on top of another hill just across from Karacaoğlan’s grave. They say that even today, after sunset, the spirits of two lovers get out of their graves and walk hand-in-hand.
Useful Information About Mut

It neighbors on Silifke in the southeast, Gülnar in the south and Karaman in the north. The town is located on the Karaman – Mersin road and it is 165 kilometers to the city center in Mersin.

It has a population of about 75,000. Half of the population in the town and the rest in surrounding villages.

The main livelihood of the population is agriculture. Grains, vegetables, fruits are the main produces. There is also some vineyard cultivation. Apples, peaches and apricots are the staple fruits in the region. Every year Apricot Festival is held during the second week of June.

There is also kilim weaving that is widespread as means of home manufacture. They make interesting kilims using animal hair colored with root dyes having traditional folk motifs.

From Mut to Silifke Accompanied by Göksu

The road between Mut and Silifke follows the Göksu River valley along the edge. The road has many bends but the scenery of the Göksu valley compensates for the difficulty of driving through this road. There are cultivated fields on the banks of the river. You can stop at one of the resting areas that overlook the fine scenery of the valley. Such short stops would make your journey more attractive.

On the left the Taurus Mountains generally rise steeply. On our left, the deep valley sometimes takes the shape of a scary precipice.

It is advisable to drive through this road during daytime. It is safer and you won’t miss the wonderful scenery.

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