Each day of our tour in South-East Turkey was simply amazing. Every place we visited was fascinating, beautiful, or spectacular – usually all three.
In addition, we managed to tick off several places on our bucket list – one being Mount Nemrut, surely amongst the most dramatic ancient sites we have ever visited.
On top of this 2,134-metre high mountain sits a mysterious mausoleum scattered with massive stone heads.
Fortunately we didn’t have to walk all the way up from the bottom of the mountain – there is a car park about 750 metres from the summit! Nevertheless, the climb was steep and quite rugged in places.
Our lovely guide Baran joined me at the tail of the group and we took the precipitous path in a sedate manner.
The steep climb was absolutely worth it! That first glimpse of the magnificent stone heads was breathtaking.
So what were these heads doing there? Apparently they were built by King Antiochus l of the Kingdom of Commagene in 62 BC as a “very modest”enhancement to his tomb and a “gentle” reminder of his greatness and power after his death.
This ambitious construction included statues of himself, two lions, two eagles and various Greek and Iranian gods such as Heracles and Zeus, Apollo and Hermes.
At some point in the long and distant past the heads had been knocked off their eight or nine-metre-high seats. How the statues lost their heads remains an unsolved question, although the most popular suggestion is that it was a result of natural causes – a combination of earthquakes, snow and strong winds.
The magnificent heads have remained “knocked off their perches” and never restored to their original positions.
Another unsolved mystery is what lies under the 50 metre tumulus – the artificial embankment made from crushed rock sitting on the peak of the mountain?
It is possible that the tumulus of loose rock was built to protect what was underneath from robbers, since any excavation would quickly fill in.
Despite extensive excavations conducted since the beginning of the 1880s, the actual burial site of King Antiochus l has never been found and the mystery of what lies beneath the loose stone tumulus still remains unsolved.
After soaking in the magnificent sight of the heads and the tumulus from the East terrace, we walked round to the West terrace where there were more heads – bathed in the last vestiges of the golden sunlight.
It was really, really, icy cold but fortunately we came prepared with red wine to help warm us as we watched the sun sink lower and lower over the horizon.
After the magnificent sunset we walked back down to the car park on a different route. It was rather rough in places but perhaps a little shorter.
We slithered and slid down the uneven slippery path and soon were in the minibus heading for our hotel for the night.
The mountain lodge we stayed at was fairly basic but the room we ate in had a cosy fire and the meal was warming and substantial.
After we had finished dinner we sat round the fire chatting and exchanging stories.
A perfect end to an incredible day.