Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cremna: Impregnable Ancient City

Photos by Jack A. Waldron
Ancient Adada turned out to be a wonderful surprise, because I had only found out about it weeks before while meandering through the internet.  Now I was on my way to an ancient site that I had been planning to visit for some time, Kremna/Cremna.  An interesting thing about maps is that it really is difficult to get a true sense of the terrain . . . , and Cremna was one site that was higher in the mountains than I had expected: I like being surprised . . . and challenged!
It took me roughly three hours to cycle and sometimes push my bike up the mountain road to Camlik, a village just under the plateau that ancient Cremna sits on.  Now, I partly understood why Cremna was known as the impregnable city.  
I filled my water bottles with clear freezing spring water at various points along the road.  Since ancient times, travelers have had access to springs fed by the higher mountains that collect the snow and fill the underground streams, and today is no different.  I did not have to buy one bottle of water for my first four weeks of this years travels, and it wasn't until I descended the higher mountains that the heat became a factor and, the spring water slowly got warmer and less fresh.
In mid-June, the mountain mornings normally start clear and gradually warm from the sun, but as the afternoon progresses, the clouds that've risen from the Mediterranean are collected by the peaks of the Taurus chain.  There was less than an hour between the time the photo above was taken and that of the photo below. 
I climbed to the foot of the Cremna plateau and found the park house . . . empty, so I made camp under the roofed porch while the cold rain flew sideways into the opposite side of the building . . . , lucky that was.  I bathed in the office toilet, and finding it quite filthy, I decided to repay my camping fee by scrubbing the bathroom spic and span . . . , the bechi (park attendant) was very pleased when he came around in the morning, though he was less pleased with my camp.  I explained that it was a semi-emergency, with the weather being so extreme.  He was very kind and understanding.
An old student of mine once told me that to protect my camp from scorpions, he said,"I should dig a small trench around my tent and fill it with water, because scorpions don't like water".  Well, my tent was dry and surrounded by water, the only problem being, everywhere around the tent was wet!  So, I wasn't the only one who found refuge on the porch.  I found this little fellow was hiding under my tent!!
The ancient residents of Cremna appear to have abandoned the site at some point during the middle ages, moving to what is today Camlik village, which sits below the citadel to the south.  Below the citadel to the North is the ancient Cestrus/Kestros river valley, which offers spectacular views in the direction of ancient Sagalassos.
The citadel pictured above is facing south, and in the top middle left of the photo is an arched entrance to the city which crowns the steep cliff path that leads to it, and is these days most frequented by goats and their herder.  A spring along the path waters the thirsty, including me!
These type fountains dot the Taurus landscape, and the landscape of most of Turkey.  This fountain construct was particularly interesting because construction materials had been quarried from ancient building material, and some blocks display the ancient inscriptions of those building members.
The camera lens caught a purple patch of the morning sun light spectrum as I approached the less than regal, though spectacularly preserved and positioned arched south city gate.
The ancient forum lay in the distance as I entered the city, and directly in front of me was this curious pit filled with building materials.
Cremna occupies a huge plateau surrounded by steep cliffs, and on this day I spent about five hours exploring, and even so, I could not explore every area completely.  Pictured above and below, the ancient forum and the staircase that once climbed to a massive basilica.  Both of these photos were taken from the analemma (top) of the theater.
Looking out over the city from the analemma that crowns an unexcavated theater in a somewhat poor state of preservation, the cream colored mountainside in the far distance still produces massive blocks of travertine limestone, a prized building material then and now.
Continuing along a lightly warn trail to the west of the city brought me to the infamous library of Cremna, with its ten statue pedestals in situ, and featuring hologram images of the great sculptures that once rose from them.
Continued exploration of an ancient city that lay in heaps of rubble often reveals itself in small gems, an ornately sculpted Corinthian capital, an inscription on a cornice; and then, what may appear to be larger diamonds in the ruff, an invitation to sit a spell, and converse with the city, and let it share the life it is and was:
 . . . and when one is able to lose themself deep in the reflective cisterns that exist in the void created, brief flashes of Being come closer and seen out of the corner of ones mind.
The impregnable plateau stretching west appears in this photo to be much smaller than it actually is, while below looking north, the Cestrus valley reaches out toward Burdur.
As I came to the end of my exploration of ancient Cremna, and not at all believing in the ghosts, gods and goblins that still haunt me in the dark spaces of programed memory, I was started by five foot long coal black serpent that had been sunning itself on a warmed stone architrave member, and as I approached the nemesis of Adam, the beast slid away into a distant pile of rubble, moving fast than almost any man can run; now, that last thought does send chills up my spine.  By the way, don't bother searching the photo for the long black reptile, as it moved faster than I was able to lift the camera to my eye!  
The main entrance to the site follows a narrow road along the east city wall, which can be seen in the photo below.  Though there are not the grand standing structures that one can find in other ancient cities around Turkey, Cremna does possess grand scale, including an extremely well preserved defensive wall, where can be found on the north end of the west wall the Roman siege mound that was used in 25 BC to recapture the city from Amyntas, the king of Galatia.
Beyond Camlik down the steep mountain road, and after a nice sleep in the Buchak Teachers House (Oretmenevi, in Turkish), it was on to ancient Sagalassos, and magnificent mountain city that was completely buried by a massive earthquake in late antiquity, and with all the building members having been preserved under the landslide, it is now being painstakingly put back together, like a giant 3D puzzle.  I can't wait!!

*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

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