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AYAZİNİ

One of the Roman "Metropolis"es                                       Population: 2,000

ayazini1Market day: Friday

Eleven km northeast of Gazlıgöl Ayazini is like a smaller and much less well-known version of the Cappadocia tourism honeypot.

There's the same mix of attractions: a wild, romantic landscape with gorges and crazy rock formations, some even called peribacalar (fairy chimneys) like their Cappadocian counterparts; stone houses resting against the rock; and churches and tombs cut right into it.

What there isn't though is the crowding that can sometimes detract from the Cappadocian experience.

The attractions of Ayazini are obvious as soon as the bus rounds the bend that leads to the village and you see, on the left, a long stretch of rock with, almost immediately, a church built partly against and partly into the rock, complete with an external dome and an apse cut with what look very like Romanesque windows.

Inside, all is soot-blackened, but the spaces are enormous and you can still see how, just as in Cappadocia, the features of a built church were reproduced by careful hollowing out of the rock.

From there on the necropolis of Metropolis trickles along the road. Most of the tombs are still niches in the rock but some are far more impressive - just before the rock opens out into a field, for example, there is a distant tomb with small lions carved above it. Ayazinichurch

The field provides access to a gorge than follows a small stream for 2km until it opens out again amid poppy fields with a huge chunk of rock looming on the landscape.

Off to the right is another huge rock that is called Avdalez Kalesi. This may mean "castle" in Turkish but it's a castle only in the Uçhisar/Ortahisar (Cappadocia) sense in that it is merely a vast rock hollowed out with rooms accessed via a treacherous stone staircase.

You can walk back through the gorge and then keep following the wall of rock all the way past the necropolis to the village. If you do, you will see the amazing sight of modern gravestones filling a cemetery right in front of a tomb dating back some 2000 years, proof yet again that once a site has been labelled "sacred" it often remains so over time.

Just before the village there are some extraordinary tombs with triangular pediments carved with rose-like motifs.

Alternatively from Avdalez you can follow the rural road that runs above another gorge to the back of the village. At the far end of the gorge a few fairy chimneys are lined up as at Çavuşin in Cappadocia. This walk is almost as enjoyable as the one through the gorge - and a good deal less muddy in spring!

ayazinistorknestIt's well worth taking a turn round the old, semi-abandoned part of Ayazini which is full of old stone houses with fine wooden doors. The most impressive is attached to a fairy chimney on top of which sits a huge stork's nest. 

Sleeping

There's nowhere to stay in the village so you should base yourself in Afyon or in Gazlıgöl if spa baths are your thing.

Transport info

A timetabled bus service runs from the Köy Garaj in Afyon; pick it up at the Tren İstasyon Kavşağı (junction) to avoid the shlep out to the remote local bus terminal. Check return times carefully - I found enough to fill the three hours between the two services I used.

Ayazini sits on the newly waymarked Frig Yolu (Phrygian Way) and the route through the gorge is marked with red and white flashes. It's 10km from Ayazini to the Köynüş Vadisi, home to many Phrygian monuments. avdalezAvdalez Kalesi

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