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SİLİFKE

Base for visiting Uzuncaburç             Population: 115,000

Silifke1Old name: Seleucia-ad-Calycadnum

Modern Silifke, on the Eastern Mediterranean coast near Tasucu, has the feel of a place that time has forgotten.

But, unlikely as it might now seem, it (or rather the nearby village of Tekeler) played a bit part in Central European history in 1190 when the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa drowned in the nearby Göksu river while leading German troops to join the Third Crusade.

The precise circumstances of his death may be lost in the mists of time, but gazing down on the freezing waters from the old Roman bridge that still carries traffic through Silifke, it’s not hard to imagine how an old man of 67 could easily have lost his footing and been swept away.

A monument commemorating his death stands beside the Karaman road, nine km north of town.Silifkecastle

Were it not for the lack of decent accommodation Silifke would make a good base for exploring the surrounding area. Unfortunately the local authorities don't seem to have noticed this...

Around town

High on a hill above Silifke stand the remains of the dramatic Silifke Kalesi (Silifke Castle) that dates back to Byzantine times but has been repaired over and over again, including in the early 13th century when the Knights of St John tacked on 23 towers. Restoration has added a clumsy patchwork of new stones to the walls although excavation of the settlement that once existed inside the walls should ultimately prove very interesting.

The same excavations unearthed the foundations of a 16th-century mosque mentioned by the traveller Evliya Çelebi.

Sadly the motorcycles with wooden passenger carriers that used to wait near the Roman bridge for would-be castle visitors are no more. Without a car you'll have to walk up to the castle. It's worth it for the view back over the Göksu river though and for a glimpse of the huge rock-cut cistern later faced with stone that stands at its foot. 

Ayathekla

Silifke Museum (closed Mondays) on the main road heading towards Taşucu is mainly interesting for the fine stonework on display in its grounds.

It’s also worth taking a turn round the Silifke back streets where pieces of old Seleucia crop up all over the place: in the porticoes of the Reşadiye Cami (1328), and as gateposts and bases for the doorposts of private houses.

The remains of a 2nd-century Temple of Zeus also stand right beside the main road, fenced off from visitors for no apparent reason.

Few of Silifke’s old wood-and-stone houses have survived the rush to modernization, although one lovely house, briefly used by Atatürk, is open to the public, permitting visitors to admire the beautifully furnished rooms of a more elegant age.Silifketemple

Silifke’s other main attraction hides a few km out of town, off the Taşucu road.

According to history, Saint Thecla (Ayatekla, Azize Tekla) of Konya was the first woman to be converted to Christianity by St Paul of nearby Tarsus. After many years of following Paul, she eventually settled in a cave on the outskirts of what was then the town of Seleucia-ad-Calycadnum. Here she is said to have vanished, whereupon her cave became a meeting point and burial place for local Christians.


Later, a small church was created inside it, while what must have been a stupendous basilica was erected immediately above it in the fifth century. Today, only a small part of the apse is still standing, enough to make plain what has been lost.

With time on your hands, it’s worth exploring the area immediately beyond the cave-church where you literally crunch over the remains of what must once have been a large settlement. Most of the ruins are little more than fallen walls, but there are two vast open-air cisterns on the western side of the road. They're reminscent of the ones to be seen in İstanbul.

Sleeping

Squeezed between the hotels aimed at ferry passengers in Taşucu and those aimed at beach-lovers in Kızkalesi and Atakent (Susanoğlu), Silifke is low on good hotels. You could easily stay in Atakent to take advantage of the greater choice and proximity to the beach and use the frequent dolmuşes to go in and out of Silifke for the sights.

Otel Ayatekla

Two-star hotel just across the road from the otogar. Handy for quick getaways but on my most recent visit it was looking very shabby.

Tel: 0324-715 1081

Göksu Otel

Decent if unexciting riverside two-star. It's Silifke's best which is not saying a lot.

Tel: 0324-712 1021

Otel Arısan

Transport info

The nearest airport is in Adana.

There are regular buses to Silifke from Mersin, Taşucu and Alanya. On the western edge of town, Silifke's old otogar has been renovated rather than moved into the middle of nowhere.

Minibuses run to Atakent throughout the day. It takes 30 minutes to get there. Ditto with Taşucu. 

A few minibuses head straight to Ayatekla or you can take any  bus heading for Taşucu and ask to be put off at the junction. It's a short uphill walk to the ruins. 

Day trip destinations

Atakent (Susanoğlu)

Cambazlı

Taşucu

Ura

Uzuncaburç

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