Following the Trail of the Silk Road – Visiting the Azgikarahan Caravansarai in Turkey

There once was an ancient trade route called the Silk Road stretching far and wide throughout the Orient. A vast road where spices and fabrics were sold, camels roamed the deserts, and turbans were the common dress. Now this route has disappeared off the face of the Earth, lost in the sand storms of the desert and the cold of the winters over the centuries. Where great leaders once ruled and traveled from far away lands, now goats trot and shepherds walk by ancient stones, unaware of the stories and memories they hold.

Along the route were huge caravanserai fortresses which provided food, shelter, medical care, and protection for the travelers for free for three days.

So what ever happened to these great fortresses? In Turkey they sit amongst the fields and are now home only to some lonesome pigeons, where  grass has overgrown the broken cobblestones and ruined walls.

During our time staying in Cappadocia, Turkey, we drove towards a town called Aksaray known to have a famous caravansarai. After about an hour of driving towards the town, we saw a small sign on the side of the road with the words Azgikarahan  (meaning black mouth) caravanserai. We thought that we had finally arrived so we drove down the tiny road that could barely hold space for one car and left the freeway behind with only open fields ahead. 

Finally the fortress appeared up ahead but there was no parking lot and no ticket booth – just two older men sitting on little stools nearby drinking some fresh çay (Turkish tea). We parked alongside the fortress, payed our 2 lira each, and entered the “haunted” and abandoned caravansarai. 

 We stepped into the main courtyard after passing under the main gates and saw the center of the caravansarai, a small 2 story building in the center beautifully decorated with intricate designs and elaborate writing. All around us were small rooms or halls, leading into the deep passageways of the abandoned place. 

As we entered into the main hall, I could see much of the cobblestone floor had been overrun by tall grass. As I looked around the main room I felt like I had walked into a European gothic cathedral, the pointy arches met high up and light was shining in through a big hole in the ceiling. As I slowly walked in, my footsteps echoed off the ancient walls scaring away some pigeons, who flew up and out through the big whole. Then silence regained control over this abandoned ancient place.

Extending in all direction were smaller rooms hidden by the darkness, too far for the light to reach. I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie, about to discover something old and famous that had been forgotten by the world. What made it even more exciting was that we were the only ones there and the whole place seemed to echo the distant stories and words of the past. How many people had passed through here? How many weary travelers and merchant had taken shelter here?

All of the different faces, nationalities, and religions and now here I was. Leaving my mark too in this ancient place. 

I loved exploring the caravansarai and although we did not find any cool ancient artifacts or skeletons, we did find some old burnt pieces of paper lying on the ground! We found out later that we had not been in the Aksaray caravanserai but rather another smaller one, but we were still content with our awesome adventure!

To learn more about the caravanserais of Cappadocia, click here!

Have you ever been to Cappadocia? Did you ever visit a caravanserai? I would love to hear your experience! 

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