CONTRIBUTED BY EMILY SMITH
I tend to walk blindly into situations, which is exactly how I felt when we moved here to Incirlik. Upon embarking for our new home in Turkey, I had a 2-month-old and a 2-year-old, so researching our future place of residence was not high on my priority list. With all the visa requirements, resident permits, passport applications and photos, out-processing, in-processing, etc., my only goal was to get on the plane and arrive in Turkey without losing my mind (or one of my children for that matter).
Reflecting on our past year here at Incirlik, I feel so fortunate for the experiences we’ve had as a family. I was completely unaware of the richness of the Turkish culture and history that Turkey holds as a country.
Even in my ignorance, I have gained an enormous appreciation and admiration for the amount of history in this country. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be walking in the footsteps of Paul the Apostle, or scaling the walls of a castle once conquered by the Armenians in the Byzantine Period.
But yet, here we are, at Feke Castle. A castle built in the Byzantine Period which was sometime between the 11th and 12th centuries. It is known that the castle was once conquered by the Armenians in 1091 and was strategic in the establishment of the Armenian Kingdom in Cilicia.
Feke Castle, also referred to as Valhka Kalesi, is located about an hour north of Kozan and about 2½ hours north of Incirlik, just outside of the town of Feke.
Our first attempt at visiting this castle was on a Friday and it was closed. The castle is currently undergoing renovations, and is open for visitors when the construction workers are present. We were told by the locals, who know little to no English, that the castle would be open on Saturday and Sunday. We hoped that we understood in our little to no Turkish what the locals were saying, so we returned Sunday on our way back from our weekend trip to Kayseri, and it was indeed open and available for us to explore.
We had our two toddlers with us in hiking backpacks, and due to the ruggedness and unpredictable terrain, we did not let the toddlers off our backs. This made exploring the castle to the full extent very challenging. But even with challenges, the views from the castle are spectacular. However, there were some parts of the castle that we decided were too treacherous for us to attempt with toddlers on our backs.
Pro Tip: Unless you can contain your small child in a backpack, I would recommend not bringing small children on this hike.
The castle sits very high on a mountain ridge, next to the Göksu River. The drive in itself to the Feke Castle is beautiful and scenic as it winds next to the Göksu River in the mountain valley.
The coordinates listed below will bring you to the beginning of the winding road, leading to the top where the castle is located. There is a brown sign pointing to the road up to the castle, and there are a couple more signs on the way up. The castle can be seen on top of the ridge as you ascend the hill; so keep driving until you reach the top.
The road up to the castle is very steep and winding, but it was easily done in our four-door sedan. We did encounter a herd of sheep on the way up the road, and this particular herd was not in any hurry to clear the road. You can park very close to the bottom of the castle, and then it is just a short hike up.
Be mindful of the donkey tied to a tree at the bottom of the castle. He either wasn’t having a good day, or is the Turkish version of a guard dog. Either way, you can avoid the donkey by altering your path up to the castle. We were also approached by several of the village children. They did not want anything from us except just to look at us and practice their English.
Even with the challenges that this castle presented, I would absolutely recommended visiting this castle and exploring it for yourself. On a beautiful day, the views will astound you and the ruins of the castle will leave you wondering, “How in the world did they build this here?!” With the present renovations, the workers have excavated some really neat artifacts such as nails and pottery. The workers did keep a close eye on us to make sure we didn’t collect any souvenirs. So, take only photos, leave only foot prints, and enjoy my favorite castle in Turkey, Valka Kalesi.
Pro Tip: On the drive up to the castle you might notice a sign pointing to a monastery ruins site, if time permits, stop by and see it! There isn’t much at the site except for a few boulders, but the carvings on the boulders are impressive.
With so much history, don’t you just love Turkey?!
Address: Adana Sivas Yolu, Sülemişli/Adana Province, Turkey
Coordinates: 37.840556, 35.945944