Posh: A Palace.
Welcome to Pasha Palace. At first, the name sounds fitting: Pasha. A Near-Eastern palace. Turbans, incense, persian rugs, cool stone floors in a scorched desert. Servants bring trays of cucumbers and yogurt, or other cool refreshments. Everyone wears slippers on the polished stone floor.
Now, however, the once posh palace is but a stone labyrinth. Thick walls, capable of fending off invaders, still house intricate stone work, carvings and beautiful rooms overlooking nomadic pastureland and cemeteries dating back thousands of years. Fortunately, the local government has invested heavily in the palace, constructing a roof over open parts of the palace and installing steel retaining rods which prevent the walls from sagging. Our tour began beneath an intricately carved arch, much damaged by bullets from some long forgotten war.
Once inside the palace, we headed to the cellars, a set of six long thin rooms deep in the ground. Some had arched ceilings, while others were but deep, ceiling-less rooms. A set of stairs from top to bottom illustrated the insulation value of the cellars. At the top of the stairs, it was a typical, hot near eastern day. By the time one reached the cellar floor, the temperature was wonderfully cool, even for a kid used to the cool nights of northwest Montana. But my palace tour was cut short. More accurately, it was stubbed short. While taking a photo of a cellar, I stubbed my toe on a two inch tall marble slab. Had I been wearing shoes, all would have been fine. But in sandals, the stub was a cut, and I limped out of the palace dripping blood from a large gash on my toe.
I spent a few days at Camp M, walking as little as possible, limping whenever self locomotion was required. All the while, the ruins of Hittite and Armenian strongholds loomed above my room, taunting me. I wanted very badly to explore, but the nickel-sized piece of skin I’d scraped off my toe needed time to heal. Once walking was no longer painful, I began taking short evening strolls. Gentle breezes rustled the brutally spiny thistles which infested the road and sidewalk. Stars appeared when the street lamps blinked off, which they did sporadically.
Thanks to plenty of iodine and gauze, my toe healed quickly, and I was able to pay the Hittite and Armenian Ruins a visit. Rumor had it that ancient pottery could be found amongst the ancient walls, turrets and arches. Needless to say, I wasted no time in hiking to the ruins. Save for crumbling stone walls, almost nothing remained of these once great fortresses. While walking to one of the less-visited sections of wall, I discovered shards of pottery, perhaps thousands of years old. Additional poking around revealed the ruins of an oven, and many little walls which probably enclosed small houses or storage chambers.
The most unique feature of the ruins was a hole in a rock face. About fifteen feet off the ground, a large section of the cliff face had been smoothed out. In the center, a square hole, just big enough to sit up in, had been bored into the rock. Carvings flanked the hole. On the right stood a somewhat weathered priest with a staff in his hand. The other two carvings, a second priest and a goat, were terribly weathered and could only be made out from certain angles.
I jump at any opportunity to explore hundred year old homesteads, or old buildings. Needless to say, I could hardly contain my excitement when standing right in front of a four thousand year old Hittite tomb. Curiosity overpowered my better judgement, and I followed a member of our team up the rocks and into the tomb. Getting up to the tomb was tricky, so I knew that getting down would be far harder. While inside the tomb,though, worrying about getting out was not worth my time. Like the rest of the ruins, the interior of the tomb was barren, not visually attractive or historically pristine, by any means. Someone had filled the tomb with stones and dirt, leaving just enough room to crawl about. Though there was nothing left of the tomb’s original contents, the realization that I was sitting inside a Hittite tomb made me silent with awe. Some crawling and poking around the small-bedroom sized chamber hewn from solid rock revealed some interesting things. First, I noticed a place where previous explorers had crawled up in a corner and found a passage leading to a second room. Though I did not wriggle up the tiny tunnel, I could see a large room where one could stand up. Along one side, a rock arch had been constructed. In the opposite corner, a hole had been dug so that one could stand up. At the bottom of the hole, the top of an arch was just visible. This indicated that a third room existed. My immediate desire was to begin chucking rocks out the door and excavate the tomb. But the privilege of visiting the ancient site would have to suffice.
Getting out of the tomb proved harder than I’d expected. The doorway was smooth, with little for handholds. The next places to put hands and feet were far below. I considered my options. I could try to get down, fall, die, and be put back in the tomb. Or I could just stay in the tomb. Neither option seemed desirable. Fortunately, a kind local revealed an alternate route. Hanging on to the foot of the carved priest, I inched across the cliff, moving my feet across a narrow, sloped ledge. My feet back on the ground, I thanked the helpful bystander, and walked back to Camp M to prepare for the next adventure.