Hittite Lions & Frostbite

We headed back to the Istanbul airport—but this time to rent a car. 


Our first stop was a seven hour drive south towards the capital Ankara and then eastward into Boğazkale where the ruins of the ancient Hittite city of Hattusa once stood. 


There among the rubble was the Lion gate that we had come to see. 

After standing at the great Mycenae gate last year, we knew we had to track down the Hittite Gate.


In our attempt to complete our collection of Bronze Age Lion gates, we arrived in the early evening in the tiny town of Boğazkale and checked into the small hotel that we’d chosen for its close proximity to the ruins. We wanted to get a jump on the morning and get out there early. Which we did. 


But what we also got was a freezing overnight stay at the hotel. It was a comedy of errors as we were the first visitors to book the hotel for the season and the very thoughtful  owner opened the windows to let the rooms get some fresh air. But the fresh air also came with a freak bit of snowfall and some seriously chilly air. Our road trip also coincided with the holy month of Ramadan which meant there was nothing open in the evenings in such a small town, including restaurants. By the time we checked in to our rooms, they were indeed freshened—with snowfall—and the mattress had cooled into blocks of ice. We spent the night huddled together for warmth and traded “proof of life photos” with the Bakkers who were also huddled in their own room next door—just to make sure they hadn’t frozen to death. 


The hotel is likely a lovey place to stay during the warm summer months, so this perhaps was the price we paid for being the first visitors of the season. And seeing Hattusa was well worth the risk of frostbite and starvation. 





We sent each other photos to check in on each other and survey our various states of survival. 


We did manage to get plug- in heaters for both rooms, but these appliances were no match against the Arctic temperatures.


In the morning, after thawing over tea, we drove around the sites, stopping at all the places to see including a mysterious and gigantic jade block in the middle of the ruins.  Back in the tiny town at the museum, we saw a bronze cuneiform tablet on display that was the surprise of the day. This ancient text inscribed on bronze plates from the 13th century BC was a treaty between Tudhaliya IV, great king of the Hittites, and Kurunta, King of Tarhuntassa. An incredible thing of wonder to see. 


This Bronze age city has a modern sweeping road visitors can drive along and stop to see some of the important sights. If you have a long day, you can park at the entrance where you pay and walk the entire route.


Among the things to be sure to see:

  • King’s Gate
  • Sphinx Gate
  • Lion Gate
  • Hieroglyphic Chamber
  • Nephrite Jade Stone
  • Tunnel beneath the Sphinx Gate


Hattusa was all but empty at this time of year, except for these cute girls and their fathers. We kept meeting them at the different sights so we decided to take a group picture to commemorate our new friendship.

The meandering modern road takes a scenic drive up through the different parts of the remaining ruins. From high above you can see the replica of of the original city wall, with its scalloped flourished top. It represents just 1% of the original wall. 

Inside the city at its base.


Overlooking the valley where the Lion Gate stands, Yazilikaya, meaning “written rock,” is the largest known Hittite rock sanctuary. There are two roofless court-like chambers with reliefs carved into them. They are called “Chamber A” and “Chamber B” and thought to be places for celebration or worship.

Above is Chamber B

Standing outside the entry into Chamber B

The Museum back in town

The extraordinary bronze cuneiform tablet. 


This ancient text inscribed on bronze plates from the 13th century BC was a treaty between Tudhaliya IV, great king of the Hittites, and Kurunta, King of Tarhuntassa

And lastly, my new friends at the gift shop near the entrance to Hattusa. These fine gentleman wanted me to purchase something so bad but I tried to tell them I had no room in my boat for trinkets.  


And then suddenly one of them produced a book about the Hittites. Books are my kryptonite. And I bought it.


I had to hid it in my backpack so the captain wouldn’t see it. My book obsession will likely sink our boat one day. But I figure I’ve got about 50 more I can buy before that happens. In the meantime


I made some Turkish friends. 

Our Bronze Age Lion Gate Collection is now complete!

The Mycenae Lion Gate from 1250 BC

We took this photo last summer. The light that day was perfection!

The Hittite Lion Gate from 1700 BC


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