The Turks are the most hospitable, friendly, and helpful people I’ve ever encountered. They usually go well out of their way to make sure their guests feel welcome in their country or city. I’ve always met people curious of foreigners, many eager to ask questions about me and compliment my bad Turkish, and others who happily want to practice their English for a few minutes. When I rolled into Afyon, I was expecting the same. But Afyon is different. Afyon is a Turkish parallel universe.
Afyon is the center of Turkey’s poppy growing region and the city’s name actually means “opium”. It used to be one of the biggest opium producing regions in the world but those operations have since ended. The official name is Afyonkarahisar, which translates to “Opium Black Castle”. This refers to the ruined castle on top of a dramatic chunk of rock that the city is built around – one of those Game of Thrones type places. Historically, Afyon was known to the ancient Greeks as Akroinón (Ακροϊνόν) and to the Byzantines as Nikópolis (Νικόπολις).
It was a cold and snowy day when I visited Afyon. The light snowfall really added to the scenery of the city, although my hands kept freezing while taking pictures. I often had to find shelter to thaw them out. Unfortunately, I found the people to be as cold as the weather was that day.
Of all the cities I’ve visited in Turkey, Afyon is by far the most miserable and unfriendly place I have ever set foot in. Not one person cracked a smile, not one person welcomed me (other than a very nice man in Ulu Cami), and with all the disapproving stares I received, clearly not one person seemed happy to have a foreigner in town. After the first person I spoke to gave me attitude, I thought maybe I caught him on a bad day. But when the trend continued after three or four people, I tried to limit human interaction in this town to a bare minimum.
Nevertheless, Afyon has such a beautiful and awe-inspiring setting along with a pleasant old town that I still recommend a visit.
There’s regular bus service to Afyon from every major Turkish city. I arrived via a two hour minibus ride from Kütahya. Once you arrive, there’s a free shuttle service from the Afyon bus terminal into the city center. That took out a lot of the guesswork because, as you can see from the map below, the bus terminal is quite a hike from town.
After exploring the city, I stopped at the İkbal Lokantası on Dervişpaşa Cd. to refuel. After lunch, I had to try Afyon’s signature kaymak. Supposedly it’s the best because the cows are fed poppies. Anyway, I ordered an original Afyon creation, kaymaklı ekmek kadayıfı, for dessert. It was delicious.
Finally, it was back to the bus terminal where I had to wait about three hours for the next bus back to Kütahya. I had one more bad experience for the road when I got yelled at by one of the bus company clerks for asking to buy a ticket. Yes – he yelled at me because the next bus wasn’t for another three hours. Fine! All I wanted was a ticket!