Turkey

 

A Trip to Turkey – 2014

For, me, entering the country of Turkey can be likened to entering another world. We arrived at the Istanbul airport at the end of March, 2014, having come from Rome and coming off of a 2 week Eastern Mediterranean cruise where everything you needed or wanted was attended to. Here, suddenly we were on our own and there were multitudes of people around us, pushing and shoving to get through customs. There was no orderly queue and everyone around us was speaking a different language ……………………. languages which we could not speak or understand. Following a somewhat rocky start, we checked into the Crown Plaza

The Crown Plaza Hotel

The Crown Plaza Hotel

which is a magnificent, regal hotel which was to be our home in Istanbul for the next four days, after which we would be joining a two week land tour of Turkey with a bus load of English speaking tourists ……………………… but for the time being we were free to explore this fabulous city of Istanbul on our own. Since our hotel was conveniently located to a number of touristy sites, we did not have to deal with the transportation issue and only had to be certain that our shoes were comfortable and that we carried with us a supply of bandaids just in case.

 

 

 

The Blue Mosque which was first on the agenda for places to visit and was located several blocks down the street from our hotel.

Blue Mosque Exterior

Blue Mosque Exterior

It was constructed between 1606 and 1616 in classic Ottoman design. The dome and the four minarets stand tall creating a visually elegant exterior. Only worshippers can enter the front doors; tourists have to enter by the southern door and exit through the northern door. The interior of the mosque (as are all the mosques we visited while in Turkey) is very open. Four huge pillars support the dome.

Blue Mosque Dome

Blue Mosque Dome

The ‘blue’ of the mosque’s name originates with the Iznik tiles that grace the walls and line the dome. Unfortunately for me, the elegance of the interior is compromised by the labyrinth of overhead wires which accommodate the lighting within the structure.

Blue Mosque Interior

Blue Mosque Interior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hippodrome (where chariot races were held and probably the area where many scenes of political and military dramas took place) is located in front of the Blue Mosque. A walk down the hippodrome

Hippodrome and the Egyptian Obelisk

Hippodrome and the Egyptian Obelisk

takes one by the Kaiser Wilhelm’s Fountain, the tomb of Sultan Ahmet I, the Egyptian obelisk and the spiral snake column,

The spiral Serpent Column

The spiral Serpent Column

now headless but at one time, was topped by three serpents’ heads.

The Aya Sofya was built as a Christian Church in 537 A.D. by Emperor Justinian and remained the greatest church in Christendom until the Conquest in 1453, when it was turned into a mosque.IMG_2655 It remained as a Mosque until 1935 when Ataturk proclaimed it to be a museum. When the Aya Sofya was changed from a church to a mosque, the Christian mosaics were covered with plaster and Christian symbols were removed. Now that it is a museum, the plaster is being removed and the Christian mosaics are being revealed.

Mosaic Panel

Mosaic Panel

Mosaics in the St. Sophia

Mosaics in the Aya Sophia

The brilliant, glittering mosaics are numerous and depict Christ, the virgin Mary, John the Baptist, ruling Emperors of various times, etc.

Christian Mosaics

Christian Mosaics

The Basilica Cistern is an enormous water storage tank constructed by Emperor Justinian in 532 A.D. It is about 70 meters wide and 140 meters long and its roof is supported by hundreds of columns.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

IMG_1775At the far end, two columns are supported by blocks with carvings of Medusa heads on them, one lying on its side and the other upside down. They were probably recycled stone blocks used for support and acquired from another place that was probably destroyed by an earthquake.

Medussa

Medusa

Upside down Medusa

Upside down Medusa

 

Topkapi Palace,

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

on which construction began shortly after the Conquest in 1453, was the residence of the Sultans of the Ottoman empire for almost four centuries during which time Sultans came and went, building additional courts over the years.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace

IMG_2633The last Sultan to actually reside in Topkapi Palace was in the 1800’s as the following Sultans chose to live in more European style palaces found along the banks of the Bosphorus Strait. Unfortunately time did not allow us to get into the Harem but we did get to explore the courts where many museum items were on display. Should I ever return to Istanbul, I would head straight for the Harem.

 

 

 

I must not forget the Grand Bazaar.

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar

It consists of probably about 4500 shops, divided into different areas, specializing in carpets, jewellery, leather, ceramics, etc. It is a very interesting labyrinth of interesting shopping and an easy place in which to get lost if you don’t pay attention. Several visits to the Grand Bazaar yielded great finds for us.

 

A cruise along the Bosphorus Straits took us by palaces, an ancient defense fortress and expensive structures built upon the river banks.IMG_1699

Palace on the Bosphorus Strait.

Palace on the Bosphorus Strait.

The magnificent palaces along the banks of the Bosphorus reminded me very much of the palaces along the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia. I have only covered the highlights of Istanbul and there were many places that we wanted to visit but time simply ran out and before we knew it, it was time to connect with the Treasures of Turkey Tour. This is when the real education began.

Our tour guide, Atakan, (a handsome, non-practicing Muslim Turk) was a very knowledgeable, informative, caring individual who really looked after all 40 of us (Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and U.S. Americans) for two weeks. He cited History, Geography, present and past political activities, local folklore, etc. Upon leaving Istanbul, we headed toward the town of Iznik (formerly called Nicea) where we visited a building, formerly the Church Sofya of Nicea built around 600 A.D.

Ayasofya exterior

Ayasofya exterior

IMG_1822

Ayasofya interior

Ayasofya interior

This is the place where the Nicene Creed was hammered out by councils of the Christian Church. It was later changed to a Mosque and is now a shared Mosque and Museum.

 

 

 

 

In Bursa, first capital of the Ottoman Empire and the burial site of many Sultans,

Iznik tiles adorn the walls.

Iznik tiles adorn the walls.

we entered a Green Mosque built between 1412 and 1419 whose walls were covered with beautiful Iznik tiles.

The Green Mosque

The Green Mosque

Since the 6th century A.D., Bursa is an industrial center, known for textile, silk production, and more recently, car building (Fiat).

 

A visit to Cumalikizik village took us back in time as it is a traditional village with wooden houses and very narrow cobblestone streets,

Narrow streets of Cumalikizik

Narrow streets of Cumalikizik

fascinating gravestone markers

Gravestone Marker

Gravestone Marker

and interesting electrical work.

Electrical work

Electrical work

We enjoyed the morning tea as it was cool outside during the early morning hours and the morning we were there  it was very early.

Cumalikizik village

Cumalikizik village

On the way to Ankara, capital of Turkey, we stopped at the tomb of King Midas (Mound of Midas) at Gordion, the Phrygian capital sometime between 750 and 300 B.C. IMG_1876This was a surprise for me as I had not known there was actually a King Midas in the annals of history. Phrygian burials together with grave offerings were in wooden chambers built in rectangular pits with the roofs being added after the body had been placed in the chamber.IMG_1891 The wooden chambers were packed in the earth surrounded with rocks and great heaps of rubble earth and clay. We were able to enter the mound by an excavated passageway to view the actual wooden burial chamber. IMG_1878These mounds reminded me very much of the Viking burial Mounds which we visited near the University of Upsula in Sweden.

 

In contrast to the tombs of ancient kings, excavated ruins and the Hittite Museum, we visited the modern day capital of Turkey, Ankara, where we viewed the mausoleum of Ataturk,

Mausoleum of Ataturk

Mausoleum of Ataturk

IMG_1959IMG_1962Turkey’s greatest leader in modern times and the mausoleum of Sufi Philosopher Haci Bektas.

 

As we drove through the countryside we saw many flocks of sheep always with a herder,

Flocks of sheep

Flocks of sheep

often right next to tall apartment buildings which dotted the horizon.

Tall apartment buildings

Tall apartment buildings

We visited a carpet weaving factory,

Carpet weaving

Carpet weaving

a ceramic and pottery making factory,

Pottery making

Pottery making

a whirling dervish ceremony, a folklore show in a cave setting. The underground cities of Cappadocia were both fascinating and mysterious.

We visited Goreme’s rock-carved churches,

Goreme's rock-carved churches

Goreme’s rock-carved churches

volcanic landscapes,

Volcanic landscape

Volcanic landscape

mushroom shaped ‘fairy-chimney’s of the Pasabag Valley

Mushroom shaped 'fairy -chimneys'

Mushroom shaped ‘fairy -chimneys’

and

Underground city

Underground city

the underground city of Kaymakli.

Entering an Underground City

Entering an Underground City

 

Before arriving at Konya, Turkey’s most religious city, we stopped at a Caravanserai which served as a safe, over-night rest haven for travelers, merchants and traders during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Entrance to a Caravanserai

Entrance to a Caravanserai

Interior of a Caravanseria

Interior of a Caravanseria

While in Konya we visited the Mevlana Museum, with its beautiful fluted turquoise dome, the mausoleum of the mystic sect of whirling dervishes,

Whirling Dervishes

Whirling Dervishes

and were interviewed by two young girls engaged in a school project.

Two young school girls working on a school assignment

Two young school girls working on a school assignment

 

Aspendos, which is considered to have the best preserved Roman Theatre anywhere in the world, was a disappointment as it was under restoration and blocked off to tourists.

Aspendos

Aspendos

Exterior of Aspendos Roman Theatre

Exterior of Aspendos Roman Theatre

Plan of Restoration of Aspendos Roman Theatre

Plan of Restoration of Aspendos Roman Theatre

Aspendos, at its peak had a population of 150 000 with the Theatre seating capacity at 15 000. Sections of ancient aqueducts from the 2nd century which would bring water from the mountains to the city are still standing.

Aqueducts

Aqueducts

 

Perge, old city from the Hellinistic and Roman Age, dates back to a time before Christ and after the 3rd century A.D. it became a very prosperous inland city and a city where the apostle Paul preached.

Perge

Perge

Entrance at  Perge Ruins

Entrance at Perge Ruins

The ruins of Perge are extensive but only about 15% of the old city ruins have now been exposed.

Perge Ruins

Perge Ruins

Evidence of 3 types of decorative carvings ……….. the ionian,

Ionian decorative carvings (plain)

Ionian decorative carvings (plain)

the dorian

Dorian decorative carvings (leaf-like)

Dorian decorative carvings (leaf-like)

and the corinthian

Corinthian decorative carvings (swirls)

Corinthian decorative carvings (swirls)

……………. can be found adorning the various pillars and columns. Chariot ruts can be seen on the street as one walks along the uneven stone slabs.

A street in the old city of Perge

A street in the old city of Perge

"The pebbles are getting to me."

“Ooooh……………….”

A Sunday afternoon boat ride on the Mediterranean Sea, was both refreshing and relaxing

Mediterranean Sea

Mediterranean Sea

……………….. much needed IMG_2232

Waterfalls into the Mediterranean Sea

Waterfalls into the Mediterranean Sea

after a week of visiting mosques, ruins, museums, etc., and much needed to prepare oneself for the week of many more ruins to come.

 

The ruins of the sacred city of Hierapolis

Hierapolis

Hierapolis

are famed for its thermal hot springs. Located next to the ruins there are the glistening white terraces of Pamukkale

Thermal pools of Pammukkale

Thermal pools of Pamukkale

where pools of warm, light blue water, cascade down a hillside from one basin to the next.

Cascading pools of Pamukkale

Cascading pools of Pamukkale

The ruins date back to the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.

Ruins at Hierapolis

Ruins at Hierapolis

Ruins at Hierapolis

Ruins at Hierapolis

Many Christian symbols have been found at these ruins

Ruins at Hierapolis

Ruins at Hierapolis

and it is in recorded history that the apostle Philip preached in this city.

Apostle Philip preached in this city.

Apostle Philip preached in this city.

 

The ruins of Aphrodisas were next …………. named after the Greek goddess of love. Very impressive at this site is the evidence of the three different sizes of gathering places which existed in each one of these old cities ……………. the odeon

Odeon

Odeon

which was used for gatherings and city council meetings would seat up to about 700; the amphitheatre Amphitheatre which was used for musical concerts, gladiator performances, etc. would seat up to approximately 15 000; and the arena

Arena

Arena

where chariot races and athletic events were held would have a seating capacity of approximately 30 000.

 

Near to the coastal town of Kusadasi is found the ruins of Ephesus, one of the world’s finest archeological sites. On my previous visit three years ago, the Library of Celsus

Library of Celsus

Library of Celsus

was blocked off to visitors as it was being restored. On this trip, we were able to explore that area and appreciate the size of the pillars and splendor of the facade.

Pillars of the Library Celsus

Pillars of the Library Celsus

We then walked along the Arcadian Way alongside the agora where St. Paul the apostle would have preached to the Ephesians.

Arcadian Way at the ruins of Ephesus

Arcadian Way at the ruins of Ephesus

Public Latrines of Ephesus

Public Latrines of Ephesus

Before leaving the ruins, we sat in the Amphitheatre and listened to the imagined cheers from the crowds of imagined spectators as gladiators performed.

Amphitheatre at Ephesus

Amphitheatre at Ephesus

From here we travelled to the nearby House of the Virgin Mary situated at a higher elevation above the ruins.2010-01-17_0062-1 2010-01-17_0063-1

 

In Pergamon, we paid a quick visit to the tomb of St. John, the apostle who tended to Mary, mother of Jesus,

Tomb of St. John

Tomb of St. John

IMG_2491in the latter years of her life. St. John was the only apostle who was not martyred.     More ruins on our agenda included a stop in Pergamon to visit the Asklepion,IMG_2497 one of the most famous shrines and therapeutic centres in the ancient world. Patients at this centre would have included people suffering from stress, mental disorders and IMG_2515psychiatric problems.IMG_2517

 

The ruins of Troy were very interesting as restoration on this area has hardly begun. At Troy, we viewed the ruins of nine cities built one on top of each other.IMG_2548 IMG_2551IMG_2545Earthquakes were the main reason for the ruination of these large cities. There also stands the enormous reconstruction of the famous wooden horse.IMG_2527

 

After crossing the Dardenelle Straits by ferry and visiting a commemorative World War I siteIMG_2583IMG_2594 IMG_2580 and the Lone Pine Cemetery, we returned to another two full days of exploring the city where we began this wonderful adventure ………………  Istanbul.

 

 

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