Travel Information on TURKEY

Turkey is a country of exquisite beauty, infinite diversity and, sometimes, amazing contrasts.   Examine it carefully and you will find traces of the many peoples who have lived within its borders.  Ephesus, Mount Nemrut Dagi, Aspendus, Troy, Assos, Van Konya, Ani, Sivas, Perge, Bursa, and other ancient cities, as well as the buildings, statuary, carvings, frescoes, and mosaics are potent reminders of past glories.

Turkey is also a paradise of sun, sea, mountains, and lakes that offer the vacationer a complete change from the stress and routine of everyday life.  From April to October, most places in Turkey have an ideal climate that is perfect for relaxing on sandy beaches or enjoying the tranquility of mountains and lakes.  The 13 successive civilizations that called Turkey home provides countless opportunities for sightseeing within this country blessed with natural beauty.

There is no doubt that one visit will not be enough, and you will want to come back again and again as you discover one extraordinary place after another.  All of them, not matter how different, have one thing in common: the friendly and hospitable people of this unique country.

 HISTORY of Turkey, Anatolia's History

Turkey, known as “the cradle of civilization,” hosted the first human settlement on its soil, which has been dated as 12,000 years old.  Turkey is also the home of ancient cultures, including the Hattis, Hittites, Phrygians, Urartians, Lycians, Lydians, Ionians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, and Ottomans. 

The Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Early Bronze Ages.

The earliest traces of human habitation in Turkey, found in a cave north of Antalya, date from about the middle of the tenth to the beginning of the seventh millennium BC.  During the Neolithic Period there were settlements southwest of Burdur and at Catalhoyuk south of Konya.  The residents of Catalhoyuk practised agriculture, domesticated animals and left records of their religious practices.  During the Early Bronze Age the first fortified settlement was established at Troy.

The late Bronze Age

Commercial records found at the Assyrian merchant-colony at Kanesh are the earliest examples of writing discovered so far in Anatolia.  Hattusa was the capital of the Hittite empire, which lasted for 400 years. Priam’s Troy, described in Homer’s Iliad, is believed to have been destroyed c 1275 or 1240.  Following the sack of Hattusa, which marked the end of the Hittite Empire, Neo-Hittites states arose in southeastern Anatolia and north Syria.  They continued to flourish until 717 when the Assyrians under Sargon II overran them.

The Greeks in Anatolia.  The kingdoms of Urartu, Phrygia, Lydia, Caria and Lycia

There is some evidence of Mycenaean settlements at Iasus, Miletus, and Tarsus, but tradition ascribes an increase of Greek immigration to the period after the fall of Troy.  The kingdom of Urartu, which occupied an area in eastern Anatolia, Armenia and northwest Iran, resisted the incursions of the Assyrians.  The Phrygians, a horse-rearing, military aristocracy that dominated Central and Western Anatolia, made Gordion their capital.  Lydian invaders established powerful kingdom with Sardis as its capital.  The satrap Hyssaldomus and his successors ruled Caria.  The Lycian people, under their traditional Homeric leaders Sarpedon and Glaucus, settled in the Xanthus valley.  Byzas of Megara founded Byzantium.  The Lydians are credited with having invented coinage in the middle of the 7th century BC.

Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Period

Alexander the Great’s whirlwind campaign in 334 and 333 liberated Anatolia from Persian rule.  From his empire the Diadochoi, his successors, carved kingdoms which lasted for almost 200 years.  Great cities like Pergamum, Ephesus and Anitoch were founded and despite bitter wars of succession and the incursions of invaders this was a time when the arts flourished.  Towards the end of the period the influence of Rome began to be felt increasingly in Anatolia.

The Romans in Anatolia

The Roman Province of Asia was established towards the end of the 2nd century BC.  At first this consisted of the Troad, Mysia, Aeolia, Ionia and the coastal islands, Lydia, most of Caria, part of Pisidia and Pamphylia.  Mithridates VI Eupator, king of Pontus, challenged the power of the Romans.  After defeating him Rome consolidated its position in Anatolia.  Anthony and Cleopatra began their tragic liaison in Tarsus.

Anatolia in the Roman Imperial, and the rise of Christianity

Anatolian cities flourished under the Pax Romana.  The concept of a universal Christian Church was developed in Anitoch (Antakya) and St. Paul and his companions began their missionary journeys through the Roman Empire.  Despite grievous persecution Christianity grew in power and strength.  Church Councils were held Nicaea (Iznik) and Constantinople.  The division of the Roman Empire took place.  Christianity was proclaimed the state religion and paganism was proscribed.

The Rule of Byzantium and the arrival of the Selcuk Turks

The period from the early 6th century to the beginning of the 13th century saw the rise and decline of the Byzantine Empire with Byzantine power reaching its apogee in the reign of Justinian I, the Great.  It was also a time of religious controversy and then separated from the Catholic Church.  Following their defeat at the Battle of Manzikert the Byzantines lost most of Anatolia to the Selcuk Turks, a warrior people that appeared in the Middle East in the 10th century.  The Selcuks established the Sultanate of Rum and defeated the Byzantines at the Battle of Myriocephalon.  Latin Crusaders looted Constantinople and its treasures dispersed throughout Western Europe.

The Ottoman Turks in Anatolia

This period was marked by the decline of Selcuk power and the arrival of the Ottoman Turks, another nomadic people, in Anatolia.  They began to expand into the Balkans and threatened Constantinople.  For a time the Mongols dominated much of Anatolia, defeating the Ottomans at the Battle of Ankara.  The Council of Florence failed to resolve the differences between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  The Ottomans defeated first the Serbs, then the Hungarians at the Battles of Kossovo.

The rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire

The Ottomans captured Constantinople.  Popularly known as Istanbul, this became the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was made up of Greece, the southern Balkans and western Anatolia.  Later conquests extended Ottoman rule to much of southern Europe and north Africa.  The empire reached its high point under Suleyman the Magnificent.  That wine-bibber Selim the Sot added Cyprus to his dominions.  The period between the late 16th century and the early 19th century was marked by a decline in Ottoman power.  Greece obtained its independence.  The Janissaries were abolished.  The Tanzimet Period introduced reforms.  A parliament was established.  There were further losses of territory during the Balkan Wars.  Turkey fought on the German side in the First World War.  The Turkish army defeated an allied invasion at Gallipoli.  At the end of the war, the Allies  occupied parts of Turkey.

The Formation of the Turkish Republic

Mustafa Kemal, the hero of the Gallipoli Campaign, led the struggle for independence.  A new parliament, the Grand National Assembly, was set up.  The last sultan, Mehmet VI, was exiled.  An invading Greek army was routed.  The Sultanate was abolished.  The Treaty of Lausanne confirmed the boundaries of Turkey.  A republic was established with Kemal as its president.  Ankara became the capital.  Constantinople was renamed Istanbul.  Kemal then embarked on a series of ambitious reforms to modernize Turkey.  These included abolition of the Caliphate, religious courts, and religious schools, the fez, Islamic law, the Arabic script, religious brotherhoods and polygamy, and the introduction of civil divorce, votes for women, the Roman alphabet for the Turkish language, the Swiss civil code, the Italian Penal Code and the German Commercial Code, and the adoption of surnames.  In 1934 the Grand National Assembly gave Mustafa Kemal the honorific title Ataturk—Father of the Turks.

The Turkish Republic since Ataturk

In the aftermath of the Second World War Turkey began to play a more and more important part in international affairs.  After two periods of military rule, civil government was restored.  Turkey began a time of economic expansion.  New industries were started.  Housing schemes were begun.  New roads were built and two bridges spanned the Bosphoros.  In the 1980s tourists began to discover Turkey and tourism soon became one of the country’s most important sources of income.  The downside of this development was that large stretches of the magnificent Aegean and Mediterranean coastlines were spoiled by unrestricted building.  Despite a very high rate of inflation most people began to enjoy a better lifestyle.  The drift from the Anatolian villages to the big cities continued unabated and this created considerable problems for the municipal authorities which had to provide housing and services like water and electricity for their new citizens.  The continued military campaign against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) in southeastern Turkey made a big drain on government finances. Following the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the modern Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk is revered in Turkey and is cited as one of the world’s greatest statesmen.

 ISTANBUL

The ancient capital of Byzantium for a millennia it was called simply “The City.........more

THE ANCIENT AEGEAN

From the Dardanelles and fabled Troy to the fairytale Crusader castle and sunny beaches of Bodrum, Turkey’s Aegean coast offers rich possibilities for sun, fun, and new experiences. 

The Canakkale Bogazi, also known as the Dardanelles or Hellespont, is the strait that connects the Aegean and Marmara seas.  Famous in ancient legends, it was also the setting for the momentous Gallipoli campaign of World War I.  Within view of its shores stands Troy, its fabled walls now excavated and restored.  A  model of the Trojan horse reminds visitors of the legendary battle for the love of Helen.

A short drive south brings you to the resort town of Ayvalik, and not much farther along to Bergama, the ancient Pergamum. The Asclepion of Pergamum, still visitable today, was the famous medical center where Galen (131-210 AD) laid down the fundamentals of medical practice that would last for more than a millennium.

Izmir, one of Turkey’s largest cities and a major port, was once known as Smyrna.  Famous Smyrna figs are still shipped from here (those that aren’t eagerly consumed by the locals), and the bazaar still buzzes with activity.
Drive to Kadifekale (the Velvet Castle) perched above the city for a spectacular sunset, then descend to the waterfront boulevards for its spirited nightlife.  Less than an hour’s drive south of Izmir rise the elaborate ruins of Ephesus, the best preserved classical city on the Aegean.  As the capital of Roman Asia Minor, Ephesus was richly endowed with marble temples, mosaics, and a 25,000-seat Great Theater.  St. Paul spoke here, and later wrote his famous Epistle to the Ephesians.  The Virgin Mary spent her last days here, and ascended to heaven from a neighbouring hilltop.  Not far away, the resort town of Kusadasi provides a good place for swimming and shopping after you’ve toured the ruins.  Take a detour inland along the Menderes (Meander) River valley to Aphrodisia, the ancient City of Aphrodite, in the midst of a fertile fruit-growing region.  This was a city of great sculptors  who worked the local marble into marvellous Roman statues and temples.  A bit farther along, the gleaming white travertine cliffs of Pamukkale, the Cotton Castle, rise above the fertile plain.  The warm calcium-laden mineral waters which cascade over the cliffs, building up fairy billows of snow-white stone, are famous for their curative powers.  Perhaps the most charming town on the coast is the yachting port of Bodrum.  Set on twin palm-lined bays and dominated by the medieval Castle of St. Peter, Bodrum is famous for its world-class Museum of Underwater Archeology, and for the grand Tomb of King Mausolus-the original Mausoleum.  It’s favorite resort for Turkey’s artists, writers, and the yacht set, so the cafes are fashionable and the nightlife vibrant.

The TURQUOISE COAST

Swimming on a beach given by Mark Anthony as a present to Cleopatra?  Or to stand in the cave church where St. Peter first called his flock “Christians?”  From rustic fishing villages to sleek resorts, from pine-clad coasts to modern ports, Turkey’s Mediterranean coast has it all. More...Continue 

CAPPADOCIA

The biblical realm of Cappadocia, south of Ankara in Central Anatolia, is a wonderland of unique geographic formations sprinkled with green vineyards and fruit orchards.  Agriculture  thrives in the mineral-rich volcanic soil, making this one of Turkey’s premier wine-making regions. For more on Cappadocia

Eastern Turkey 

Gaze at the sunset from a mountaintop aerie designed as a dwelling-place for the gods.  Visit the cave in which, according to legend, the Patriarch Abraham was born.  Snap photos of beehive-like mud houses that took as though they might have been inhabited since the Stone Age times.  Try reading cuneiform inscriptions carved almost 3000 years ago.  It’s all part of a normal day in Turkey’s vast, beautiful, dramatic eastern region. 

Perhaps the single most bewitching sight in the east is Nemrut Dagi, the 1st-century BC mountaintop tomb-shrine of King Antiochus I of Commagne.  The bare mountain summit is capped with a huge conical rock pile, in reality a man-made mountain peak—beneath which archaeologists believe the king is buried.  On the east and west sides of the peak are temples with gigantic stone statues of the king and his “friends” the gods.  Earthquakes have toppled many of the statues, but the gigantic heads still gaze out across the vast panorama. 

In the east, people and places assume legendary proportions.  We know from the Book of Genesis that Abraham and his family traveled here, staying some years in the village of Harran south of Sanliurfa.  Many centuries later, Harran was the birthplace of Saladin, the great Islamic general both feared and admired by the Crusader armies from Europe. 

Sanliurfa itself is the stuff of legends.  Once called Edessa, the fish-filled pool in its sacred precinct is a place of pilgrimage, and its dusky bazaar preserves the ambience of earlier centuries.  In the region around Sanliurfa the desert is beginning to bloom as a result of the mammoth Southeastern Anatolia Irrigation project. 

Near historic Mardin are Syriac monasteries where the monks still speak and hold services in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.  One of the monastery Bibles, written in Aramaic, is 1700 years old.

Erzurum, the east’s largest city, holds many fine Seljuk Turkish buildings, and a fine museum set up in a 13th century Mongol theological college.  On the city’s outskirts at Palandoken is Turkey’s fastest-growing ski resort, with several new hotels and increased lift capacity.  A few hours’ ride east at Dogubeyazit the impressive castle of Ishak Pasha, an Ottoman governor of the 1700s, guards a rugged mountain pass in the shadow of biblical Mount Ararat.

The vast inland sea of Lake Van is surrounded by things to see and do.  The 10th century Church of the Holy Cross, decorated with Bible-story reliefs, broods on Akdamar Island reachable by a short boat ride from the town of Gevas.  Near the lakeshore just outside the city of Van, the Rock of Van bears cuneiform inscriptions in praise of King Sarduri I dating from around 830 BC.  There’s a fine museum in the town as well.

 

Tours of Turkey and Aegean Islands cruises   

Religious and Archeology holidays in Turkey

 

 

 

 

 

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