For millennia it was called simply
“The City.” It was understood
that there was no greater, richer, or more powerful city anywhere in the world.
The historic center of the city, with its Byzantine Hippodrome, is Sultanahmet Square. The Hippodrome, the scene of chariot races and political riots in Byzantine times, and of horseback-riding games and archery contests during the Ottoman era, is now a pleasant park. Beneath its northern end lies the eerie Basilica Cistern, a palatial 6th century underground reservoir supported by 336 columns. Spread along the east side of the Hippodrome is the famous Blue Mosque (Mosque of Sultan Ahmet I), its domes swelling skyward framed by six slender minarets. On the west side, the Palace of Ibrahim Pasha, Grand Vezir to Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, now houses the treasure-filled Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.
The huge bulk of Ayasofya (Saint Sophia, Church of the Divine Wisdom) looms over the square. Built by the Emperor Justinian in 537 A.D., this was the greatest church in Christendom for a thousand years, and an architectural masterpiece to this day. Used as a mosque during Ottoman times, it is now a museum.
Spreading across Seraglio Point and covering 172 acres, Topkapi Palace is a vast assemblage of garden-filled courtyards, richly decorated chambers, kiosks, pools, and passageways. It was home to the Ottoman imperial family for 450 years. Don’t miss the Imperial Treasury, stuffed with incredible wealth including an 86 carat diamond and a 7 lb emerald; the richly tiled Baghdad and Erivan pleasure kiosks; the gilded Council Chamber; the massive kitchens now filled with exhibits of fine Chinese porcelain; and of course the Imperial Harem, the palace’s family quarters. Walk along Divan Yolu, the imperial road that led to Rome, to reach the Grand Bazaar, a covered maze of some 4,000 shops selling everything from trash to treasures. Don’t forget Beyoglu, the historic diplomatic district on the north shore of the Golden Horn. Its cobbled streets are now filled with shops, sidewalk cafes and trendy music clubs. Also be sure to take an excursion boat up the Bosphorus to enjoy the views of its verdant coasts dotted with imperial palaces and Ottoman-era villages. But whatever you do, you’ll take away precious memories.
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.
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
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
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.
Average Monthly Temperature (Farenheit)
City Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May. Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
Antalya 50 52 55 61 68 77 82 82 77 68 59 54
Izmir 48 50 52 61 68 77 82 81 73 64 59 50
Istanbul 41 43 45 54 61 70 73 73 68 61 54 46
Trabzon 43 43 45 52 59 68 72 72 66 59 54 48
Ankara 32 34 41 52 61 68 73 73 64 64 46 36
Erzurum 16 19 27 41 70 59 68 68 59 59 36 23
Diyarbakir 36 36 36 57 66 79 88 88 77 77 50 39
Mugla 49 51 54 61 66 68 81 81 75 75 59 53
Konya 38 40 44 55 65 72 75 75 69 69 50 40
Turkey has 7 geographical regions
Black Sea Region: Temperate climate with warm summers, mild winters and relatively high rainfall.
Marmara Region: Typical Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters.
Mediterranean Region: Mediterranean climate with hot summers mild winters.
Central Anatolia Region: Hot, dry summers and cold winters.
Eastern Anatolia Region: Long snowy, cold winters and mild summers
Southeastern Anatolia Regions: Hot summers with mild, rainy winters.
History of Anatolia
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