ISTANBUL

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.
Today, although Ankara is the capital of the Turkish Republic, Istanbul is the country’s heart and soul, the center of its history, arts, fashion, commerce, and higher education.  Founded as a fishing village called Byzantium, it later became Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine (Later Roman) Empire, until captured by the Ottoman Turkish armies of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453.  During the five centuries of their reign, the Ottoman sultans allowed the Christian inhabitants to retain some of their churches and encouraged Jewish immigrants driven from Spain by the Spanish Inquisition to settle here.

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.

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.

WEATHER

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

CLIMATE

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.

Tours of Turkey and Aegean Islands cruises   

Religious and Archeology holidays in Turkey

History of Anatolia

 

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