Turkey is an awe-inspiring country that is blessed with varied landscapes that are millions of years old and multitude of vestiges from ancient civilisations, heritage and culture – its history is a heavily potent mix of Classical Gre- co-Roman, Byzantine and Oriental influ- ences, infusing elements from the East and West. At the same, Gaya Travel also finds that Turkey is a liberal, progressive and forward-thinking nation that rides on efficient world class infrastructure and modern systems, well positioned in international trade and politics. Seems like Turkey does not only internalise the best of the East and West, but also the past, the present and the future.
Read Part 1: I Dream of Turkey
We covered long distances to get from one place to another, allowing us to appreciate the varying Turkish landscapes. On the way to Canakkale, the landscape gave way to olive groves and the Aegean sea, reminiscent of the Italian countryside. From Canakkale to Istanbul, our bus crossed the Bosphorus Strait from the Asian side to the European side of Turkey at the city of Galipoli using ferry. After the crossing, it took us another four hours to get to Istanbul, a distance of another 260 kilometres. The pastoral scenery between Galipoli and Istanbul is full of verdant and scenically undulating farmlands.
Never have I undergone a tour package that allowed me to be so immersed in rich history and heritage that encompasses the magnificence and splendour of the Ottoman, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine civilisations within a short span of time. If not for this trip, I would never have been able to admire the elegant Ottoman architectural splendour showcased in the forms of the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and Grand Bazaar; fascinated by the jaw-dropping out-of-this-world landscape of Cappadocia and remnants of Byzantine Christianity; encountered the Hellenic vestiges of legendary Hierapolis and Troy; soaked in the atmosphere of elegant ancient Greco-Roman ruins of Ephesus and Asklepieion in Pergamon; and mesmerised by the grandeur of the Byzantine’s jewel-in-the-crown Hagia Sophia.
Located in the province of Denizli, Pamukkale or Cotton Castle is characterised by cascaded terraces and travertine formed by mineral sediments like calcium carbonate that have been brought along by water flow from the hotspring and settled along the way for thousands of years. The water from the hotsprings is believed to have curative powers and been used as thermal bath for centuries. Besides the travertine, Pamukkale is also known for the ruins of the Hellenistic city of Hieropolis (which means ‘Holy City’), established in 200 BC by Eumenes II in dedication to the Amazon Queen Hiera, wife of Telephos, the founder of Pergamon. Travellers must be careful when walking on the Cotton Castle’s slippery slopes.
Founded and first built by one of Alexander the Great’s commanders, Ephesus used to be the capital of Asia Minor. Travellers can still witness and admire the beautiful city’s albeit ruins of the bath, markets and amphitheatre. Part of the ancient city was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 614 while the other part remained fairly well preserved until the present day. It is recommended that travellers simply walk through the ruins, marvel at them and imagine what it would have been like during its heyday. To properly take in the place’s enigmatic feel, it is best for travellers to sit among the ruins and ponder over them. One caveat though: be careful when walking the slippery marble pavements of Ephesus. To avoid slipping and injuring yourself, be sure to put on comfortable walking shoes that come with excellent traction.
Pergamon is founded in the county of Bergama (Izmir), where the Aegean and Anatolia regions come together. Pergamon’s ancient riches include many architectural structures such as a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, revered as the city’s protector. The first settlements in Pergamon are known to date back as early as 3000 BC. Being part of the Pergamon acropolis, the ruins of Asklepieion and the ancient spa settlement, Allianoi are located at the acropolis’ foot. They used to be part of ancient Hellenistic health and recovery centre (healing temple) that is similar to a hospital. Travellers are also encouraged to walk around the ruins and imagine how the ancients were able to create such remarkable architecture at such scale.
A historical city that has been built layer upon layer up to seven times, many around the world are familiar with its name. Troy was one of the richest cities during the ancient times. Located in the heart of nature in Çanakkale province, it has now become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Turkey. The ancient city of Troy was founded 5,000 years ago and is now inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The story about the city is depicted in Homer’s Iliad. Based on the information provided, the city reached its height at its seventh layer (during the times of the Trojan War, when the city was sieged because its prince, Paris of Troy, took Helen away from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta and brother of Agamemnon, King of Argos). It was also thought that Romulus (founder of ancient Rome) and Remus originated from Troy.
This city needs no introduction as it has been attracting so many people from all over the world throughout the ages. It remains as the economic and cultural hub of Turkey, complementing Ankara’s role as the country’s administrative and political epicentre. Travellers should take the cruise around the Bosphorus to take in the city’s beauty; walk around the historical Sultanahmet area where the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia are located; then shop till drop at the labyrinthine Grand Bazaar’s 3,000 plus shops. To us, Istanbul is so exotic and sensuous that it warrants an additional week of stay just to explore and discover the city alone.
This article is featured in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 8.5. Read other contents HERE.
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