Round trip East Turkey

History, Çatal Höyük, Troy, Pergamum, Ephesus, Miletus, Halicarnassus, Hittite, Hellenic, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottoman, Kurd, Halabja | Anyalya, Ankara, Isuyu, Gordion, Hittite, Yassihoyuk, Phrygians, Midas Tümülüsü, Kültür Bakanligi, Mahmut Pasa, Kusunlu Han, Anit Kabir, Atatürk | Samsun, Hatusas, Büyük Mabed, Sari Kale, Aslani Kapi, Lion gate, Kral Kapi, Ergaskale, Trabzon, Black Sea, Yalikoy, Aya Sofya, Sumela | Zigana Geçidi, Maçka, Dogu Karadeniz Daglari, Erzurum, Bayburt, Kop Geçidi, Çifte Minareli Medrese, Aleattin Keykubat II | Dogubayazit, Kars, Ani, Mt Ararat | Ishak Pasa Sarayi, Muradya | Van, Nemrut Dag, Akdamar Kilisesi, Van Gölü | Didyarbakir, Tatvan, Tigris, Mesopotamia, Euphrates | Sanliurfa, Harran, Rohas, Trullihouses | Adiyaman, Eufraat, Mesopotania, Nemrut Dagi | Cappadocia, Avanos, Ericiyas Dagi, Nasan Dagi | Konya, Akseray | Taurus, Manavgat, Antalya |

** Click Images to enlarge **

In the minds of most western visitors the mention of Turkey conjures up vague stereo-typical visions of oriental splendor and decadence, of mystery and intrigue, of sultans and harems, of luxury and wickedness. These outdated stereotypes quickly evaporate once the visitor arrives in the country. The Turkish Republic is democratic, rapidly modernizing, secular and western-oriented with vigorous economy. The history of Anatolia, the Turkish homeland, is simply incredible. The world's oldest 'city' was discovered here, Çatal Höyük in 7500 BC. The Hittite Empire, little known in the west, rivaled that of ancient Egypt, and left behind captivating works of art. The heartland of classical Hellenic culture is actually in Turkey, including cities such as Troy, Pergamum, Ephesus, Miletus and Halicarnassus. The Turks look back proudly to the times of Mehmet the Conqueror and Süleyman the Magnificent, when the Turkish Empire was rich, powerful and envied by the west. Turkey is also fascinating by the depth of the history and by the progression of kingdoms and empires which fostered a dozen great cultures: Hittite, Hellenic, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottoman, and more. Turkey is a big country, and the variety of things to see and to do is enormous. Turkey can easily keep you happy for weeks or even months. Once cloaked in dense forest, after Millennia of wood cutting Anatolia is now largely denuded. The Mediterranean coast west of Anatolia, the Black Sea area and north eastern Anatolia still have forest of considerable size. Turkey has a population approaching 60 million, including 10 million Kurd s, the great majority 98% being Sunni Muslim Turks, only about 15% is practicing all Muslin Religious duties. Officially there were no 'Kurd s' only Mountain Turks and the Kurdish language and other overt signs of Kurdish life were outlawed. The many military crackdowns embittered many Turkish Kurd, and the chemical weapon attack on the Iraqi Kurdish village Halabja sending thousands of refugees fleeing across to safety in Turkey. The plight of the Kurd s drew to the attention of Europe and USA, and resultant publicity led to a softening of Ankara's restrictions.

Mosk Ankara Our trip started in Antalya and we continued by bus to Ankara. On the way we visited the caves of Insuyu and the place Gordion, the capital of ancient Phrygia it lies 106 km west of Ankara in the village Yassihöyük. Archaeological teams have been excavating the 80 mounds at the site since 1950, and have uncovered 18 different levels of civilization from the Bronze Age to Roman times. The site, formerly a Hittite town, was occupied by the Phrygians as early as the 9th century BC. Although destroyed during the Cimmerian invasion, Gordion was later rebuild only to be conquered by the Lydians and the Persians in turn. Alexander the Great came through and cut the Gordian Knot in 333 BC, and the Galatian occupation of 278 BC put an end to what left of the city. In 1957 a team discovered intact the tomb of a Phrygian king buried here sometime between 750 and 725 BC. The royal tomb (Midas Tümülüsü) is 60 m high and 30 m in diameter. The archaeologists tunneled it from the side and found the body of a 61 to 65 years old man, 1,59 m tall surrounded with burial objects, but no weapons or jewelry. To update our knowledge of the Turkish Civilization, in Ankara we visited the museum of Anatolian Civilizations Kültür Bakanligi. The museum is housed in a restored covered market, build by order of Grand Vizier Mahmut Pasa in 1471, and the adjoining Kusunlu Han, an Ottoman warehouse.
Atatürk's Mausoleum called Anit Kabir, when you visit Ankara, a visit to the tomb is essential. Across the courtyard, on the east side, is a museum which holds memorabilia and personal effects of Atatürk. As you approach the tomb proper, the high stepping guards will jumping to action.

On the way to Samsun we made a stop at Bogaskale. The village lies 200 km east of Ankara off the highway to Samsun and is well worth visiting as the site of Hatusas, the Hittite capital. Hatusas was once a great and impressive city, well defended by stone walls over six km length. Today the ruins consist mostly of reconstructed foundations, walls and a few rock carvings, but there are several more interesting features. The first site you come to is the Büyük Mabed, or great temple of the storm god, a vast complex that's almost a town in itself, with its own water and draining system, storerooms and ritual altars. It dates from the 14th century BC and it seems to be destroyed in around 1200 BC. There is much more to see as Sari Kale a fort, Aslani Kapi the Lion gate, Yer Kapi Sphinx gate, a 70 metre tunnel beneath the walls, and Kral Kapi the kings gate.
Yazilikaya is an other site just under three km from Bogaskale, it was always a naturalistic religious sanctuary open to the sky, but in later times monumental gateways and temple structures were build in front of the natural rock galleries. There are two natural rock galleries. In the large gallery, the low relief's of numerous cone head gods and goddesses marching in procession indicate that this was Hittites holiest religious sanctuary.
During the evening in Samsun at the Black Sea we were invited on a Turkish wedding party, a nice experience. From Samsun we traveled to Trabzon along the Black Sea coast with pretty green forest. On the way we were invited, by Dutch speaking Turks, to drink some apple tea. And in the small village Yalikoy we gave some assistance (to eat up) to crack hazelnuts. Turkey grows much of the world's supply of hazelnuts, and a large volume of pistachios and walnuts.
The modern town of Trabzon is the largest port along Eastern Black Sea coast. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of formally closed borders, citizens of the Soviet Union's republics, particularly Georgia and Armenia, flooded into Turkey and with them a lot of Natashas. The main reasons for visiting Trabson are to see the medieval church of Aya Sofya and to poke around the alpine scenery to Sumela, a dramatic Byzantine monastery carved out of a sheer rock cliff. Its a mysterious, eerie place, especially when mist swirl among the tops of the trees in the valley below.

Zigano pass From Trabzon we continue our trip to Erzurum via Maçka. From Maçka, we began the long, slow climb along a serpentine mountain road through active landslide zones to the breathtaking Zigana Geçidi (Zigano pass) at an altitude of 2030 m. The landscape is one of the sinuous valleys and cool pine forest with dramatic light. The dense, humid air of the coast disappears as you rise and becomes light and dry as you reach the south side of the Dogu Karadeniz Daglari (Eastern Black Sea Mountains). Along with the mountains who vary from green into red and yellow also the towns and villages change: Black Sea towns look vaguely Balkan or central Asian. We reached Bayburt, 195 km from Trabzon, and we are well into the rolling steppe and low mountains of the high Anatolian Plateau. A dry desolate place, Bayburt has a big medieval fortress. The road from Bayburt passes through green, rolling farm country with stands of poplar trees and flocks of brown-fleeced sheep. At an altitude of 2370 m we pass Kop Geçidi a monument for the countless soldiers who lost their lives fighting for this pass under the most dire conditions during the War of Independence. In Erzurum we visit the Çifte Minareli Medrese, a Koran school from 1253, build by Aleattin Keykubat II, sun of the Seljuk Sultan. At the end of the courtyard is the tomb of Huant Hatun the sultan's daughter.

Ani ghost city From Ezurum we traveled to Dogubayazit. On the way we made a stop at Kars to get a permit to visit Ani. Since Ani stands so near the Armenian border, you must have permission from the Turkish authorities to visit it. The procedure for getting permission is reminiscent of the old soviet-style 'make work' system. Your first view of Ani is stunning; wrecks of great stone buildings adrift on a sea of grass, landmarks in a ghost city where once more than 100.000 people lived. Use your imagination to people the one and two-storey buildings which would have crowded the city streets, with the great churches looming above them. Ani was selected by King Ashot III (950-957) as the site of his new capital, when he moved from Kars. Many new rulers took over the city until the Mongols arrived in 1239, but the nomadic Mongols had no use for city life, so they cared little when the great earthquake of 1319 destroyed much of Ani's beauty. Ani lost what revenues it managed to retain and the city died. Early 19th century the city is discovered again as a ghost city. It is very interesting to wander around and explore the remains, some of them are in very good condition.
Dogubayazit at only 35 km from the Iranian border is a quiet small city. A range of bare, jagged mountains tower above the town, while in the front of it stretches a table-flat expanse of wheat fields and grazing land. On the northern side of this flatness rises Mt Ararat 5137 m, an enormous volcano capped with ice en often shrouded in dark clouds, the supposed resting place of Noah's Ark.

Ishak pasha Head east, five km from town, to get to Ishak Pasa Sarayi. It's a pleasant walk , although you may feel rather isolated. The building was begun in 1685 by Çolak Abdi Pasa and completed in 1784 by his sun. The magnificent gold-plated doors which once hung here were removed by the Russians an now grace the Hermitage museum. Although ruined, the 366 rooms fortress-like palace has many elements which are in good condition. It is not hard to imagine that it was a palace out of the 1001 Night Stories. The palace was once equipped with central heating and sewerage systems, and with running water. The palace is build on a hill and from the minaret and through the windows the views are magnificent. Use your imagination when you are walking around, especially to people the harem rooms.
On the way to Van we use our lunch at the Muradya falls, a beautiful place with a nice restaurant to reach via a small long suspension-bridge.

Lake Van During WWI the Ottomans destroyed the old city of Van before the Russians occupied it in 1915. Ottoman forces counterattacked but were unable to drive the invaders out, and remained, rebuild, under Russians occupation until the armistice of 1917. The city is uninspiring without worth seeing items. Lake Van (Van Gölü)is a highly alkaline lake and was formed when the volcano named Nemrut Dagi blocked its natural outflow. The water level is now maintained by evaporation which results in a high mineral concentration and extreme alkalinity. The lake is at an altitude of 1750 m and covering 3700 square km surrounded by high mountains of 3000 to 4000 metres is very imposing with exciting views. We made a nice boat trip to Akdamar Kilisesi with the Church of the Holy Cross. One of the marvels of Armenian architecture, build by Gagik Artzruni in 921.

Batman bridge To Diyarbakir via the beautiful Tatvan pass, 2535 metres, through the East Anatolian highlands is a long but very interesting trip. It is Kurdish area, and it's a pity that our Turkish guide is to afraid to make many stops, and if he make a stop it's always close to a police post. One of the many worth seeing item is the Batman bridge, a beautiful humpbacked stone bridge build by the Artukid Turks in 1146. Diyarbakir is famous, as the center of the Kurdish separatist insurgency. Traditional life continues nonetheless. Many of the men wear the traditional baggy trousers, and older women have black head coverings which they gather in front as veils. It come to a suprise that this city, set in the midst of vast, rocky-strewn plain, prides itself especially on its watermelons. The prize-winning melons weigh a mere 40 to 60 kg. When you walking through the streets they regular invite you for tea, but the intention is to sell you something. The old city is between its ancient walls which extend more than 5.5 Km. Considering that Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates valleys, saw the down of world's first great empires, it's no suprise that Diyarbakir's history begins with the Hurrian Kingdom of Mitanni 1500 BC. We overnight in the old but atmospheric Otel Büyük Kervan Saray, funny but very hot.

Kurdish woman We travelling from Diyarbakir through Urfa to Harran, in the early days a important fortress today a simple small village only know for its Trullihouses a kind of beehive houses which give it a feeling of deep antiquity. But are not surprised when you find inside a big refrigerator (on gas). They live by farming and smuggling, and now await the wealth expected to come with the development of South East Anatolian. In the meantime they still use the camel as pack-animal. It seems that Harran is one of the oldest continuously inhabited spots on earth, also Abram stayed here for a few years. We overnight in Sanliurfa in early days Ur a mixture of impressions. in the shadow of a mighty medieval fortress, grey bearded men toss chickpeas into a pool full of sacred carp or gather at a cave said to be the birthplace of the patriarch Abram with the holy well Rohas en Hali Rahman Gölü. It is possible that non Muslims visit the well but women and men separated, but first shoes out washing foot and ears. On the south side of the pool you will find a beautiful park and two mosque.

Apollo From Urfa we continued our trip to Adiyaman through the area of Eufraat and Tigris called Mesopotamia, the old paradise with the court of Eden. For sentimental reasons you have to cross the Eufraat by feet. Here is the big Ataturk flood-control build, a enormous project which was nearly finished during our visit. Local children offering you fossilized animals founded in the rubbish of the dam. I got a nearly perfect fossilized Turtle, may be the one who is named by Adam "Turtle". From Adiyaman they pick us up with small buses for a trip to the 2159 metres high Nemrut Dagi where the Syrian King Antiochus I in 100 BC ordered that the fabulous temples and funerary mound be build on the top of Nemrut. Nobody knew anything about Nemrut Dagi until 1881, when Ottoman geologist making a survey was astounded to come across this remote mountaintop full of statues. The summit was formed when a petty, megalomaniac pre-Roman king cut two ledges in the rock, filled them with colossal statues of himself and the gods, then ordered an artificial mountain peak of crushed rock 50 m high to be piled between them. Earthquakes have toppled the heads from most of the statues but many of the colossal bodies sit silently in rows. How these enormous statues are transported to this high level, which is most of year covered with snow, is a mystery. But it is a breathtaking view especially with sunrise when the statues coloring red and look like alive.

Cappadocia We continued our trip to Cappadocia, to the village Avanos a much more touristic area with by the guide planned visits to carpets and onyx factories. The history of Cappadocia is not a mystery: It began some 10 million years ago with the eruptions of three volcanoes Erciyas Dagi, Melindiz Dagi and Golludag. The eruptions spread a thick layer of hot volcanic ash over the region which hardened into soft porous stone called tufa. Over aeons of geological time wind, water, sand and sun erosion wore away portions of the tufa, carving it into elaborated and unearthly shapes. Boulders of hard stone, caught in the tufa and then exposed by erosion, protect the tufa directly beneath from further erosion. The result is a column or cone of tufa with a boulder perched on top, whimsically called a peribaca, or "fairy chimney" some 30 m high. Entire valleys are filled with these formations, many of them amusingly phallic, goblin, toadstool and conical caps in appearance, most of them beautiful colored by the minerals. As soon men learned to use tools they discovered that the tufa was easily worked with primitive tools, a cave could be carved out very quickly and, if the family expanded, more easy carving could produce a nursery or storeroom in next to no time. Later on they went underground, carving elaborated multi-level cave cities beneath the surface of the earth and only coming to the surface to tend their field. Why they did that is a mystery and where is all the rubbish out of 100 metres deep enormous cities? Safety underground is only necessary by threatening from the air (4000 years ago?) And why so deep in the darkness if there is plenty of space outside? When the first Christianity arrived in Cappadocia, its adherents found that cave churches, complete with elaborate decoration, could be carved from the rock as easily as dwellings. Large Christian communities thrived here and their rock-hewn churches became a unique art form. Use your imagination when you are walking around and realize that nearly everything you see is used many time before for many other purposes.

Minaret On the way to Konya we made a stop at 100 km before Konya close near the village Akseray to see the restored seray Sultan Hani, these halting-places were used by the traders with their camels to rest or storage their goods. A camel is able to cover a distance of about 30 km a day which is also the distance between the halting-places. Most of the serays are nice decorated buildings with very thick walls, inside you will find a large stable for the camels and lot of smaller rooms for the traders and to store the goods. Don't miss the wonderful carved portal of Sultan Hani, the raised-up central mecid and the huge ahir, or stable, at the back.
Konya our destination is a very old town dated from the time of the Hittits, it gives home to half a million inhabitants and is the holy city of the Seljuks and a favorite with devout Muslims. Konya is known by the Dervishes and Mevlana, which is a by the Turkish government forbidden excess within the Muslims religion. Mevlevi workshop ceremony is a ritual dance, or sema, representing union with god. The dervishes enter, dressed in long white robes with full skirts represent their shrouds. Over them they wear voluminous black cloaks symbolizing their worldly tombs; their tall conical red felt hats represent their tombstones. The male choir and the orchestra of small drums, gourd viol and bow, and open-tube reed flute begins music, and the dervishes unfurl their arms and begin to whirl. Pivoting on their left heels, the dervishes whirl even faster, reaching ecstasy with blissful expression. The breathy, haunting music of the flute is perhaps the most striking sound during the ceremony. The Mevlana museum, 16th century Selim Mosque, Aziziye Mosque, Ince Minare Mosque and the Great Karatay Seminary are the most beautiful and interested places to visit.

We are nearly at the end of our roundtrip, but first we have to travel through the Taurus mountains to the Manavgat falls. Although, a touristic attraction which is part of all programs, the falls are beautiful and worth seeing. In total we traveled 5000 km, and we may say that we have seen Turkey. The surrounding of Antalya is definitely not mine destination, many ugly hotels and very humid.

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