My Trip to Turkey.
May 8 - 19, 2014 (by Phyllis)
An amazing trip indeed: an 11-day tour around western Turkey . . .
Starting in Istanbul, we stayed in the old city and visited nearby Aya Sofia, a museum now converted from the Ottoman mosque which in turn had converted it from the Byzantium Cathedral built in 800 AD. Layers of architecture and art surviving the changes of culture are preserved on the walls as a museum today. The beauty of the original interior and huge central dome with its lesser side domes is awe inspiring when gazing up into it, so spacious and beautiful.
The nearby Blue Mosque too is exquisite, with its more than 42,000 blue tiles on the inside domes and walls to give it its name. The diffusion of color, light, and spaciousness offers not only beauty to the eye but upliftment to the spirit: Ottoman art and architecture at its most exquisite. We explored the Golden Horn and cruised along the Bosphorus, admiring the million-dollar homes along its shores; explored the large covered Market with more than 4000 shops; and bought saffron in the Spice Market.
We visited just about every archeological site in and around Istanbul and along the Aegean coast: Gallipoli, Troy, Ephesus, Pergamon and more before heading inland along the Meander River climbing onto the central plateau area. The layers of different civilizations stacked on top of each other was evident in each of the carefully excavated sites.
Leaving Istanbul, we travelled by coach along the north shore of the Sea of Marmara to Galipoli to see the sites of this terrible battle field, then crossed The Dardenelles at the car ferry port of Cannukkale. We visited Ephesus, which is truly eye opening and magnificent, giving a rich impression of what Roman life here might have been like with its avenues, baths and toilets, market places and shops, the library, and its magnificent amphitheater.
The geography and vegetation changes spectacularly with lush well-tended farmlands, with a great variety of Mediterranean crops: grapes, strawberries which we enjoyed in abundance, orchards of peaches, plums, and nut trees. We also crossed paths with travelers following in the footsteps of St. Paul and visited the Church of the Virgin Mary who died in this area.
For most of this inland route, we followed one of the many roads of the famed Silk Route. The higher plateau offers spectacular geographical volcanic sites like the hot spring area of Pamukkale, with its spectacular travertine terraces deposited by the minerals in the milky warm water flowing over the hillsides, and Cappadocia with "fairy chimneys" and underground cave dwellings dug out of tuffa, compacted volcanic ash deposited millions of years ago from nearby dormant volcanoes subsequently eroded into this fantastic landscape. To escape persecution, Early Christians dug out underground cities, 10 stories deep, with interconnecting tunnels, rooms, air ducts and small chapels housing as many as 10,000 people. Only recently have they been discovered and excavated for public viewing.
We visited the large city of Konya and its magnificent mausoleum and museum to honor Rumi, locally known as Mendevi, much revered in Turkey. I loved visiting there and learning all about his life and teachings where he also introduced the discipline of the whirling dervishes: a very rigorous training and practice much respected, taught and practiced in Konya and throughout Turkey.
One of the largest and best preserved caravansary, ornately built like a huge fort, is located in Konya, built in the 15th century where the silk route traders camped overnight with hundreds of camels carrying their goods between China and the Mediterranean. We stopped to see inside and tried to imagine life overnighting in many such as these, traveling along the Silk Route.
A highlight was attending a genuine "performance" of the whirling dervishes in a converted caravansary in Cappodocia, performed truly as a spiritual discipline. A very moving experience. We were allowed to make a movie or take photos after the main practice was over, when a short excerpt was repeated for us to photograph.
We ended or trip in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, visiting the tomb of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in 1924 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. We departed Ankara, bedecked with large Turkish flags on all public buildings to celebrate their anniversary of Independence on May 19.