Classical Turkey Sights

Istanbul

The only city in the world to span two continents and to have been the capital of both Christian and Islamic empires, this ever-growing metropolis of the latest 16 million inhabitants is Turkey’s cultural and social fulcrum. More acutely than anywhere else in the country, here East and West meet in an endlessly fascinating meeting pot.
 
First and foremost visitors are drawn to the famous skyline. Domes and minarets of colossal mosques rise in moody outline, above waterways which bear a constant flow of snaking traffic. Whether veiled in the morning haze, at sunset or at night, no urban sprawl is more memorable.
 
There are enough outstanding palaces, mosques, museums, and churches to satisfy the most ravenous culture vulture. Yet even more absorbing is the city’s contemporary life. Lake many great metropolises, Istanbul feels on the edge of chaos but is borne along by invisible force.
 
Part of the city’s allure is its setting, where Europe faces Asia across the winding turquoise waters of the Bosphorus, making it the only city in the world to bridge two continents.
 
Here, where the waters of the Black Sea blend into the Marmara, East and West mingle and merge in the cultural melting pot of Turkey’s largest metropolis. Busy Oriental bazaars co-exist with European shops; kebab shops and coffee houses sit alongside international restaurants; modern office buildings and hotels alternate with Ottoman minarets along the city’s skyline; traditional music and Western pop, belly-dancing and ballet, Turkish wrestling and soccer all compete for the attention of the Istanbul audience.
 
The strategic location of Istanbul owes its long-held historical significance at the mouth of the Bosphorus . In the words of the 16th-century French traveller Pierre Giles: ‘The Bosphorus with one key opens and closes two continents, two seas’.

Gordion

It was the capital city of the Phrygians, the Hittites’ successors in Anatolia in 1200 BC. Gordion came to its prime in the 8th century BC, under Gordios and Midas. An oracle had prophesied that whoever undid the Gordion Knot would conquer all Asia: in 333 BC Alexander the Great severed it with his sword. On the acropolis mound you can see foundations of Phrygian houses called megarons, while over 100 burial mounds spread across the surrounding plains which are called Phrygian Valleys. The coal miners helped excavate the burial chamber of the largest, the Great Tumulus. Reconstructed in Ankara’s Museum of Anatolian Civilizations with its grave findings, it may have belonged to King Midas or King Gordios.

The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara

All artifacts are laid out in chronological sequence, these almost exclusively pre-classical finds. Neolithic man is represented in wall red paintings and Rubenesque mother goddess figurines in baked clay found at Catalhoyuk, near Konya. The Bronze Age section has famous Hatti bronze stag statuettes and gorgeous gold ear plugs, goblets and headbands found in the royal graves at Alacahoyuk. In the Assyrian Trading Colony section look for cuneiform tablets found at Kultepe, near Kayseri. The Old Hittite gallery’s highlights are the ceremonial bulls with grumpy faces from Hattusas. Many Phrygian artifacts are brought from Gordion. The most miraculously preserved Phrygian art work is an ornate wooden table. Numerous reliefs and monumental lion and sphinx statues in the central hall are displayed, all found in Alacahoyuk and Hattusas.

Bursa

With various Ottoman monuments, historic baths, silk, Iskender Kebabs aplenty, and a cable-car ride away for good skiing and hiking territory. Bursa has much going for it. Yet despite being impressively spilt along the wooded slopes of Uludag (Great Mountain), it’s nickname Green Bursa has become outdated. Today the city is more of an industrial sprawl and is as traffic-choked as anywhere in Turkey.
 
Seized from the Byzantines in 1326, Bursa was the capital of the Ottoman Empire before Edirne. The founder of the Ottoman dynasty and five of his successors are buried here, and the Ottoman style of building emerged in their monuments. You’ll need two days to do these and other sights justice.
 
The city center is Koza Park. On its west side, the Ulu Camii (Great Mosque), built in 1399, is notable for having a fountain within the mosque. On the north side the Koza Inn, an arcaded 15th century Caravanserai, is the center of Turkey’s silk trade. In June and July dealers haggle over silkworm cocoons; throughout the year silk ties, shirts, waistcoats, dresses and shawls are for sale. Behind lies a bazaar of bewildering proportion and density, on various levels including a Bedesten filled with jewelry. After Istanbul’s bazaars, it’s so refreshingly authentic. Eastwards from here, you’ll hear the smithies at work on the street of the Ironmongers. Bursa’s two most vaunted attractions, built for Mehmet l (1413-21). The Green Mosque has a dizzyingly beautiful interior coated in the very best Iznik tiles, especially on the sultan’s loge and in the side chambers used for his meetings. Mehmet lies in a multicolored sarcophagus in the Green Tomb, itself tiled in turquoise. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in the mosque’s college contains a display on Karagoz puppetry, a Turkish version of Punch and Judy using leather puppets which originated in Bursa.
 
At the Hisar terrace area, there are very memorable the tombs of the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, Osman, and his son Orhan. In the Muradiye district further west, the timbered Ottoman houses with overhanging balconies can be seen behind the park. A 17th century Ottoman House has been restored and opened to the visitors. It’s on the same square as the Muradiye Complex, built in the 1420s for Murat II, father of Mehmet the Conqueror, the last sultan to rule from Bursa. His tomb clusters with nine others in an inappropriately serene garden: most inhabitants are princes killed by family members so they could not compete for the Sultan’s throne. Many of the tombs are spectacular works of art, with Iznik tilework, frescoes and calligraphy.

Pergamum

During the Attalid dynasty, Pergamum was the most splendid city in Asia Minor. The more impressive site is the Acropolis sight. Remains of temples, palaces, agoras and gymnasia are scattered on the stunning hilltop terrain, all facing to modern Bergama. Recent years, the Temple of Trajan has partially rebuilt. It stands above a remarkable theater hewn into the steep hillside. Pergamum’s old library used to be housing 200,000 books, it was the second in importance only to Alexandria’s library. The books were made of the treated animal skin which is called parchment, was invented at Pergamum.
 
The Red Basilica used to be Temple sites for the Egyptian gods on the skirts of the Acropolis hillside. The Byzantines converted it into the Basilica of St. John the Apostle; later a small mosque added to one of its towers.
 
Though Pergamum’s most important findings reside at the Pergamum Museum in Berlin. Here in Bergama, there’s a good little archaeological museum which houses many votive offerings to Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. This Asclepion site is located on the southern outskirts of Bergama. It was one of the ancient world’s leading medical centers in the 2nd century AD.

Troy

The ancient Troy was discovered by an amateur German archaeologist and Homer fanatic, Heinrich Schliemann, in 1871. The diggers have found nine Troys on the top of the each other. The oldest layer remains were from an Early Bronze Age settlement (3000-2500BC). During the Hellenistic and Roman ages, Troy became a metropolis between 334BC and 400AD known as Ilium Novum. Schliemann found a cache of jewelry known as Priam’s Treasure. Now, this treasure is in Moscow. Troy and the Trojan War were explained well in the Homer’s IIiad.

Gallipoli – Dardanelles – Hellespont

These were the scenes for some of World War I’s most ferocious fightings. In an attempt to seize the Dardanelles, the Allies hoped to capture Istanbul thereby creating a maritime supply route to Russia and opening up a second front against the Germans. But the Gallipoli assault, involving New Zealand, French and Australian forces, begun in 1915 and followed by nine months of trench warfares, was a disastrous failure. There were around 250,000 casualties on both the Allied and Ottoman Turkish sides.

Edirne

Across Turkey, this city is well known for the oil-wrestling competitions and the superb Ottoman mosques. The Ottomans renamed Byzantine Adrianople to Edirne, after capturing it in 1361. It served as their capital for 91 years, and as the base for their conquest of the Constantinople. The following sights are Edirne’s top tourist attractions: the famous architect Sinan’s Selimiye Mosque, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, the Eski Mosque, the old Bazaar, the Three-balconied Mosque, the bustling Semiz Ali Pasa Bazaar and the 100-domed Ottoman health complex Beyazit which is located in the northwest of the city center.

Assos in Behramkale

The ancient settlers came here across the Greek island of Lesbos in the 7th century BC. The ruins here are the massive Hellenistic city fortifications and Asia Minor’s oldest surviving earlier Doric temple which is built for Athena. The Assos’ heyday was around the 4th century BC. One time, Assos became home to Aristotle.

(Visited 26 times, 1 visits today)