Turkiye Legacy Sights

İstanbul

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’.

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being impressively spilt along the wooded slopes of Uludag (Great Mountain), it’s nickname Green Bursa has become outdated.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.

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.
 

Antalya

Busy Antalya, 50 km east of Phaselis, was one of the major cities of ancient Pamphylia, settled more than a thousand years before the Christian era by Greek refugees fleeing from the sack of Troy. Antalya and its now-ruined, neighboring Pamphylian cities of Perge, Aspendos, and Side then passed through the hands of the Persians and Alexander the Great before becoming a sleepy backwater of the Roman Empire.
 
What will strike you first about Antalya is not its past but its heady involvement with the here and now. Turkey’s fastest growing city is spreading in pell mell fashion over a plateau beneath the Taurus mountain range. However, it’s Kaleici, the old town surrounding the harbor, that will be of most interest to visitors.
 
The Antalya Museum is at the western edge of the central city center and houses an outstanding collection of archeological artifacts. Many of the holdings are from the ruins at nearby Perge and range from a game board to statuary to a pantheon, reassembled here in its entirety. Other curiosities of local origin include Lycian coins from the seventh century B.C., some of the first coinage to ever be minted, and bones said to be those of Saint Nicholas, (Santa Claus). More skeletal remains (of a prehistoric man), recline poetically in a broken funeral urn.

Hattusas

It’s located at the above rustic village of Bogazkale on the east of Ankara, and two hundred kilometers away. Hattusas was the Hitttite capital city during 1700 – 1200 BC. The remains date mainly from the end of this period. Few of them stand more than waist high’ any sculpture of aesthetic merit has been removed. Top highlights in Hattusas ancient city are the Great Temple, the Great Fortress, the King’s Gate, Yerkapi, and the Lion Gate.
 
The village has a museum with some minor Hittite pieces. Most of the visitors are impressed by the Hittites principal religious center which is called Yazilikaya (Inscribed Cliff). Etched into the rock walls of two little ravines, the narrower probably a royal burial chamber, has numerous bas-reliefs of gods and goddesses. Rows of interlinked warrior gods with pointed hats march in unison, while important deities like the weather god Teshub and the sun goddess Hepatu, and King Tudhaliya 4, who may have built the sanctuary, each stand 1.2m high.
 
Goreme is the pivotal point of Cappadocia. It’s a very lovely tourist town. Goreme has the region’s top sight , the Goreme Open-Air Museum. The three best in the Museum grounds are the so-called columned cave churches, Elmali Church, Karanlik Church, and Carikli Church. Just outside from the museum proper on the road, we must not miss to see is the Tokali Church. It’s the best very preserved one in the entire Cappadocia region.
 
Uchisar has a big citadel perforated with troglodyte rooms like Swiss cheese. It’s easy to climb to its pinnacled summit for 360-degree spectacular views. Uchisar’s scenic panorama is better, especially at sunset, looking over a volcanic landscape the texture of whipped cream, tinged blue, red, and pink from mineral deposits.
 
Urgup, Cappadocia’s tourist capital, offers the best restaurants and accommodations. Top boutique cave hotels are all located in here. Ottoman stone houses set into the volcanic rocks are worth admiring; the sun-dried apricots, raisins, and pumpkin seeds are the best known local produce along with Urgup’s Kilims and Rugs. In this town, the wineries sell the delicious bottled products. Turasan’s wines have the best reputation in the area.
 
Avanos, on the banks of the Kizilirmak river, is really just at the corner of the Central Cappadocia. The clay that gives the Red River its name in Turkish and the color is used to make the earthenware pottery for which the town is well known in Turkey. We can watch potters at their wheels during the visit.
 
Derinkuyu & Kaymakli underground cities cut into the hillside valleys were not only home to early Byzantine Christian communities but most probably inhabited by the Hittites much earlier times. Derinkuyu is larger than Kaymakli. It may have as many as 20 floors, eight of which are open to public to explore. You descend from the surface like a rabbit into a warren. A winery, stables, a missionary school, refectories, a church and a meeting hall appear, all completely lit and ventilated. Deep wells are sunk at the bottom for water. Many ventilation shafts connect with the surface, corridors join cave rooms on each floor, flights of steps link each level. During the visit, you’ll see circular stone doors which were rolled across the entrances in times of danger, like corks in wine bottles; the hole in their middle was for shooting arrows at invaders. If you have some claustrophobia or difficulties to bend, don’t go down, since the connecting passages are very narrow and low.
 
Ihlara is a beautiful valley to hike and explore. This long, twisting gash in a tawny plateau with a gushing stream, willows and poplars, was a monastic center from the 6th to 14th century during the Byzantines. Dwellings pockmark the sheer sides and signs guide you to frescoed churches in the rock close to the valley floor. The most interesting ones are Yilanli Church for its snake paintings, and Agacalti Church which is located underneath it.

Konya

Konya is located on the vast Anatolian plains. It was a Hittite settlement, an important Roman outpost, a center of the early Christian church, and a Selcuk state’s capital. Despite this long history, Konya would have long ago settled into relative obscurity were it not for the Sufi mystic Celaleddin Rumi, who became known as the Mevlana and founded the sect known as Mevlevi, or Whirling Dervishes.
 
The Mevlana’s tomb and the adjoining Mevlana Museum are among the most important pilgrimage destinations in Turkey and the Islamic world, visited by thousands who come to pay homage to the great mystic and thinker. Rumi was born in Central Asia at Belk in 1207 and fled to Konya when he was 20. Here he met his mentor, a wandering dervish named Sems-i-Tabriz. Rumi devoted himself to study with Sems and was inconsolable when his master disappeared (possibly murdered by jealous colleagues of Rumi). Turning himself to Sufi teachings, he was inspired to write several volumes of spiritual poetry, the Mathnawi. He became an ardent teacher, encouraging his growing band of disciples to embrace love and charity, as well as such enlightened concepts as respect for women.
 
The brotherhood that Rumi founded is best known to outsiders for its distinctive and beautiful Sema, a ceremony in which dancers whirl to symbolically free themselves of earthly ties. The position of the arms, with the right arm extending to heaven and the left to the floor, reassuringly conveys the notion that the dancers are conduits through which the grace of God is flowing to humanity. The dancers’ garments also have symbolic significance: The hat represents a tombstone, the cloak is the tomb ( and is shed during the dance to represent escape from earthly bonds), and the white skirt is the funeral shroud.
 
Through the Mevlevi have been forbidden to practice openly since all religious brotherhoods were banned during the Republic’s early years, the government has continued to promote the Sema for its folkloric merit; today, an increasing number of the dancers also openly follow the teachings of the Mevlana. The dervishes perform in Konya during an annual December festival, though you can see them at other times in Istanbul, Cappadocia, and elsewhere throughout Turkey.
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