Hills of all sizes with vineyards and sunflower fields as far as the eye can see. This is the region of Turkey known as Trakya. It is separated from the rest of Turkey by the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelle Straits. The first thing a visitor coming from Europe into Edirne would see is the Selimiye mosque, a masterpiece of the architect Sinan. It seems as though this city boasts proudly of hosting the structures most characteristic of Ottoman architecture. The cities found in this region are Balikesir, Bilecik, Bursa, Canakkale, Edirne, Istanbul, Kirklareli, Kocaeli, Sakarya, Tekirdag and Yalova.
The region of Marmara has a turbulent past. 481 years before the birth of Jesus, during the II Persian War, the Persian King Xerxes made a bridge of boats over the Dardanelle Straits between Abydos and Sestos. In the same place we have the renowned love affair of Leander and Hera, who were buried in the waters of the strait. And, it was here that Mustafa Kemal won the first big victory against enemy forces in World War I. The lively city of Izmit with its fruit orchards and vegetable gardens is now an industrial centre. Nearby is Hereke famous for its carpets.
The city of Gebze, on the north of the Marmara Sea, has a very rich historical past and the city of Iznik, renowned during Ottoman times for its glazed tiles, is worth paying a visit. The land of silk, Bursa was the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire. In this city, which has come to be identified with lush green, places worth visiting are as follows: The Green Mosque (Yesil Cami), The Green Tomb (Yesil Turbe) and its splendid gardens, The Magnificent Mosque (Ulu Cami), Emir Sultan and Yildirim Mosques and the Ethnographic Museum.
The country’s first ski resort was built on Uludag Mountain, which soars into the air just south of the city. Tekirdag, which has beautiful examples of Ottoman architecture and broad beaches, is known for its vineyards and wine festivals. Balikesir is the center of a broad and important region. To the north is Gonen with its famous thermal springs and the commercial port of Bandirma. After Istanbul this port is the biggest in the Marmara Sea. On the shores of Lake Manyas near Barindirma is the Bird Heaven (Kuscenneti) National Park. One the shores of the Marmara Sea are a whole host of beautiful beaches and holiday resorts. Among them are Cinarcik, Armutlu, Gemlik, Mudanya, Erdek, the Marmara and Avsa Islands, Denizkent, Sarköy, Silivri and lastly Yalova, a site famous for its thermal springs.
If one were to claim that the most scenic vistas in Anatolia can be found on the coasts of the Aegean, he could not be accused of exaggerating. In the words of Herodotus, the Aegean coasts "have the most beautiful sky and the best climate in the world." The bays and peninsulas, coves and golden beaches stretch the length of these beautiful shores. In this region where the countless events of mythology took place, you will encounter the theatres, temples and agora’s of ancient cities at almost every turn. The city of Troy immortalized by Homer and Pergamum, the art and cultural centre and capital city of one of the most powerful kingdoms of the day, are both located on Aegean soil. The provinces located in the Aegean region are Afyon, Aydin, Denizli, Izmir, Kutahya, Manisa, Mugla and Usak. Situated in Edremit Bay, at the meeting point of beautiful sea, the health-giving springs of Akcay and a pine forest, the scenic Ayvalik has been called the "Olive-grove Riviera." As you leave the shores of the bay and head south past a countless number of splendid holiday resort areas, you come to Foca, famous for the heroic Turkish sailors based here. If you want to see Sardis, the capital of the wealthy Lydian king, Croesus, you will have to detour inland a bit.
Located on the bay of the same name, Izmir is a modern city brimming with life. It is also a bustling commercial centre and shopping in its busy markets is sure to be a pleasurable experience. The peninsula of Cesme with its brilliant waters, superb beaches and thermal springs lies to the west of Izmir.
Among the most famous cities of the ancient world, Ephesus was one of the biggest cities of the Roman era. A treasury of all the riches of Ionian culture, Ephesus had a reputation for philosophy and critical thinking. The Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, as well as countless statues, theatres, libraries, markets and smaller temples were all architectural symbols of the city’s fame. Further to the south you will see the ancient city of Priene, built according to a geometric plan designed by the great architect of Milet, Hippodamos. Milet was a great centre of commerce and thought in the ancient world and important developments, scientific and otherwise, took place here. The nearby Didim, though not one of the ancient cities, is still famous for its magnificent temple dedicated to Apollo.
On the Izmir-Antalya road, Aphrodisia’s (Geyre) was an important cultural and art centre famous for its training in sculpture. On the same road is found the world-famous Pamukkale. Passing this way without stopping and taking a look is unthinkable. The plentiful calcium-rich thermal waters flowing out of the mountain have, over time, created an extraordinary masterpiece. Here one may bath in the health-giving waters while gazing at this natural phenomenon, which is unparalleled in world geography. The ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis lie behind this calcium terraced mountain. When it comes to holiday resorts its the first places that come to mind in the southern part of the Aegean region are Bodrum, Marmaris, Datca, Koycegiz and Fethiye.
Bodrum (ancient Halikarnas) is the birthplace of the great historian Herodotus. The mausoleum of King Mausoleas was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Marmaris, with its modern marina surrounded by its lush mountains and hills, is an alluring vacation getaway with clean crystal clear waters. Nearby is Datca adorned with flowers and a little further on Koycegiz with its pristine highlands, then it is the Lycian Graves, the Dead Sea (Olu Deniz) and Fethiye. Marmaris is an absolute paradise of endless sand and eternal blue sea.
South of the majestic Taurus Mountains, lie the shores of the Mediterranean Sea with its beaches of fine sand, its vistas of uncommon beauty, its many ancient ruins, its hidden coves and alluring vacation getaways. Here history and mythology are inseparably intertwined and there are many legendary stories that prove this fact. Let us briefly share two of them. The monster Chimera, who spew fire out of his mouth, is supposed to have lived in the mountains west of Antalya. The Lydian hero, Bellerofontes, cut the monsters head of with his sword. Today, the fire which rises out of the ground on the south eastern slopes of Mount Olympus (Tahtali Dag) is still said to be coming from the mouth of Chimera. The second legend is related to one of the unlucky love affairs of Apollo, the god of all the fine arts. Apollo falls in love with a beautiful girl named Daphne, but the girl is unresponsive to his overtures. One day while chasing Daphne in an area close to Antakya, Daphne’s feet turn into tree roots and her hands and arms become branches and limbs and she turns into a laurel tree, which is called ’defne’ in Turkish. According to early sources, Saint Paul was born in Tarsus and the mythological Santa Claus was actually born in the town of Patara and lived and died in what is today Kale. The shores of the Mediterranean are just as full of antique artifacts as are the shores of the Aegean. In the ancient Lycian region west of Antalya, one may see the matchless beauty of the mountain cities, Termessos and Arikand, as well as the coastal towns such as Olympos, Kale, Kekova and Kas. The ancient cities of Perge, Aspendos and Side are located on the coastal plain east of Antalya, which was called ’Pamphylia’.
Antalya is one of the Mediterranean’s most important cities and is Turkey’s hottest vacation spot, with the Konyalti beaches on the west and the Lara beaches to the east lying at the foot of Antalya’s massive mountain range. It is an attractive holiday getaway with palm-lined streets, beautiful parks, plentiful accommodation, restaurants, lots of night-time entertainment and a cozy marina. The symbol of this city, founded in the 2nd century BC is the Yivli Minaret, which dates back to the Selcuk era. The Asagi Duden Waterfall to the east of Antalya flows over huge boulders into the sea. West of Antalya is the cute little holiday town of Kemer, famous for its sandy beaches surrounded by pine forests and mountains. The next big town east of Antalya is Alanya, a panoramic port city on the southern slopes of the majestic Taurus Mountains surrounded with orange, lemon and banana groves. Used by the Selcuk Sultan, Aladdin Keykubat as a winter residence, Alanya has a shipyard that dates back to the same era and was one of the most advanced in the world at that time. It is also famous for its 9th century castle and its charming beaches. Near Anamur is a castle from the Middle Ages. It is situated between two beaches and is certainly as magnificent as any of the castles along the coast. The road from Anamur to Silifke with its endless curves and bends follows a route studded with breathtaking coastal vistas.
The dilapidated caves near Narlikuyu are called "Heaven and Hell" (Cennet ve Cehennem). The "Heaven" cave, which is quite large, also has a small church inside it. The castle of ’Kizkalesi’, which is situated in the water across from the medieval castle of Korykos, seems to rise out of the sea itself. Two of the surprises which lie on the road to Mersin are Kanlidivane and Viransehir, two old Roman cities. With is charming parks, its beach boulevards, commercial port and free trade zone, Mersin is ones of the most modern cities on the Mediterranean. East of Tarsus, the ’Cukurova’ plain is a fertile agricultural region known especially for raising cotton. In the middle of this plain is found the city of Adana, a rich city with a large textile industry. East of this region is the Dortyol (Issos) Plain where Alexander the Great defeated the Persian king Darius. As a result of his victory, a port city bearing his name was established and thus we have modern day Iskenderun.
Leaving Iskenderun to the southeast, the road goes through the Belen Pass to Antakya (Antioch). This first Christian community founded by Saint Peter has given Antakya a special religious significance. The first sermons were preached in a cave outside the city. It is visited today by many as a site of pilgrimage. Antakya also has a mosaic exhibit of unusual beauty in its museum.
Kahramanmaras is another province of the Mediterranean waiting "to be discovered." Though its cuisine resembles in some ways the cuisine of the surrounding regions, the peculiar and often subtle tastes of the Kahramanmaras cuisine with its specially made orchid drink (salep), its world famous ice-cream of goat and cows milk and its various peppers, along with its gilded silver, leather and copper works, which were famous throughout the Ottoman empire, are still alive and offer a unique experience to visitors.
Central Anatolia & Cappadocia Region
This central region is now the heart of modern Turkey’s political life and has been the centre of many significant societies and civilisations throughout history. The main cities in this region are Ankara, Cankiri, Eskisehir, Kayseri, Kirsehir, Konya, Nevsehir, Nigde, Sivas, Yozgat, Aksaray, Karaman and Kirikkale. Ankara, the modern-day capital, is located squarely in the middle of Central Anatolia and has been planned and developed for a contemporary society. The most visually impressive structure here is the Anitkabir mausoleum built for Ataturk, who founded the modern Republic of Turkey by winning the War for Independence and then made Ankara its capital.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is among the best museums in the country, and has exhibits from Anatolian dating from 50,000 BC to the 2nd century AD. In the surrounding areas, there are important settlements from early Anatolian civilizations. The Hittites migrated to the Anatolian plateau from the Caucus Mountains and set up the first kingdom in history to encompass the whole of Anatolia, from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and from the Aegean Sea stretching east. The capital of the Hittite Empire Hattushash, with massive walls and full of temples, (now Bogazkale) and the second largest city Shapinuva are both located northeast of Ankara in the province of Corum. Reliefs of all of the Hittite gods and goddesses can be seen in the open air temple in nearby Yazilikaya, which was an important pantheon of the Hittites.
Alacahoyuk is another important settlement, and is known for the sphinxes which can be seen at the city gates. Around the time of 1200 BC, the Phrygians came to the Anatolian Plateau from Europe and established their capital, Gordion, near Polatli west of Ankara. Alexander the Great was supposed to have become the ruler of Asia by virtue of ’undoing’ Gordion’s knot with his sword. The tomb of the Phrygian king Midas, who according to legend turned everything he touched into gold, is located near Gordion. Near Eskisehir and Afyon there are a number of Phrygian cities and places of worship. South of the vast fertile Konya plane on the northern slopes of the Toros Mountains, Catalhoyuk is one of the worldÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s oldest cities. Dating back to the Neolithic Era, it was an important cultural centre with many temples decorated with frescoes by city artisans.
Konya and the surrounding regions would later be ruled during the Chalcolithic, Bronze, Hittite, Phrygian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. It became the capital city of the Seljuk Empire in the 12th century and consequently experienced the most important Renaissance period of its long history. In the 13th century, Konya was completely transformed with Selcuk architecture. The great Turkish philosopher Mevlana, who believed in human love and said that mystical unity with God could be reached by the Sema, a whirling dance to music performed by the dervishes, lived in Konya and established a following here. Every year in December, Konya holds a Mevlana Week which includes performances of the Sema. Mevlana is buried with his father Bahaeddin Veled in the Green Tomb (Yesil Turbe), which has become the symbol of the city. The Dervish Lodge and Mevlana Museum adjacent to the tomb are open to the public.
Southwest of Konya is Beysehir Lake, a relatively undiscovered paradise full of natural beauty, and nearby Kubad Abad has the summer home of the Seljuk rulers, and a castle on Kizkalesi Island. The Esrefoglu Mosque and Tomb, in Beysehir, are important examples of the wooden architecture of the Selcuk. Northwest towards Aksehir is the home of Nasreddin Hoca, the famous 13th century folk philosopher whose brilliant wit, quick retorts and stories with subtle meanings is renowned far beyond the borders of Turkey. This much-loved icon died in 1284 and his tomb in Aksehir is the symbol of the city. In the Eskisehir region, the great poet Yunus Emre is buried in the village named after him. He was considered to be an eminent pioneer of Turkish poetry, who used language, idioms and concepts of the ordinary man in an unpretentious fashion to convey divine justice, love and friendship. Many people pay respects to his work by visiting his grave.
Black Sea Region
Beaches that seem to go on forever, mountains covered with verdant green and picturesque valley and plains. Fields of tea, hazelnuts, tobacco and corn. The winding blacktop road following the near strip of beach bounded by steep mountains falling, it would seem, straight into the sea. Bays, fishing villages and beaches. This is the Black Sea region. The following cities are all located in the Black Sea region: Amasya, Artvin, Bolu, Corum, Duzce, Giresun, Gumushane, Kastamonu, Ordu, Rize, Samsun, Sinop, Tokat, Trabzon Zonguldak, Bartin and Karabuk.
You can begin your trip in this charming luxuriantly green little region of ours from the endless hazelnut orchards and foaming sea of Akcakoca. Let us not neglect, however, to mention the industrial cities of Eregli, Zonguldak, Karabuk and two cities of the interior one, Safranbolu, which is full of examples of Turkish architecture of unrivalled beauty, the other city being Devek, famous for its intricately carved walking canes. Along thecoast you will come to the delightful recreational sites such as Inkum, Amasra and Cakraz. As you pass through Cide and Inebolu and approach Sinop, you might begin to wonder if there are still traces of the Amazons in the forests. As far as can be determined from mythological evidence the women warriors called Amazons lived in the region. The name of Sinop, one of the country’s province, comes from a queen of the Amazons named Sinope. The birthplace of the philosopher Diyojen, this city, with its natural bays protected from the winds, is one of the Black Seas best holiday spots.
Samsun is one of the Black Sea biggest ports and is a industrial and commercial centre. The first rays of light that would eventually lead to the birth of the Turkish Republic broke through the darkness here. The characteristic feature of the coast between Samsun and Trabzon are the extensive hazelnut orchards. The cities of Unye and Fatsa east of Samsun are popular holiday resorts with natural scenic beauty, beaches, accommodations, camping and restaurants. Ordu is a charming Black Sea city with hazelnut orchards stretching out for miles in every direction. The Castle of Giresun, perched upon a steep rocky slope, is like a crown upon the city. From the castle, the beaches of Giresun, stretching out like cords of gold are unforgettable. The Roman general Lucullus saw cherries for the first time in Giresun and liked them so much we had them introduced into Europe.
Another important commercial port on the Black Sea is Trabzon. As the beginning of Iran’s transit road, it connections with the ports of the other countries on the shores of the Black Sea. The Trabzon Castle was founded on an area shaped like a table and the architecture which has grown up around the castle reflects Byzantine, Commagene and Ottoman styles. The most important structure in Trabzon is the Ayasofya Museum. The interior is decorated with frescoes and on the exterior are a number of reliefs. The panoramic birds-eye view of the city which can be had from Boztepe Park and the Ataturk Mansion are splendid indeed. Near Macka inside the Altindere National Park is the Sumela Monastery. The Sumela Monastery, which is perched on high cliffs overlooking the Altindere valley, was founded in the 14th century by Alexius III. Inside the monastery is a church, a library, various other rooms and a sacred spring.
The area around Rize is the part of the country which receives the most precipitation. In this region where every conceivable hue of green can be see, tea is grown on terraced fields set into the mountainsides. It is the center of tea production in Turkey and the view from the Agricultural Park is as much like heaven as anyone could imagine. Hopa is the last Turkish port before reaching the Russian border. South of Hopa is the province of Artvin. Artvin was established on the terraced heights overlooking the Coruh River valley. Artvin’s highlands are very famous and there are still Georgian museum and churches in the area. Coruh , an area full of wild beauty, is ideal for river sports of all kinds.
Eastern Turkey Region
With its high mountain ranges, plateaus, plains and lakes, its creek and river beds splashed with hues of purple, brown, grey, yellow and red, and some of the best Turkish architecture anywhere, this region of Anatolia is like a historical documentary on ancient life. Sivas, Divrigi, Erzurum, Battalgazi, Harput, and Ahlat, all cities situated in this region, were important centres of Selcuk art. In Eastern Anatolia are the cities of Agri, Bingol, Bitlis, Elazig, Erzincan, Erzurum, Hakkari, Kars, Malatya, Mus, Tunceli, Van, Ardahan and Igdir, while in Southeastern Anatolia the larger cities are Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Mardin, Siirt, Sanliurfa, Batman, Sirnak and Kilis. Erzurum is located on a large plain at an altitude of 1950 meters. In the city, there are many religious schools, tombs and mosques from both the Selcuk and Ottoman period which are well-worth seeing. The city of Kars in the northeast is famous for its castle and nearby Ocakli (Ani) is a historical city with rich architecture from the 10th and 11th centuries.
Mount Ararat (Agri Dag), whose peak soars up 5165 meters is important for a number of different faiths. It is believed that after the Flood, in which all humanity was destroyed, the ark of Noah came to rest on Mount Ararat and as the waters receded Noah and his family settled on the nearby Plain of Igdir. As their numbers increased, they eventually spread along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to other parts of Anatolia. Accordingly, Igdir is seen as the centre from which the second generation of humanity multiplied and again spread over the world. The magnificent palace complex of Ishak Pasa, which looks down upon Dogubeyazit, was built in the later part of the 17th century by the Ottoman governor, Ishak Pasa. The site of the castle is superb and it is made up of a kitchen unit, a mosque and separate women’s and men’s quarters.
Lake Van is Anatolia’s beauty centre. In order to see all of this beauty, it is absolutely essential that a tour of the entire lake be made, during which time the beautiful mountain silhouettes, bays, beaches, islands and important Turkish cultural and art centres may be seen. The city of Van, which lies on the south eastern shores of the lake, was the capital city of the Urartu empire. The Van Castle, which was built by the Urartu’s around 1000 BC, is a dynamic example of the age in which it was South of Van, the city of Edremit is a poplar vacation getaway famous for its beaches, camping spots and restaurants. On the island of Akdamar is located the Akdamar Museum, which was originally a 10th century church.
Southeast Turkey Region
As the Tigris and Euphrates flow towards the plains of Mesopotamia, they pass through an important region of Anatolia. Some of the bigger cities in this region are Diyarbakir, Mardin, Adiyaman, SanliUrfa and Gazi Antep. The region is the oldest cultural settlement centre in Anatolia. North of Diyarbakir is Cayonu, the most important Neolithic settlement of the area. The basalt walls of Diyarbakir, which are more than 5 kilometres in length, have the distinction of being the longest city walls in the country. Mardin is one of the few cities in the country which has actually preserved its traditional aesthetic architecture. It is a unique site not only because of its well-maintained state but also because of its unusual location on top of a hill. The prophet Abraham, who is the father of 3 different faiths, is believed to have lived in Sanli Urfa and Harran and so they are considered holy places. The Ataturk Dam, built in the town of Bozova near SanliUrfa is the biggest in Turkey and 4th largest in the world. The lake is surrounded with beautiful scenic sites. The Plain of Harran with its vast farmland will be the most productive agricultural region of the country. Gazi Antep is the most important industrial and agricultural area in south eastern Anatolia. We doubt that any visitor who has come all the way to Gazi Antep will leave without first having tasted the famous local varieties of kebap, lahmacun and baklava or without buying a few packages of Antep pistachios for friends and relatives.
To the northeast of Adiyaman, on top of Mount Nemrut (Nemrut Dag) is the mausoleum made for the Commagene King, Antiochus I. On the east and west of the memorial grave site are ritual terraces and on these terraces are gigantic statues of the gods. The best time to see Mount Nemrut is at sunset. Malatya is an important industrial and agricultural region on the lower Euphrates. It is famous for its apricots and the 13th century Ulu Cami mosque in Battalgazi with its beautiful glazed tiles.