"Travels in Turkey" Turkey by TheWanderingCamel
Turkey Travel Guide: 24,655 reviews and 70,947 photos
A book about an Englishman's travels through the cradle of Christianity that led to an abiding interest in Byzantium was the beginning of a fascination with Turkey that led in turn to my first visit to Istanbul back in 1999.
A magazine picked up in a hotel foyer on that first visit whetted my interest in the land and its people, sustained by a subscription to the magazine that continues to this day - my quarterly fix over the years. It was 2009 before I returned however, though, even then, only to Istanbul - an airfare that made flying Turkish the cheapest way to get from Australia to Uzbekistan making an Istanbul stopover a most attractive option.
In the meantime, another book - a novel this time, written in the 1950s about the wanderings around the Black Sea of a group of eccentric English travellers - fired the desire to see a mountainside monastery near Trabzon, while gazing down on Mt Ararat during flights to and from Central Asia added something else to the growing list of things I wanted to see and places I wanted to go when I finally got to Turkey.
All these things (and a whole lot more) finally came together in 2011 when friends who have been travelling to Turkey for years as part of their involvement in a weaving project in a group of villages in western Anatolia let us know they were organizing a trip to Turkey that would include several days in Istanbul, days (and a night) spent with the project's weavers and dyers, and a journey through eastern Anatolia from Trabzon to Antakya - would we like to join them?
So - I finally made it, setting off with anticipation and high expectations.
Did the reality live up to the dream? Indeed it did. I already knew what a wonderful city Istanbul was. Five days spent there before we set off on our journey was a brilliant way to start. A short meander through Western Anatolia took us to Assos and Bergama and also to the tiny villages of Suleymankoy and Orselli - so small you'd be hard pressed to find them on a map - where we met the weavers of the DOBAG project, watched their work and spent a night in one of their homes. On then to Izmir and a flight across the country, south-west to north-east, to Trabzon and the start of our journey through the eastern reaches of the country.
Erzurum, Kars, Dogubeyazit, Van, Dyarbakir, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Kahta and Antakya - this is the bare bones of the route we followed, with wonderful sights and sites all along the way. Seljuk mosques and deserted Armenian churches, Ottoman citadels and ancient Syriac churches and monasteries, a golden palace and black basalt city walls, a volcano crater and giant statues set on a mountaintop, "Noah's Ark" and the oldest temple in the world, mosques, bazaars, shrines, museums - all this and more... and more. Everyday brought something extraordinary and time and time again, we found we had these wonderful places all to ourselves. Coming back to the crowds and hustle of Istanbul was quite a shock.
It has taken a while but at last I've begun - a page that will take me (and, hopefully, a few of you) on a journey, reliving a tour that took us to many of Turkey's less-visited places, from tiny villages in Western Anatolia to the borders of Armenia, Iran and Syria.
Under the Things to Do heading, the reviews will follow the chronology of our tour - starting in Istanbul, then a couple days focussed on a special interest that took us way off the beaten track before following a fairly set route for most tours of Eastern Turkey. Istanbul is certainly worthy of a page all of its own and, in time, I'll probably do one. I'm not so sure about the other places we stopped at along the way. Certainly for now my inclination is to present this page as a whole package. Whether travelling as an individual or part of an organized group, people visiting this region will almost always be on some form of tour, spending a short while in anyone place before moving on to the next. My aim here is to flesh out the bones of an itinerary of such a tour - I hope it works.
On October 23rd, 2011, just three weeks after we arrived home from our wonderful Turkey tour, Van and the surrounding area was hit by a massive earthquake. 604 people were killed and huge numbers of the 600,000 people who live in the area were left homeless, just as winter was about to set in. The process of rebuilding homes, businesses and local infrastructure will be long and costly. Right now, making plans to travel through this part of Turkey is probably not very high on anyone's agenda but that's not to say interest should be abandoned completely. The region has so much to offer and travelling through here is an immensely rewarding and fascinating experience. I hope anyone reading these reviews enjoys the virtual tour they offer now and may indeed make the journey themselves one day.
Photos: 1. Hillside city 2. Golden Mardin 3. Sabanci City Museum 4. Christian Mardin - 1&2. Forty Martyrs Church 2. The... more travel advice
Photos: 1. Along the way to Nemrut Dagi 2. Nemrut dagi and inside the crater 3. Bitlis beauties 4. Restoration 5.... more travel advice
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