The Republic of Turkey straddles Eastern Europe and Western Asia and is country steeped in ancient history. I travelled with ten fellow explorers from Antalya in the south to the northern city of Istanbul, pausing in various fascinating places and six different hotels along the way!
One of the first places we visited was Phasellis, an ancient city ranged on a peninsula surrounded by three small bays. We walked along the grand Harbour Way past the elaborate Roman baths, an Agora, and the small but beautiful theatre. Some of my companions went swimming; I didn’t!
We spent one night in Antalya staying inside the old city which is crisscrossed with narrow streets and surrounded by fortified walls.
Antalya Museum has exhibitions covering everything from the Stone and Bronze Ages to Byzantium. There are exhibits from ancient cities and evocative statues of some 15 Olympian gods, many of them in near-perfect condition.
We travelled to Kas, a relatively unspoilt town on the southern bulge of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.
Did you know?
In some villages when a daughter reaches a marriageable age her father stands a milk bottle on the roof. Any man who can knock the milk bottle off the roof may ask for the daughters hand in marriage. The father then assesses the suitor’s financial position and the ability to provide for his daughter and any children they might have.
One day we had a boat trip! We floated around bays and inlets and looked down the remains of a sunken city below the clear water. We also went ashore to visit the remote township of Simena and climbed up hundreds of steep steps behind the village houses to reach the castle.
In the Roman spa city of Pamukkale hot calcium-laden waters spring from the ground and cascade over a cliff where they cool and form dramatic travertines of rock-hard brilliant white calcium. From a distance it looked like snow; it couldn’t have been more different! At sunset, we shared a bottle of wine then took off our shoes and walked through the pools of warm water down the steep slope to the town below.
The highlight of the trip for me was our visit to what is considered to be the greatest Greco-Roman site in the world, the city of Ephesus.
Founded by the Greeks in 10bc it is a treasure trove of ancient history. We walked along streets once trodden by Anthony and Cleopatra, and clambered over the remains of magnificent houses, community buildings, temples, the library and stadiums. We sat in the enormous amphitheatre and visited one of the world’s oldest public toilets! I’ll let my pictures tell the story!
We stayed in nearby Selcuk where I climbed via the ruins of St John’s Basilica to the hilltop fortress.
Did you know?
The Nazar Boncugu or Evil Eye Pendant is a stone bead worn to protect oneself from evil looks. They hang in front of houses and offices, from the necks of newborn children and farm animals. They are also inserted into the foundations of modern offices.
The majority of my companions were from Australia, so it was no surprise that we spent a day in Gallipoli and visited Anzac Cove, a few of the cemeteries, the battlefields and trenches. Somehow the impression has taken root that in the terrible Battle of Gallipoli in 1915 only the Anzac troops fought and suffered in Turkey. The reality is very different but the overwhelming attention that Australia and New Zealand place on Gallipoli is understandable.
The figures are horrifying. In just nine months, 330,000 were injured or missing of whom 24,000 were from Australia and New Zealand, and those killed numbered a staggering 110,000 of whom 10,100 were Australasian. The vast majority were from The British Empire and Turkey.
Did you know?
Although Turkish coffee is famous, tea is the national drink. It is traditionally brewed samovar-style, with a small pot of very strong tea kept hot atop a larger vessel of boiling water. A small amount of strong tea is poured into a little tulip-shaped glass and cut to the desired strength with hot water.
Troy was an interesting place. Between 3000BC and 400AD there were no less than nine settlements each built one above the other. Thanks to excavation we were able to see the remains of each of them.
The legend of the Trojan Horse is represented by a replica of the wooden beast. Whether it was fact or fantasy has never been established!
And then I found myself in Istanbul! I had literally just a few hours there before taking to the air, but it was long enough for me to visit the Blue Mosque and wander around a few cobbled backstreets. I have made my mind up to return for a short break sometime in the future.
Finally, I must thank our amenable and informative host Suleyman of Peregrine Adventures and my travelling companions.
I’ll leave you with a few more pictures!
Local resident St Nicholas aka Father Christmas
Thanks for joining me.