Edit Blog Post
Published: September 8th 2012
Normally during the summer I take off on my own and explore a new place or two where I have never been. This particular trip I was able to join a small tour of Turkey led by the Divan Center where we had one guide (from Raleigh) and just four other guys were working on a documentary of Turkey as an emergent world economy/society. So, for a small cost they provided us with a 9-day whirlwind tour of some of popular cities and sites in the heart of the country. During the trip we also visited with some business leaders, communications people, a mayor of a major city, schools, and even some physicians. In addition, we had a couple home visits that really allowed us to get to the heart of the people and culture. So, as an overview we started in Istanbul and went to Izmir, Kayseri, Capadoccia, Konya, and then back to Istanbul. The next time I visit Turkey I would like to travel to the Mediterranean region and enjoy the beautiful coast. Unfortunately, it is difficult for me to give suggestions on getting around the country as we had drivers for our group in each new location.
We were quickly introduced to the traffic in Istanbul as we were staying outside the city center towards the airport. Apparently there was some major construction going on in the major arteries in the city but it sounded like the traffic was always pretty heavy. I was just glad not to have had to drive there in a rental car. We started our sightseeing with a cruise down the Bosphorus Strait in the late afternoon. The cruise takes a couple hours and gives you a good visual overview of the city. You also get a nice view of the Maiden’s Tower and other landmarks along the way. Our first meal was at Pirpirim outside the city and it was delicious. We had excellent kebaps and meatballs. I don’t even eat meatballs at home but these were distinctly different than anything I have tried. Our group was a bit famished after flying in and we scarfed up every family-style plate that they put in front of us. We had numerous other kebap meals to follow but I do believe this was the best with the possible exception of our meal with a group of businessmen in Kayseri. The meal included lamb,
chicken, and beef meat. The next day we took in some of the most famous landmarks in Istanbul including the Topkapi Palace, the Hagai Sofia, the Basilica Cistern, and the Blue Mosque. This was a very educational day as I learned much about the history and religion of Istanbul’s past. Both the Hagai Sofia and Blue Mosque are overwhelming religious and architectural sites that are rightfully on every itinerary. The Topkapi Palace is a very busy place so you might consider arriving earlier in the morning. This is the palace of the Sultans through history and also includes many relics related to Muhammad. I found the Topkapi dagger with the emerald handle very interesting and would like to see the 60’s Hollywood film about it. Also, make sure to take in the great view of the Bosphorus Strait in the backside of the Palace. The Cistern is also an interesting quick stop to see the large caverns that were built under the city during the Roman era.
We then flew to Izmir to continue our journey. In all we flew on three discount airline flights including Onur, Sun, and Pegasus. These flights are a bit cramped and don’t offer
any extras but if you are in need of cheap flights within the country you might consider them. As I understand it they are the cheapest and most efficient form of transportation around Turkey. Our primary tourist destination in Izmir was Ephesus. We stayed in downtown Izmir and I didn’t find it a particularly nice place to stay (the downtown area that is) but we certainly didn’t see all of the city. I took a run down to the sea from the hotel and saw lots of trash in the water and tried to deal with the rank odor in the air. Ephesus, which lies about 45 minutes away, was great to see. It was very crowded but you can still get a pretty good feel for the place. Our tour guide enhanced the experience because of his charismatic personality. I found it interesting how many cats populate Ephesus. They must have the run of the place at night. After spending a couple hours at Ephesus we headed to the house that is alleged to be the house where the Virgin Mary spent her last days after Jesus was crucified. It sits up on a mountain near Ephesus and was
‘discovered’ in the 1800s after a nun’s dream about the location. In the small town of Selçuk near Ephesus you can go to the Ephesus Museum to see the artifacts that were excavated from ancient Ephesus. I was also able to talk our guide to taking us to see the Temple of Artemis that is located on the edge of town. It was really interesting to see ruins from one of the ancient wonders of the world just sitting in what is now a back lot that has turned into a mini marsh. It was a bit hard to believe.
Before leaving Izmir we visited a private high school and also met with hospital administrators. We then flew to Kayseri where we had the unique opportunity to meet with their mayor. Our visit even made the local news. The mayor’s aid suggested that he had potential to move all the way up the ranks of the Turkish government in the future. During our afternoon in Kayseri we also toured Meliksah University and had a great dinner with a group of local businessman. During that dinner we got to try the excellent local pasta called mantisi and also had cream
and honey to eat with our bread. We were all wishing that the cream and honey had been served with all of our meals. I was sorry that we only had an afternoon in Kayseri as it seemed like it would have been a nice city in which to spend more time.
Our next destination was Konya where we had dinner with a local family on our first night. This was a nice experience as we had a big dinner and then retreated to the roof for tea afterwards. If you are going to Turkey you should be prepared for the tradition of having tea whenever visiting with others. I really enjoyed the hot tea in the small glass cups, especially with 3-4 sugar cubes in each :-) The next day we visited the complex around Rumi’s Tomb. Rumi was a poet and religious figure from the 13th
century. His philosophy and writings are still very influential and revered today. His son then founded the Mevlevi Order known better as the Whirling Dervishes. The complex today has artifacts and rooms decorated to resemble the time when Rumi lived with a building dedicated to the Dervishes. Other artifacts include many
historical copies of the Koran and supposedly a sample of Muhammad’s hair. We also stopped at Aladdin’s Hill that has a Sultan’s Mosque but there wasn’t much information at the site. That afternoon we also stopped at Mevlana University for a quick tour. Mevlana is, as I understand it, an alternate expression for Rumi and his philosophy. The university now occupies a former shopping mall.
After Konya we flew back to Istanbul to spend our last two days. During that time one point of interest – Camlica Hill – stands out. Here you can get an outstanding view of the city and the Bosphorus Strait. We also took in the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar is obviously where people go to buy their Turkish souvenirs but I didn’t really care for it much. I enjoyed picking up gifts along the trip much more. Overall, the trip was very educational for me learning a bit about the history of Turkey and also of the Muslim culture. And the country is so large and varied that you can only see a small slice of it in 9 days.
Tot: 0.949s; Tpl: 0.063s; cc: 11; qc: 28; dbt: 0.0182s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb