We only passed by Konya, having time to visit Mevlana's tomb.
Even without seeing the most famous thing of this town, (the twirling dervishes), I think that it has enough attractions for a more detailed visit.
Maybe next time.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Finding myself in Trabzon for the sixth time, I decided to make a trip out of the city and into the mountains. Public transport to the various towns and villages is not so useful for making day trips, as the buses are timed for people to come to Trabzon for shopping and return home in the evening. However, some of the more touristy places have special tours, one of them to Uzungöl.
If you've been to Trabzon, you already know what Uzungöl looks like, as it features in every travel agency window: a white mosque reflected in an impossibly blue lake, with green hills towering above. Well, it looks just like the posters. A day trip to Uzungöl leaves you several hours to hang around waiting for the return trip...you can do a few laps around the lake, eat trout, drink tea, make another lap...but that's about it. The time is not enough to go on a serious hike into the snow-capped mountains, but too long to sit around by the lake...still, it was a nice day out.
To get anywhere inland from Amasra, you have to pass through Bartın first, a small Black Sea market town with some nice old houses. I'd changed buses here in 2001 and remember it looked a pleasant place then, but didn't return until 2013 when my friend offered to show me around while waiting for a bus to Istanbul. She works in a shop on Bartın's main street and took an hour off to take me to the locally famous women's market, where women from the villages wearing brightly coloured headscarves sold local produce. Dotted around here and there are some attractive wooden houses crying out for restoration before they collapse.
On the borders with Greece and Bulgaria is the Thracian city of Edirne, a small provincial town with some magnificent mosques. Mimar Sinan, Turkey's most famous architect, built arguably his most impressive mosque here, the Selimiye Camii, and it's worth coming to Edirne just for that. But aside from the Selimiye mosque, there are several other huge mosques in the centre, in between covered bazaars and old hamams, while on the outskirts along the Tunca River are a number of old bridges connecting grand public buildings in planned suburbs that never really materialised. It is strange but rather beautiful to find a huge mosque complex in the middle of fields, but Edirne has plenty of these. Just three hours from Istanbul, it makes an easy day trip.
Çanakkale is famous for two things...the WW1 battlefields and cemeteries across the water around Gallipoli (Gelibolu), and the ancient ruins of Troy. I saw nothing of the former, and the only trace of the latter was a replica Trojan horse on the seafront that was apparently used in the recent film Troy. The only reason I was in Çanakkale was to change buses, but arriving just before sunset, I soon found out the next bus on to Edirne was at stupid o'clock in the middle of the night, so I decided to find a hotel and continue my journey the next day. This gave me an evening to see the delights that Çanakkale had to offer. It seemed a pleasant enough place, lively around the seafront with some very busy cafes and bars, and...well that was about it!
The great thing about taking a bus north from Çanakkale is that you start off with a ferry ride across the Dardanelles, taking around half an hour. Dawn over the Dardanelles with a glass of tea and a simit was great...but for some unknown reason most passengers on my bus decided to stay on the bus with the curtains drawn...
Linked by causeway and bridge (and in summer by ferry too) to Ayvalık, Cunda Island was my escape from the political mayhem in the bigger town. Cunda is like a smaller, quieter and prettier version of Ayvalık, its Greek houses either restored and operating as upmarket pansiyons and hotels, or slowly crumbling away and inhabited by cats. Cats...they were everywhere! Climbing on centuries old walls, miaowing in the overgrown ruins of a church, sunbathing on the quayside...or hiding from the smaller but no less evident population of street dogs.
Out of season, you'd expect Ayvalık to be a quiet Aegean fishing town, and perhaps normally it is. But I went during the run up to the elections, and five political parties were holding daily campaign rallies around town, each party with its own van equipped with loudspeakers roaming every lane and bellowing to the good people of Ayvalık about why they should vote for them. Convoys of flag-waving loons sped along the main road every few hours, honking their horns and flashing their lights. Political songs were blasted out in the main square, outside each campaign headquarters, by the quayside, in the cafes, in the bazar...and the noise continued to the wee hours of the morning. In big cities it is easy enough to find respite, but in Ayvalık there was no escape, it was simply too small.
Despite the noise, I found Ayvalık to be an attractive place. A former Greek trading port, there are still many many Greek houses in the backstreets, mainly cobbled lanes on steep hills, and it was fun to wander around, turning corners to find old churches that had been turned into mosques.
Taking advantage of Şırnak's new airport, I took a cheap flight from Ankara and was able to travel overland via Cizre to Iraqi Kurdistan the same day. On my way back, I had several hours to kill before my flight and decided to spend them exploring Cizre. Situated on the banks of the Tigris (Dicle) within spitting distance of Syria and 20km from the Iraqi border, this was somewhere the UK Foreign Office reckoned I should not be, but the city is peaceful and safe enough to visit, although attractions are somewhat thin on the ground. The banks of the river are popular places to drink tea, and the riverside castle is currently undergoing restoration work but you can clamber among the ruins as many locals do. Hidden away in the modern centre, the Kırmızı (Red) Medrese and the Tomb of Noah are two old buildings worth seeking out. Cizre is quite a conservative place compared to Iraqi Kurdistan just over the border, and ıt was obvious that not many tourists spend time in town as I felt I definitely got some strange looks, but it's welcoming and deserves a few hours of your time if you happen to be in this overlooked corner of Turkey
Istanbul...what can I say about Istanbul that hasn't already been said?! All my trips have started and ended in Istanbul, and in 2005 I spent six months living in Rumeli Hisar Üstü attending a Turkish language course. Sultanahmet was my first introduction in 2001, visiting as a tourist and seeing all the usual sights like Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar. Four years later, after lessons in Taksim, I spent my afternoons and evenings discovering other parts of the city on foot...İstiklal Caddesi for breakfast, then the backstreets of Beyoğlu, Çukurcuma, Galata, Cihangir, Asmalımescit. Sometimes I would cross the Galata Bridge to Eminönü and watch the ferries cross the Bosphorus. Other days I would hop on a bus to Balat and Fener, two ramshackle neighbourhoods within the walls of the Old City, or to Eyüp and its mosques and cemeteries. Or I might walk home via the coast road, passing commercial Beşiktaş, arty Ortaköy, the picturesque waterside mansions of Arnavutköy and the trendy upmarket village of Bebek. Later, my focus has turned to the Asian side, conservative Üsküdar and lively Kadıköy (probably my favourite neighbourhood at the moment). Now that one of my friends has moved to Beykoz, at the northern end of the Bosphorus, I've had the chance to explore some of the small rural villages and the lighthouse at the very top next to the Black Sea.
There's still so much more for me to discover, and each time I revisit the city, I see something new. It will take years, maybe even decades, to truly get to know Istanbul...not sure I ever will know it 100% but it will be fun trying!
My Istanbul page is woefully out of date, and hasn't really been updated since 2005...one day I'll get round to it, so keep checking back.
Two things attracted me to Antakya. The first was the Arabic influence, giving me a chance to speak Arabic with native speakers and also indulge in the food the city is famous for, specifically hummus and kunefe (a very sweet, sticky pastry with cheese and honey and nuts and a big dollop of kaymak cream). The second was the prospect of some warmer weather...while the rest of Turkey hovered around zero, with many areas of the country under snow, Antakya was substantially warmer and sunnier!
With the war raging in Syria just a couple of miles away, Antakya was full of Syrian refugees, and unfortunately many conmen trying to get money from unsuspecting tourists, either pretending to be refugees themselves or claiming to help refugees...one was so persistent, pestering guests in my hotel over breakfast with tales of woe, that it left me feeling a bit bitter. But away from the conmen, Antakya proved to be a beautiful city, its old lanes and houses reminding me of Damascus. Add to that a famous church carved into the rock (unfortunately closed for renovation when I visited) and an amazing collection of mosaics in the archeological museum, Antakya was a highlight of my trip.
Arriving in Adana early morning on the overnight train from Ankara, I was feeling tired and ill, as I'd picked up a nasty cold. It wasn't my intention to stay in the city longer than an hour, just enough time to catch a bus onward to Antakya, but feeling rough, I checked into a hotel to catch up on some sleep. In the afternoon, I explored a little, but Adana is not a great city for sightseeing on foot...the traffic in the centre is manic, and crossing points few and far between. Add to that a terrible map in my guidebook, and Adana had me baffled! Still, there are some sights worth seeking out, like the old stone bridge, the brand new Sabanci Merkez Camii, one of the biggest mosques in the country, and several nice old buildings spread out around the modern centre. Adana is also famous for its kebabs, specifically Adana kebap, a spicy minced lamb meatball served with hot peppers, bread and rice in restaurants all over the city. I liked Adana, although it took a while for its charms to work on me.
An hour from Ankara is the small market town of Beypazarı, spectacularly located between rocky outcrops and full of old Ottoman houses. It's a bit like a small version of Safranbolu without the foreign tourists, but Beypazarı's charms have certainly been discovered by the people of Ankara so there are plenty of hotels in restored old houses and a couple of house museums. The main attraction though is walking through the backstreets.
Ankara often gets terrible write-ups from travellers, and compared to Istanbul it is easy to see why...a sprawling concrete metropolis with few sites of interest, Ankara is somewhere tourists pass through on the way to somewhere else, and only if they have to. "Why do you want to go to Ankara?" was a question my Istanbullu friends asked. Well, despite it being bitterly cold (January is much much harsher here than on the coast, temperatures always below freezing), I enjoyed my two trips to the nation's capital. True, the centre is messy, spread out around Ulus, Sıhhiye and Kızılay with not a lot to see, but hidden away are Roman temples, a castle on a hill with a village-like atmosphere inside, and the vast complex of Anıt Kebir, the final resting site of the nation's founding figure, Atatürk. It's maybe not worth a special trip to Turkey just to visit Ankara, but if you are crossing the country and have to pass through the capital, spend a few days and you may just start to like it.
Aha...Amasra! Because of the hot weather, we were in need of a bit of relaxation by the beach by this point. Amasra didn't disappoint. Despite it being high season, we had no trouble finding a cheap pansiyon within the citadel walls to stay in, overlooking the harbour and cliffs. And also overlooking the only disco in town...from our balcony, we got the first taste of Turkish pop music - Tarkan and Sertab all the time!!!
Although I'd read that the Black Sea is colder than the Mediterranean, I wasn't quite prepared for just how cold that first swim would be...probably explains why not many foreign tourists come to this coast.
Returning to Amasra in winter 12 years later, I found it really hadn"t changed too much, maybe because it's geography doesn't allow for the town to expand any further. This time I was with friends from the town who showed me places I hadn't seen before, and even though it was very cold, I still had a great time. One day I will update my Amasra page, but who knows when...
Work through the list of UNESCO sites in Turkey!!
Unesco is an organisation that acknowledges sites that contribute to world heritage - particularly if at risk of being destroyed or deteriorating beyond resolve - and looking at ways to protect or assist the country that the site is in to look after it
There are so many wonderful sites on the list - good to get an idea of what is possibly in the area of your destination - some of us like or have an obsession with visiting places on the list so that we can tick them off!
You can become a member or subscribe to the organisations online mailing list for regular newsletters and even receive a map from them showing the sites around the world
UNESCO list for Turkey:
(* means Ive thankfully visited the site!)
Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia*
Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği
Historic Areas of Istanbul*
Hattusha: the Hittite Capital
City of Safranbolu*
Archaeological Site of Troy*
Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex*
Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük
Properties submitted on the TENTATIVE LIST (41):
Karain Cave (1994)
Sümela Monastery (The Monastery of Virgin Mary) (2000)
Alahan Monastery (2000)
St. Nicholas Church (2000)
Harran and Sanliurfa (2000)
The Tombstones of Ahlat the Urartian and Ottoman citadel (2000)
The Citadel and the Walls of Diyarbakir (2000)
Seljuk Caravanserais on the route from Denizli to Dogubeyazit (2000)*
Konya-A capital of Seljuk Civilization (2000)
Mardin Cultural Landscape (2000)
Bursa and Cumalikizik Early Ottoman urban and rural settlements (2000)
St.Paul Church, St.Paul's Well and surrounding historic quarters (2000)
Ishak Pasha Palace (2000)
Güllük Dagi-Termessos National Park (2000)
Archaeological Site of Aphrodisias (2009)
Ancient Cities of Lycian Civilization (2009) Patara* (being the capital city), Xanthos*, Pinara, Olympos, Myra* and Tlos.,,the other cities of Lycian League, many of those are well known from the systematic excavations, also form the coins and inscriptions namely Andriake, Sura, Kyaenai, Limyra, Theimmusa, Simena*, Istlada, Trebende, Aperlae.
Archaeological Site of Sagalassos (2009)
Archaeological Site of Perge (2009)
Esrefoglu Mosque (2011)*
The Archaeological Site of Göbeklitepe (2011)
Hatay, St. Pierre Church (2011)
Aizanoi Antique City (2012)
Historic City of Ani (2012)
Archeological Site of Zeugma (2012)
Historic Town of Birgi (2012)
Mausoleum and Sacred area of Hecatomnus (2012)
Medieval City of Beçin (2012)
Historical Monuments of Niğde (2012)
Yesemek Quarry and Sculpture Workshop (2012)
Odunpazari Historical Urban Site (2012)
Mamure Castle (2012)
Haci Bektas Veli Complex (2012)
Archaeological site of Laodikeia (2013)*
Lake Tuz Special Environmental Protection Area (SEPA) (2013)
Trading Posts and Fortifications on Genoese Trade Routes from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea (2013)
The Ancient City of Sardis* and the Lydian Tumuli of Bin Tepe (2013)
* = Unesco sites in Turkey that i thankfully have visited
- Historical Travel
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