Turkey: In Caravan On the Silk Road
Have you ever heard of the Silk Road? Do you know how long it is or its route? We will join one caravan and will see… We won’t start in China where the Silk Road begins because it would take us 9000 kilometers to its end in Istanbul. Except for Marco Polo not many people walked it through whole. Majority of merchants used just were using a part of the Silk Road, from bazar to bazar where they bought and sold goods.
We got on the Silk Road in front of Cappadocia . We walked to the leader of caravan and ask him for his protection. We paid him a fee he requested and hit the road. In the evening we reached one of caravanserais, i.e. caravan palace, which is something as a predecessor of modern hotels. These caravanserais were built by Seljuqs to support trade and to protect merchants. Our accommodation is comfortable. The walls of the palace seem unconquerable so we feel safe, as well as other members of caravan. The staff took care of us, and our animals – horses, camels, and mules. We had stayed for two days to relax and to get energy for the following day. We travel 30 kilometers per day. On the next day we are about to cross Cappadocia – a land of beautiful horses. We see volcanoes that made look surrounding landscape bizarre. We are astonished. We decide to stay here at least two weeks. We bid our caravan leader farewell and get lost in a labyrinth consisting of strange rock formations. We walk through the Rose Valley and an area around Goreme. We admired beautiful monasteries that have folk paintings. Since the 10th century A.D. master painters decorated the monasteries.
We end up in the Valley of Simeon named after an old ascetic monk who never got out on the sun and endlessly prayed to God. Then, across a hill, we moved to Çavuşin , a village from Tufu that had been inhabited until the year 1950 when the half of the inhabited rock ripped off. Those who stayed were in a life threat.
The whole area of Cappadocia was once sought-after by many civilizations. Especially important were Hittites who started to build here large underground cities. Assyrians rented trade places from Hittites, since through the area led a king’s road, something like a grandma of the Silk Road. Next the area was a part of the Phrygia Empire and of its capital Gordion – a city ruled by King Midos with donkey ears. Later there were Pergamon Kingdom, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Seljuq Empire and the Ottoman Empire. During the time of the Roman Empire Cappadocia was a safe haven of persecuted Christians and under the reign of the Seljuq Empire Cappadocia was a place where the followers of Melvana (dervishes) stayed. Seljuq capital Konya, a city to which was invited also the family of Melvana give lectures at the university. There was nothing good for them in their home in Afghanistan, since they were in danger of Mongolian attack. Melvana’s father accepted the offer and Melvana, a small boy then, enjoyed the scholarly atmosphere, he listened to wandering monks, trying to understand a medley of eastern philosophies and religions. He himself spread a philosophy of tolerance, equality of men and women and love to one’s neighbor.
Today an essential part of trip in Cappadocia is a balloon flight - an experience you will never forget! Take off is in the early morning and you will see a sunrise and a red sky. This experience will fill you with happiness and joy.
Behind Cappadocia the Silk Roads splits – north it leads to Ankara and Istanbul, west it leads to Ephesus and south it goes to Konya a Antalya. This time we decide to move north.
Ankara is a modern city where on a plateau live 6,5 million people. The city used to be one of many stops on the Silk Road. Today it is worth seeing a beautiful play of lights and together with a romantic, melancholic, playful, or a tragic Turkish music. This all takes place in a fountain in the central park. In Ankara is also a mausoleum of the first Turkish president - Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The whole Mausoleum is of marble. The entry road is lined with lions reminding of lions discovered in Boazkent, the former capital of the Hittite Empire Hattusa. The ceiling of the Mausoleum is decorated with gold. The soil where lies deceased Atatürk is composed of soil of all 81 Turkish provinces as a symbol of gratitude to this great leader.
The most beautiful part comes now – the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. You can find here originals of items found by archeologists. Those are items that have they origin in the Hittite Empire, but there is a part of treasure of Troya, or Goddess Kybele reminding of Venus of Dolní Věstonice. A symbol of Hittite Empire – Eti representing the universe and planets, a beautiful sundial, and amazingly made 5000 years old deer.
Well, a caravan heading to Istanbul is getting closer to us. The leader of caravan takes us under his protection and after two weeks of hard travelling we reach the amazing, tempting, exciting, magical, living, growing and proud city of Istanbul or Constantinopol the heart of the Byzantine Empire …
Cities located on two continents are joined by two huge suspension bridges. We won’t miss a cruise on Bosporus that divides Istanbul. The Istanbul Strait is 31 kilometers long and it connects the Black Sea the Sea of Marmara. Due to the fact that the seas have different level of salinity and the Black Sea lies 20 centimeters higher than the Sea of Marmara, there are intensive heavy seas and torrents where frivolous swimmers can easily drown
We sail around a massive palace of Mehmed Fatih, the conqueror of Istanbul in 1453. In front of us emerges a romantic Golden Horn where is a majestic Süleymaniye Mosque, Galata Tower that saw the first Turkish flight of Hezarfen Ahmed Celebi in the 17th Century who was subsequently expelled from the country. The Sultan first admired him, however, he feared his act will weaken his authority and Celebi would be thought to have some supernatural powers. Because of this he was sent to exile where he died missing his country.
Now we see a beautiful complex of the Topkapi Palace, where Sultans put all their beautiful treasures such as an 86carat Diamond or Topkapi dagger. We also think of women of harem who were drowned in Bosporus by the order of a mad Sultan Ibrahim Deli who thought they were cheating on him. Only one survived. She were taken by a French ship and transported to Paris.
And in the end the BEST of Istanbul – a visit of amazing Hagia Sophia. A reward for waiting in a long queue of impatient visitors is an exalted impression you will have after you get inside. We admire an amazing construction, a heavenly atmosphere of huge dome, as if it is a cope of heaven. Two architects did the construction: Anthemius of Tralles a Isidore of Miletus. No wonder Emperor Justinian cried out enthusiastically: “Salomon, I have outmatched you!”
Text/photo: Sylvie Halouzková
Topkapi Palace, oficially named as Palace with Cannon Gate, was living nerve of Ottoman Empire in past. It was an official seat of Ottoman sultans and government centre of the Empire within 1465 and 1853. It is situated on place of Greek town of Byzantium, later re-named to Constantinople and consequently Istanbul.
Right now I pass a shop with ice-cream made in Bodrum. I cant miss this place. I take sour cherry, watermelon, and tangerine called dondrumu in Turkish. I continue slightly uphill to less glamorous neighborhood in Bodrum. I go up until a low white wall that surrounds famous Mausoleum in Halikarnassos.
At the theater once again I try to hitchhike a dolmush and continue to Gumbet, another bay beyond Bodrum. I go there to see the Myndos gate. From there a road to the city of Myndos ran. The gate was on a strategically significant location.
I wanted to visit Cappadocia, a land of beautiful horses as the Hittites. I bought a ticket bus and rode from Bodrum to Antalya where I slept over. On the following day I rode across the town of Konya where I visited caravanserai (an oriental pub by main roads where members of caravans and their animals ate) and the museum of Mevlana.
We just enter the city of Konya, the capital of former Seljuk empire. I step off from a bus at a bus station. I pick up my map of the city and head to a tower that shows me the way to the museum of Mevlana. The city spreads on a plateau surrounded with mountains.
Many roads cross Central Anatolia. The most famous is the Silk Road. The Sejluks built there traveller’s inns or also called caravanserais to boost trade as it would protect travelling traders.
For many centuries, Anatolia was a center of Chrisianity, mostly thanks to Apostle Paul and his missionary expeditions. His activity took place mostly around the year 41 AD. Christianity spread due to fertile ground it found in Cappadocia.
My journey now goes across ticket barriers to the museum compound, and then to the St Barbora church, who became a Christian against the will of her father. Initially, he imprisoned her and then killed her. Legend has it that he was struck by lightning for this.
I had my balloon flight above Cappadocia at last. In my perspective, it is there where to do such thing is the best. We were at the place at 5.15 in the morning. There were more than 50 balloons being prepared for flights!
The ancient town of Afrodisias is one of Turkey’s most beautiful place, still not many tourists visit it. I decided I have to visit it...
Today I arrive from the historical town of Afrodisias to the small village of Pamukkale often visited by holidaymakers.
We have just landed. I take a deep breath. Finally we are at the Bodrum Airport. We get into a bus and 40 minutes later ride downhill to Bodrum. The air has a salty smell of distant lends, colors have numerous shades, and azure horizon seamlessly changes to the sky.
We cruise around the Ortakoy Mosque built by Sultan Abdulmecid in 1853. The construction was done by his architect Nokogos Balayn. It is in the baroque style and it is situated in the European part of the Bosporus. Now we flow under the Bosporus bridge built in 1973 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Turkish Republic.
Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom, in past the holiest building in Constantinople, capital of Byzantion Empire, is shocking, first of all, with its high and wide inside spaceas well as illumination effects, making an impression that the cupola is rising in an air.
Orient – distant, attractive, and spicy land. Just close eyes and you can see it again… Stop thinking about workdays and become absorbed in an atmosphere of One Thousand and One Nights stories in land of bent sabers, reverse half-moon and belligerent sultans. It is a matter of far past when Turks were a menace to Europe and yet people are still fascinated by beauty of Turkey.
Lets leave gray everydayness and take off on a flying carpet to the Köprülü National Park. There we will stay overnight in a pleasant camp by a river and on the next day we will move off to the spring of the Köprüçay River. After this we will continue through Antalya and Pamukkale to Dres.
It is another beautiful day, so I plan a journey to visit less-known Turkish sites. Come and visit together with me places as Priéné or half-flooded Myndos.
A small town Troy is located in Turkey, in western Anatolia. According to a mythos Troy, the Achaeans founded the town lying on the bank of the Scamander River. In front of the town’s entrance, on the parking lot with many free spaces, in a box office you can buy a ticket required to enter the town.
Izmir (also known as Smyrna) has been settled for five and half millennia. The city is located in Anatolia along the bay which is connected with the Mediterranean Sea. The location of the city mean it had experienced rule of many civilizations and empires. The last of them, the Ottoman Empire, conquered Izmir in 1389, in the time when it still was a part of the decaying Byzantine Empire.
Right now I have been sitting on a bench on a railroad station. I am waiting impatiently for our bus to get started on a direction to Istanbul. I will see it with my naked eye, finally! This magnificent city attracts every traveler looking forward to fabulous adventure!
We are at the horse market. If you have imagination, you can still hear horses. It is here where the Hippodrome used to stand, it was a racing circuit for chariots of four horses. The race took place every year and the Caesar attended it every time. The audience divided into two groups, greens – regular citizens; and blues – nobility.
With so many memories from yesterday we slept so well. Now we are about to have delicious Turkish breakfast, i.e. white cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, bread… And black tea with much sugar. And we are ready to go. It is like we are invited to see the sultan personally in his Topkapi Palace.
Now we go downhill to the harbor. We embark a ferry and choose a bench on the upper deck. Soon the ship set sail. The name Bosporus means Cow ford. According the legend, there live beautiful princess Io in ancient Greece.
Efes is the most preserved antique city in Turkey and it is rightfully one of the most popular spots. This place was known already in the 2nd century BCE. More than 250 thousand people lived there during its greatest time. In the present, thousands of tourists come here to admire what is left of fascinating buildings. Today, you walk with us on its marble pavement.
This popular destination is to be found on two continents – Europe and Asia.
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