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20 February 2015  |  0 comment  |  Sahi

Turkey entries in the “a thousand places to see before you die” list

Turkey entries in the “a thousand places to see before you die” list by Saffet Emre Tonguç

Turkey entries in the “a thousand places to see before you die” list


Ephesus, the largest excavated Greco-Roman city of the world, is an ancient settlement that embraced first the Greek, and the Roman civilizations and got furnished with their artifacts, just like many other cities in Anatolia. Although only 10 percent has been brought to life today, you breathe the air of ancient Rome as you walk on its streets. In the Roman period, the city was also called Asia Minor with a population nearing three hundred thousand, and shone like a star in the fields of religion, commerce, culture and arts. The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was a source of both pride and wealth for the city. Being close to Lydia, the first place money was coined, Ephesus is also the first city a bank was established. Austrians, who have excavated Ephesus since 1895, restored the Library of Celsus, an amazing structure. The library, one of the artifacts used most in promotional photographs of Turkey, and the Agora (Marketplace) door next to it are in an excellent location and take one’s breath away.


The Grand Bazaar, open for business since 1451, with nearly 60 streets and four thousand shops, is one of the oldest and largest markets of the world. The main street includes plenty of jewelry shops, and side streets are full of leather shops, ceramic shops, textile shops, copper shops, antique shops, many kinds of gift shops and a whole slew of flying carpets. The Turkish hospitality manifests itself in every shop with a strong tea offered to you in “slender-waist” tea cups, and during chat and bargaining. And at the end of the day, you can go to the Turkish bath with your hands full and purify and relax there. The Turks were inspired by the Romans in their baths. A Turkish bath consists of the Frigidarium, Tepidarium and Caldarium sections. Even though modern life is trying to write off Turkish baths, dozens of Turkish bathes still await you with their warm ambiance. The Cağaloğlu Turkish Bath hosted many celebrities from King Edward VIII to Franz Liszt, Florence Nightingale, an inhabitant of Istanbul for some time, and Tony Curtis. Although the book mentions Cağaloğlu Turkish Bath, I prefer ones in side alleys. Çinili Turkish Bath in Zeyrek, Kılıç Ali Paşa and Beylerbeyi Turkish Bathes in Tophane are less touristic and thus more authentic.


As the largest, and -according to some people- the most beautiful mosque of Istanbul, Süleymaniye crowns the third hill of the city. Construction of the mosque was started by Sinan, the most important architect of the Ottoman Empire in 1550, the 30th anniversary of Suleyman the Magnificent’s accession to the throne, and completed in seven years. The four minarets signify Suleyman’s being the fourth sultan ruling in Istanbul, and 10 minaret balconies signify his being the tenth sultan from the establishment of Ottoman Empire in Süleymaniye, which includes many structures from a caravanserai to a madrasa, a Turkish bath and a hospital. The tombs of Suleyman the Magnificent and his wife of Ukrainian origin Hürrem Sultan (Roxelana) are also in the yard of the mosque. At the other corner of the street is the modest tomb of Sinan, who considered the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne as his work of perfection.


Built for Orient Express passengers arriving in Istanbul in 1892, the hotel hosted quite a few famous people. Agatha Christie wrote most of his novel “Murder on the Orient Express” in room no. 411, and famous spy Mata Hari preferred this hotel while she was in Istanbul. Room no. 101, which was used by Atatürk, is preserved as a museum. The building, constructed in the Art deco style, was designed by famous architect Alexandre Vallaury, who designed many beautiful structures in Istanbul.


Rumi is one of the first names that come to mind when one thinks of Islam in Anatolia. Born in Afghanistan in 1207, Rumi is known as “Mevlana” in Turkish. Although “Tasavvuf” originates from Islam in the general sense, it’s a term used to describe the Turkish school of Sufism bringing Islam to universal dimensions. Rumi tried to progress in both positive and mystical sciences, without regard to rules, lodges, titles and possessions and put forth a different side of Islam by removing limits of time and location with his Sufism approach of breaking away from the world and oneself. Reunion Night is celebrated every year on 17 December, the day Rumi died. And the tomb of Rumi is visited by thousands of people every year, as one of the most visited museums of Istanbul.


Topkapı Palace, having served Ottoman sultans for 400 years, is named after a door equipped with a cannon that was in Sarayburnu once upon a time. The palace, which became the old palace after the completion of Dolmabahçe Palace in 1856, consists of four big yards. Actually, Topkapı Palace covers a very large area that also includes Hagia Irene, the Museum of Archeology and Gülhane Park. Having first emerged in the Mehmed IV period, the Spoonmaker’s Diamond is just one of the valuable artifacts in the treasure of the palace. The book says: “If you want to stay in a palace, Çırağan Palace, which hosted Abdülaziz for a short time, awaits you in Bosporus.”


The point is not only cruising within blue waters; you can discover the rich historical heritage of Anatolia in the middle of nature in blue voyage. Most favorite routes in blue voyage are located between Bodrum and Antalya. If your aim is to rest your head and be in the middle of nature, include Gökova and Hisarönü Bays in your route. If you are fond of trekking and history, go from Marmaris towards Antalya.


Pamukkale is a wonder of nature. As thermal waters springing from Çal Mountain full of calcium bicarbonate in dissolved form flow from the hills to the lands below, the carbon dioxide within diffuses to air and forms the travertines in the form of hard chalk on terraces. You can take your shoes on your hand and walk on travertine terraces that have formed in thousands of years. The “Sacred Pool” currently located in Pamukkale Motel, has been used since the Roman period. The ancient city of Hierapolis next to Pamukkale was gifted to humanity by the kings of Pergamon in BC 190. Sick people have came to the historical thermal spring, thinking that its water is healing, but it seems their hopes were in vain. The larges necropolis in Anatolia is in Hierapolis!


Cappadocia is a one of a kind place; both its geographical properties, and its history turn this land, whose name means the Country of Horses, into a place of fairy tales. There are other extraordinary places besides Ürgüp, Göreme and Avanos in Cappadocia. Tyana (Kemerhisar) near Niğde and Gümüşler Monastery, Güzelyurt with streets full of history, Ihlara, where you can walk in the valley, are only a few of these. Cappadocia includes more than 400 churches. Upon seeing the marks of belief and life scratched on rocks, one cannot help but think that actual civilization is long bygone. Also, watching Cappadocia from the balloon’s gondola at sunset is one of the most enjoyable things you can do in life.


These two jewels passed down from the Byzantine period have a very special place in the history of Istanbul. Hagia Sophia is a 15-century year old structure that has made an impression on the millennium as the biggest church of the world, and Chora is one of the most important historical heritages of humanity with is mosaics and frescos. Upon entering Hagia Sophia in 537 AD after its completion, Byzantine emperor Justinian is rumored to have said “I surpassed you Solomon”, referring to the Temple of Solomon. In 1312, Theodore Metochites, had one of the most beautiful works of Byzantine renaissance adorned with mosaics and frescos featuring stories from the Holy Bible. The crusaders coming to the city in 1204 damaged both structures. While mentioning these two structures, the book also mentions the building currently used as the Four Seasons Hotel, where Turkish intellectuals were imprisoned in the past, and writes that the food of the hotel is much more delicious than the old prison meal!

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