Bergama Theatre Bergama Trajan Temple Dalyan Lycian Tombs Kaprulu Kanyon Afrodisias Tetrapylon Demre Beach Ortahisar Volcanic Plug Goreme Sunset View Yoruk Turquoise Treasures and Volcanic Vistas draw Travellers to Turkey
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Saturday, 27 February 2016

Cappadocia Turkey Itinerary

Cappadocia Turkey | Best Itinerary | Terra Encounters in-depth

Central Turkey Itinerary
– from Antalya to Cappadocia to Istanbul

Goreme, Turkey
Golden Goreme
You should be very excited if you are planning a trip to Turkey.  It is easy to travel on your own. For advice on how to plan and travel in an economical way, see the TripAdvisor page Turkey: Planning a Self-Guided Turkey Trip.   Now comes the hard choice of deciding where to go.  Even if you have a whole month, you cannot see everything.  Turkey is the size of Great Britain and France combined!  

The following suggestions are based on an actual 31-day trip, which was split into two parts. Stay-overs are shown in capitals followed by the number of nights.  Each destination was assigned zero to three dots to give a sense of which sites are most worthwhile seeing.  Hyperlinks will bring you to posts with more details.  This itinerary gives the best places to go for a 14-day trip through Central Turkey from Antalya to Istanbul.


See a map of Central Turkey Itinerary

ANTALYA 2 nights 

Antalya is dissed by many travellers as just a big city but staying in an old Ottoman house in Kaleiçi (the old city) is worthwhile and it makes a useful base for nearby sights.  Yes, Antalya is a big city but the old quarter, Kaleiçi, is a quiet oasis. 

Kaleiçi, Antalya
Ottoman Delight
Staying in an old Ottoman house is a beautiful introduction to Turkey.  It is a much easier way to start your trip than overpopulated Istanbul. 

Kaleiçi It is very touristy but there are not as many touts as in Istanbul.  The old town has a very clean, restored look but it is still pleasant walking, as there are few cars.  See the view of the sea framed by the snowy Taurus Mountains near the Hidirlik Tower, especially in early AM before breakfast – and few tourists wake up early so you'll have the park to yourself. 

Antalya Archaeological Museum ●●● is one of the best arranged museums anywhere.  Ancient Roman statues are set into Romanesque-style arches with romantic lighting (not good for photography)

Aspendos Theatre, Turkey
Stupendous Aspendos
Day Trips: 
Aspendos Theatre
is basically a large intact Ancient Roman theatre with lots of tourists.  Climb up to the acropolis (included in the price) for more dramatic views of the theatre and the very green countryside. 

Köprülü Canyon, Turkey
Colourful Köprülü

Köprülü Canyon
●● is a spectacular green river visible from the country road.  The Termessos ruins is another good place to go from Antalya.  On the way east from Antalya along the old highway(there will soon be a new expressway), stop along the road for...

Turquoise Coast near Antalya
Turquoise Treasure
Turquoise Coast ●●●
for perhaps the second most beautiful turquoise coastal views.

KIZKALESI  1 night 

Medieval Maiden Castle, on an offshore islet, seems to float just above the sea.  It's OK but not a must-see. The beach is very small but the sand is so soft.  Plus there were few tourists. It made for a pleasant stopover on the long drive to Cappadocia.  

Göreme Sunset View
Sensational Sunset

CAPPADOCIA ●●●●  4 nights 

The region of Cappadocia is probably the best must-see area for natural beauty in the country – so don’t miss it!!!  Göreme is just one of the towns in this region but it is still a wonderful base due to its central location.  

Göreme Sunset View ●●● is an easy walk up the hill to the east of the hotel area main drag for spectacular views at sunset of Rose Valley and Göreme.

Car or Dolmuş Trips: 

Love Valley, Goreme, Turkey
Not a Fairy Tale
Cappadocia Fairy Chimneys ●●●● are extraordinary even the touristy Paşabagh site.  There are too many hikes to list here. Most are fairly easy, at least at the beginning, or you could simple go for as long as you want and return when you feel like it.  the best hikes were are Love Valley, Zemi Valley, and... 

Goreme Kizilçukur Viewpoint
Rose Valley ●●●●
you could walk here on a car-less dirt road but you can drive on a parallel road.  This area has many side trails.  The best spot was the Kizilçukur Viewpoint, located between the "parking lot" and the dirt road below the hill. Again, it's best to come here for the late PM or sunset lighting

Çavuşin has a less touristy, old section of town at the end of the "parking lot" road to Rose Valley

Uchisar there is an excellent view of the volcanic plug/castle right from main highway into Göreme but this is a very touristy spot with stalls and even a camel.  There also is good viewpoint of Göreme on the right just a short way towards the town. 

Ortahisar Volcanic Plug
Ogling Ortahisar
Avanos – overpriced pottery

Ürgüp – good food at local prices, except for the excellent but pricey ice cream

Ortahisar ●●
there is a spectacular view of the volcanic plug in the middle of town. 

Day Trips: requires car or tour

Mustafapaşa ●● is an old Greek village with interesting architecture

Soganli Valley ●●
Soganli Valley
Soganli Surprise
is full of fairy chimneys, basalt columns, rock-cut churches and frescoes without the crowds in a country atmosphere. But the best part was getting there with spectacular wide open views of snow-capped mountains in early spring.  

Ihlara Valley – is another place with rock-cut churches 

SAFRANBOLU ●●●  2 nights

Safranbolu Çarşı
Super Safranbolu
Safranbolu Çarşı ●●
You can spend a day visiting and shopping in the old city with its restored Ottoman buildings.  But the views from the ring road high above the market area (çarşı) were very special. 

Yörük Ottoman House
Ottoman Yörük
Car Trips: 
Yörük ●● 
it’s 10 km away to a fairy tale village full of timber-framed Ottoman buildings that are far more nostalgic and run down than Safranbolu.  

İncekaya Aqueduct – 
is very high and in mint condition.   But it is Ottoman not ancient.  It comes with a walking trail into the countryside. 

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Grand Fashion

ISTANBUL ●●●●  4 nights

Grand Bazaar
It is NOT the oldest bazaar as it was only built after the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans.  But it is probably the first covered shopping mall in the world. 

Basilica Cistern, Istanbul
Don't Look at Medusa
Basilica Cistern ●● 
is an underground forest of Byzantine columns surrounded by a pool of water.  Make sure that you do not look at the head of Medusa or you will also turn to stone!  The ancients were very superstitious.  For instance, getting up on the left (sinistra) side of your bed was a very bad omen.  This is very much part of Western culture – you don't believe it?  Guess where the English word sinister comes from?  

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia Dome-ination ●●
had the highest dome built since the Pantheon in Ancient Rome until the Duomo in Renaissance Florence. It was the model for most major mosques in the Ottoman Empire. 

Hippodrome – 
How did a horse race end with 30,000 dead? How is this related to Hagia Sophia?  That's your homework for tonight!  Hint: check the web sites below. 

Blue Mosque, Istanbul
the not so Blue Mosque

 Blue Mosque ●●●
is not really blue; it’s pastel patterns and graceful symmetry and definitely worth seeing. 

Kool Kadıköy
Music in Kadıköy

Kool Kadıköy ●●
is the real Istanbul where the locals work and play. It's a great place to hear Turkish folk music on the streets. 

Galata Tower, Istanbul
Bosphorus on a Budget
Bosphorus on a Budget
Choose the cruise or the non-cruise (i.e. use the cheap ferries) to see the Bosphorus

Spice Bazaar, Spicy Istanbul come here for the spices, the Turkish Delights, and buy the Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi kahve (coffee) beans.


There are many travel sites on the Web.  It is very useful to see what other tourists think are the best sites. Each city, region and country in TripAdvisor has a Things To Do section.  However, tourists have their own bias that may not match your interests.  Also many tourists have not travelled around the world to be able to compare places or know what is unique.  For more detailed information on each location, you can also review the Thorn Tree Turkey Forum, Turkey Travel Planner and Terra Encounters web sites. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Fall of the Ottoman Empire

Tulips and Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain
Tulips and Fountain

On Remembrance Day, this is a post about the Fall of the Ottoman Empire as a result of World War I…

Dolmabahçe Palace on a Binge

For a long time, the Ottomans no longer raided neighbouring states during annual campaigns to benefit the treasury.  Sultan Ahmed II was the last to wage a campaign and he did not fare too well.  

To improve morale and national pride, Sultan Ahmed II spent millions on one of the most famous and beautiful mosques in the world, appropriately named Sultan Ahmed Mosque but better known as the Blue Mosque. 

Dolmabahçe Sarayı
Dolmabahçe Palace on a Binge
Between the years 1843 and 1856, Sultan Abdülmecid I built the Dolmabahçe Palace.  The post Bosphorus on a Budget, Palace on a Binge discussed how the $1.5 billion Palace bankrupted the Ottoman Empire. 

Ottoman finances were further depleted due to the costs of the Balkan Wars in 1912-13. 

The Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain

Fountain in the Hippodrome

By the turn of the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire was under threat.  The Ottomans lost a war with Russia in 1878 in which the Russians supported nationalist movements in the Balkans and Caucasus.  Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro freed themselves of 500 years of Ottoman rule.  The United Kingdom took over Cyprus (which landed in more conflict later).

The British and French wanted to divide the Ottoman Empire between them. For that reason, the Ottomans sought an alliance with Germany.  The German Fountain ("Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain") an octagonal domed fountain in neo-Byzantine style, which was constructed by the German government in 1900 to mark the German Emperor Wilhelm II's visit to Istanbul in 1898, is located at the northern entrance to the Hippodrome - Off to the Races  area, right in front of the Blue Mosque.

Neo-Byzantine Dome
It was constructed to commemorate the second anniversary of German Emperor Wilhelm II's visit to Istanbul in 1898.  Think of it as how to flatter your sultan into an alliance with Germany.  It was built in Germany, then transported piece by piece and assembled in its current site in 1900.  The neo-Byzantine style fountain's octagonal dome has eight marble columns.

Ribbed Roof Holds
Golden Mosaics Better
The dome's interior is encrusted with gold mosaics made famous by the Byzantine artists.  As described in Chora Church's Amazing Mosaics, the gold is gold leaf sandwiched between two layers of clear glass.  The extensive use of gold evoked the spiritual splendour of the Kingdom of God.

There are eight monograms in the arch stonework and they represent the political union of Abdülhamid II and Wilhelm.  In four of these medallions, Abdülhamid II’s tughra is written on green background, and in other four Wilhelm’s symbol, "W" is written on a Prussian blue background.  In addition, over the "W" there is a crown and below it an "II". 

Water not Oil

The Emperor's primary motivation for visiting the Ottomans was not water, it was oil.  The Germans wanted to construct the Baghdad Railway, which would run from Berlin to the Persian Gulf and the oilfields in Mosul – part of Iraq now but part of Ottoman Empire then. 

The Ottomans lost a big battle in the Balkan War in 1912 leading to the loss of 85% of their European territories.  As World War I loomed, the Ottomans sought protection but were rejected by Britain, France, and Russia.  That was because the British and French had designs on the Middle Eastern part of the Ottoman Empire.  They made the secret Sykes–Picot Agreement defining their proposed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East.
School Kids in the Hippodrome

Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina as a result of the 1878 conflict ending their dream of independence.  This is significant as Austria-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef's assassination in Bosnia supposedly triggered World War I.  This was not the real cause of World War I but that was the view then and something still taught in school.  The real reason was the desire for resources and territory by the imperial powers.

Ottoman Kaş
Ottoman Kaş

The Ottomans finally formed an alliance with Germany that committed them to support Germany during World War I.  This led the 17,000 ANZAC  troops (Aussie and Kiwi Army Corps) to attack Gallipoli in Turkey. Even though the Turks suffered higher casualties, they successfully defended the Dardanelles Strait and thus Istanbul. 

During World War I, the western Allies and especially Britain, had promised Greece territorial gains at the expense of the Ottoman Empire.  But Germany lost and this led to the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of modern Turkey as described in the post Tracing Your Talisman in Kaş. 

How interweaved we are.  So as we reflect on Remembrance Day, let us remember that World War I was fought to make certain countries richer and more powerful but also lead to the birth of a new country, Turkey.  
Next Post:  almost the end

Monday, 12 October 2015

Rise of Venice Fall of Byzantium

Palazzo comes with canal

Numerous countries have a rich history of migrations and kingdoms.  But in Turkey, there was the rise and fall of not one but two great empires – Byzantine and Ottoman – that ironically ruled almost the same expanse from Algeria to Iraq.  They also had a tremendous influence on trade – both in goods and ideas – being the terminus of the Silk Routes from the Far East and South Asia and via Venice into Europe.

Not! Venetian Navy

Venice made a fortune sailing armies to the crusades.  Their ship designs were so superior that their shipyards were classified top secret.  As they gained success in the Crusades, Venezia asserted its power.

Fall of Byzantine Empire

The Fourth Crusade was supposed to re-take Jerusalem.  At a huge cost, the Venetians built extra ships to transport of a huge army.  However, the crusading kingdoms did not pay the agreed amount.  Meanwhile there was a coup in Byzantium.  The Venetians agreed to help overthrow the usurper.  But they really wanted to recoup the costs of their ships.

Not Egyptian, not Obelisk
So in 1204, Venice led the crusaders to the largest and most sophisticated city in Christendom.  The crusaders obliged with the Sack of Constantinople.  Today, almost nothing is left of the centre of the capital.  One of the few remaining monuments is the 32 m high Walled Obelisk that marked one end of the spine of an oval racing track.  If looks like blah today, consider that it once was lined with gilded bronze plaques with friezes.  The crusaders stole everything but the blocks.

Another tremendous treasure stolen by the Venetians was the Pala dOro. This Byzantine gold altar screen is decorated with just a few gems 1,300 pearls, 300 emeralds, 300 sapphires ... just to mention a few!  It was commissioned from Byzantine goldsmiths in 976.
Races and Riots

Also gone are the four famous 4th century BC Greek (now considered Roman) gilded "bronze" horses.  Appropriately, the four life-sized horses were depicted pulling a quadriga (chariot) on top of the boxes where the nobility sat.  They were very symbolic considering that this was the premiere horseracing arena.  The Hippodrome racetrack is where the Nika Riots led to the execution of 30,000 people.

Race Horses on
Basilica San Marco

Very little is left of the Hippodrome today and you can appreciate why it is overlooked by guidebooks and tourists alike.  You have to travel to Venice to see one of the few remnants.  The gilded horses were transported by ship and placed above the porch of Basilica San Marco. If you look at the photo carefully, you can see the proud horses, which have since been moved indoors into a museum. 

Rise of the Venetian Empire

Venetians seriously considered themselves the protectors of one quarter of the Roman Empire.  Thus while Europe embraced the Gothic style, Venezia developed its own Venetian-Byzantine style.  Spoils of the Sack were strewn around the Piazza San Marco and thus visible as one docked at the quay.

After 1204, Venice and Genoa became the main naval powers and seized most of the Byzantine land holdings in Italy, Dalmatian and Aegean Coasts.The first bank in the world was established in Venice in 1157. Modern banking started with merchant banks, which provided capital to companies in the form of share ownership instead of loans. Merchant banking progressed from financing trade on one’s own behalf to holding deposits for settlement of notes written by traders.

Transporting large sums of heavy metal money over long distances in the Middle Ages was neither secure not practical. So the merchants benches (banco in Italian) in the great grain markets became centres for holding money against a "bill" (nota).  Our word bank is derived from the Italian word banco and bank note comes from "nota di banco".  The first true banknotes were issued by Stockholms Banco.
Marco Polo on the 1000 Lira Bank Note
By the late 13th century, Venice was the most prosperous city in all of Europe. It is not by accident that it had incredible glass blowing, art and architecture.  It is not by accident that Marco Polo (1254 – 1324) was a merchant from Venice.  He brought back the idea of paper money from China.  The first true banknotes were issued by Stockholms Banco.
Palazzo Ducale

Venice was now a European power and had to have a palace to show off. Built in 1340, the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) housed not only the leader (duca) but also the government offices. 

Saracenic Arches
The Venetian architectural style is a fusion of both Byzantine, Islamic and Gothic elements.  The Saracenic-Gothic arches added a distinctive Islamic feel and break up what would be a boring, massive rectangular façade.  Windows, arches and colonnades had the feel of lacework and made the palazzi feel light.  The stone or marble frame around the main floor windows used for the first time in the Gothic period to highlight the importance of these central windows might have been borrowed from the Islamic alfiz.

The Doge's Palace is filled with art by Renaissance masters like Tintoretto, Titian, Tiepolo, Veronese, Bellini and Palladio.  Did you notice that Italian artists are known by one name?  – Like football stars today.
The Sack of Constantinople weakened the Byzantine Empire and gradually its area decreased, well before the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.  In fact, the Ottomans had already conquered Asia Minor and had their capital in Bursa.  When they used cannons to decimate Constantinople defences, only Thrace and the City were still held by the Byzantine Empire.  Thracians were another people like the Lycians in Kaş who migrated both east to India and west to Turkey and Europe – in other words,  Proto-Indo-European (aka Aryan) tribes.   

Birth of Venus
The Italian city-states formed a bastion of merchant classes (aka capitalism) against the decay of feudalism.  One should not be surprise that the Renaissance was born in Italia. 

The Fall of Constantinople in 1453 was NOT the start of the Renaissance; it was the increase in the wealth of the city-states in Italy.  It was aided by the decline in trust of the Church thanks to the Black Plague. 

With their wealth resulting from domination of the silk trade with the east, the Venetian merchant class could put money into art and architecture.