A Tour of Turkey – A Diverse and Dynamic Country
Turkey sits at a pivotal point on the world map. It is truly a crossroads of world history. Think Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. Stephen Kinzer best summed it up when he said, “No place on earth has been home to so many different civilizations over such a long period of time.” The mere mention of Istanbul stirs one’s imagination like few other cities in the world. Consider that six complete civilizations have existed on its sight. Luckily for us, Istanbul is where we begin our September tour that highlights the diversity of this fascinating country.
This huge city of 14 million people straddles the Bosphorus, incorporating both Asia and Europe within its reach. Names beckon—The Grand Bazaar, the Egyptian Spice Market, the Topkapi Palace. The architecture astounds—the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, for example.
A few days in Istanbul will give you a good sense of the great culture and history of Turkey, but heading south to Ephesus will really bring home the point. Ephesus was once a vital city in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Now, one of the largest and longest archaeological digs in the world is taking place there. Archaeologists have been working for 100 years, with another 100 years needed to finish the job. I have been there four times, and it is amazing what keeps being discovered.
Our 12 day tour takes us next to Marmaris where we board a gulet, a broad-beamed Turkish yacht that typically hold eight to 12 guests. The living is easy—and beautiful. Not only is the gleaming teak of the gulet beautiful, so is the whole setting along the Turkish Turquoise Coast. People love the sailing part of the trip.
Now we go to an important attitudinal point about being in Turkey. One must come to the country with a double mind-set—a long term look and a short term view. At moments you will be looking at something that is measured in centuries or millennia. B.C. and A.D. are used often by guides. Then suddenly you are in a very modern setting as you enter the lobby of a beautiful, new hotel. The mind has to keep adjusting. But it is a fun exercise.
Back to the tour, which next takes us to Antalya—a delightful city along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. A gem of a museum awaits, filled with jaw-dropping marble Roman statues. Almost every tour leaves Antalya reluctantly.
People often ask what is the food like. A Mediterranean diet is predominant—fresh vegetables, fresh fish, fresh everything. One dines well.
In central Turkey sits the Cappadocia Region filled with ancient underground cities and beautiful 12th century cave churches. The preservation is impressive. Cappadocia gives people many active options—ranging from quiet afternoon hikes to early morning hot balloon rides. The landscape is like nowhere else in the world.
This area also has many modern day artisans—weavers, potters, and painters. If you are looking to purchase a piece by which to remember your tour, this is the place.
Before finishing the tour by flying back to Istanbul, I should say something about modern day Turkey. It is a 90-year old, young, Muslim democracy, learning to live in the 21st century. At times one sees a very cosmopolitan Istanbul, and a short time later one can spot a boy riding a donkey along a country road. Turkey can be highly efficient and inefficient in the same breath. But it never stops being fascinating.