The western Turkish Coast was part of the Ancient Greek and Roman empires, and therefore, many historic sites that are thought of as Greek are actually in Turkey. Myra, the birthplace of Saint Nicholas was the first place that we visited heading west along the coast. He is today the patron saint of Russia, and this place is visited by a large number of Russian tourists based on the number of Russian signs that we saw.
The exploration of the ancient sites continued, as we headed to Kekova islands, and the sunken city. The sunken city is the ruins of a city that was on the island, and then which was destroyed by an earthquake. However, the ruins and some of the pottery are visible under the water. The water was very clear, but quite cold. Any thoughts we had about swimming were dashed. After touring the sunken city, we headed to a modern village on a nearby island. This looked like a Greek Island, and had a fort at the top of the hill. We hiked up there and took a diversion to eat mulberries from a bush that was on the path. I am sure the local must have wondered what we were doing there eating their fruit.
We had a sunset dinner on the boat at another island, with Genghis our driver doing the duty of main chef – BBQing the fish.
We finished the day at Kas, a nearby city further west on the coast.
Kas is situated in a small bay below a massive hill. There is an old forum at the edge of the town, and many shops and souvenir stands. We had an unstructured day visiting different parts of the town, checking out the restaurants and stores, as well as seeing the village life.
The next day, we resumed the driving tour, and headed inland to Hierapolis at Pamukkale. This small village has two amazing sites on the rourist trail of Turkey – the ancient city of Hierapolis with its necropolis, roman baths and other relics from 2000 years ago, and the travertine pools. The travertine pools look like white washed rice paddies. The pools are man made, and are colored white as a result of the mineralization of the water from the nearby spring that descends down the hill. We walked through the ancient city and then spent time walking down the white slope of the travertine. This area was crawling with tourists, some frolicking in the water of the pools, while others walked gingerly down the slopes trying to avoid slipping.
Turkey is known for its textile industry, especially for making clothing. There was an outlet shop in Pamukkale which offered a number of brand name shirts including Burberry for sale. Peter found a Burberry branded shirt for about $30, with a label that stated “Made in England”. The sales person didn’t think that this was a problem, even though the shirt was made in Turkey.
The Roman/Greek theme continued the next day as we headed back to the coast to the town of Selchuk. This is the modern town near the ancient city of Ephesus. Ephesus is one of the best examples of a Roman town that has been restored as much as possible. Like most ancient cities, there is a forum, a bathing area and some new features that we hadn’t seen, including the two storey library, and the town brothel, which had a secret passage to the library. One of the more interesting aspects tot his was a picture of a foot on the roadway. If your foot was bigger than the picture you could use the brothel.
Two of the most impressive features were the marble roads, which even had ruts to make them less slippery on rainy days, and the terraced houses, which had very well preserved mosaics. The terraced houses were covered as part of an archeological site which helped to preserve them.
Ephesus was also the home to St. Paul for two years. His letter to the Ephesians forms part of the New Testament of the Bible. The Virgin Mary supposedly spent her final years in a house on the outskirts of Ephesus.
Selchuk also has the basilica named for St John, as well as an Acropolis. Both had wild poppies nearby.
The tour continued further up the coast to the town of Troy, famous for the Trojan War and the horse. Troy was in much poorer shape than Ephesus and you had to use your imagination to see what had been there many thousands of years ago. The Horse has been recreated both at the site and in the nearby town of Canakkale. However, Troy milked this and you could dress up as a Gladiator and have a mock battle.
Fast forward a few thousand years to a another battle that happened 99 years ago on the other side of the Dardanelles on the Gallipoli Peninsula. With the Ottoman Empire collapsing, the Allies set out to grab control of the Dardanelles, a narrow waterway that provided access to the Sea of Marmara, Istanbul and the Black Sea. The French, British and Australian Armies landed on the peninsula, but were held at bay by the Turkish army, and nine months later they withdrew. The leader of the Turkish forces, Attaturk, went on to become the firs president of modern Turkey.
The Peninsula has many cemeteries and memorial sites for both sides. The Turkish government allows the Australians to commemorate the anniversary of the landing every year – April 25th. We happened to be there a week before this anniversary and were able to see the elaborate preparations, including temporary bleachers that have been setup for the dawn ceremony.
The Turkish memorials had at least seven tour buses of local tourists visiting them, while the ANZAC sites had just us and a few other foreign tourist. The Turkish tourists seem to not visit the ANZAC sites.
We completed the circle of the tour by driving back to Istanbul the following morning. The four hour drive on the European peninsula transitioned from semi rural to suburban to urban as we got closer to the city. Marg was shocked to see canola fields next to the shore at sea level, which was much different than the canola field sof the prairies in Canada, which are at about 1000m above sea level, many hundreds of kilometers inland from the ocean.
The Western circle of Turkey provided us with a wide range of cultural, historical and topographical diversity that we had not seen in any other country that we had visited. This was definitely a recommended country for the adventure seeking tourist.