Istanbul embraces two continents with one arm reaching out to Asia and the other to Europe.
Through the city’s heart -the Bosphorus- run the waters of the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn.
The former capital of three successive empires, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman, Istanbul today honors and preserves the legacy of its past while looking forward to a modern future. It is Istanbul’s endless variety that fascinates visitors. The museums, churches, palaces, grand mosques, bazaars and sights of natural beauty seem innumerable.
Reclining on the western shore of the Bosphorus at sunset contemplating the red evening light reflected in the windows of the opposite shore, you may suddenly understand why so many centuries ago settlers chose to build on this remarkable site. At such times you can see why Istanbul is truly one of the most glorious cities in the world.
On a finger of land, at the confluence of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara stands, the Topkapi Palace, the maze of buildings that was the focal point of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries. In these opulent surroundings the sultans and their court lived and governed. A magnificent wooded garden fills the outer, or first, court. In the second court, on the right, shaded by cypress and plane trees, stand the palace kitchens, which now serve as galleries exhibiting the imperial collections of crystal, silver and Chinese porcelain. To the left is the Harem, the secluded quarters of the wives, concubines, and children of the sultan, charming visitors with echoes of centuries of intrigue. Today the third court holds the Hall of Audience, the Library of Ahmet III, an exhibition of imperial costumes worn by the sultans and their families, the famous jewels of the treasury and a priceless collection of miniatures from medieval manuscripts. In the center of this innermost sanctuary, the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle enshrines the relics of the Prophet Muhammed brought to Istanbul when the Ottomans assumed the caliphate of Islam. (Open every day except Tuesday).
Topkapi Palace , Istanbul
The facade of the Dolmabahce Palace, built in the mid-19th century by Sultan Abdulmecit I, stretches for 600 m along the European shore of the Bosphorus. The vast reception salon, with its 56 columns and four-and-a-half ton crystal chandelier with 750 lights, never fails to astonish . At one time, birds from all over the world were kept in the Bird Pavilion for the delight of the palace’s privileged residents. Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, died in the palace on November 10, 1938. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday).
In the 19th century, Sultan Abdulaziz built the Beylerbeyi Palace, a fantasy in white marble set amid magnolia-filled gardens, on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus. Used as the Sultan’s summer residence, it was offered to the most distinguished foreign dignitaries for their visits. Empress Eugenie of France was among its residents. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday).
In addition to the State Pavilions at the Yildiz Palace complex, the compound includes a series of pavilions and a mosque. It was completed by Abdulhamit 11 at the end of the 19th century.
The Sale, the largest and most exquisite of the buildings, reveals the luxury in which the sultans lived and entertained. Set in a huge park of flowers, shrubs and trees gathered from every part of the world, the palace grounds offer one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the Bosphorus. Because of restoration work, only the Sale and park are open to the public. (Open every day except Tuesday).
Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul
The Goksu Palace, also known as Kucuksu, takes its name from the streams which empty into the Bosphorus near the tiny palace. Built by Abdulmecit I in the middle of the 19th century, it was used as a summer residence. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday).
Originally built in the 18th century and later restored by various sultans, the Aynali Kavak Summer Pavilion assumed the name, Mirrored Poplar, when its famed mirrors, a gift from the Venetians, were installed in 1718. This palace on the Golden Horn is one of the most beautiful examples of traditional Turkish architecture. (open every day except Monday and Thursday).
Topkapi Palace , Istanbul
The 19th-century lhlamur Pavilion is named for the linden trees that grow in its gardens. Now in the heart of metropolitan Istanbul, when it was originally constructed, the pavilion lay in the rolling countryside that surrounded the city. The Merasim Pavilion was used for official ceremonies while the Maiyet Pavilion sheltered the sultan’s entourage and, on occasions, his harem on their excursions out of the palace confines. (Open every day except Monday and Thursday).
Interior Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul
The Maslak Pavilions on a shady green hill were conceived by Sultan Abdulaziz as hunting lodges. These are particularly noteworthy as superb examples of the late 19 thcentury Ottoman decorative style. The Malta Pavilion is presently a casual restaurant while both the Maslak Pavilion and Limonlu Gate are open as cafes. (Open every day)
The Florya Ataturk Sea Pavilion served as a summer residence for Turkish presidents, beginning with Ataturk Built in 1935 in a T-shaped design on land jutting out over the Sea of Marmara, this building serves as a showcase for some of the loveliest examples of early 20th century furnishings. (Open weekdays except Monday and Thursday).
HISTORICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS
The ancient Hippodrome, the scene of chariot races and the center of Byzantine civic life, stood in the area that now fronts of the Blue Mosque. The area is now named for the mosque, Sultanahmet. Of the monuments which once decorated it only three remain: the Obelisk of Theodosius, the bronze Serpentine Column and the Column of Constantine. Remains from the curved end of the Hippodrome wall can be seen on the southwest side of these three monuments. Today the square forms the center of Istanbul’s historical, cultural and touristic pursuits. Take particular note of the surrounding wooden houses, especially the 18th century homes on Sogukcesme Street. Delightfully restored, they have a new lease on life as small hotels; one houses a fascinating library of books on Istanbul.
The Ahmet III Fountain, built in 1729, stands at the entrance to Topkapi Palace. A generous roof shades the water spouts where the thirsty can stop for a cup of refreshing water. This highly ornate, free-standing fountain is a superb example of the late Ottoman Style.
Mahmut II built the Beyazit Tower (85 m high) in 1828 as a fire tower. Today it is included in the grounds of Istanbul University.
Galata Tower, Istanbul
The Bozdogan-Valens Aqueduct, built in 368 A.D., supplied the Byzantine, and later the Ottoman palaces, with water. Today part of the remaining 900 m of double-tiered arches straddle the major highway that runs through the old part of town.
The Istanbul city walls, once an impenetrable fortification, stretch seven km from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn. Recently restored, as also many times before, these walls date from the fifth century and the reign of Emperor Theodosius 11. UNESCO has declared the walls, and the area which they enclose, one of the world’s cultural heritage.
The Galata Tower, a Genoese construction of 1348, rises 62 m above the Golden Horn. From the top there is a marvelous panorama of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. In the evening you can enjoy its popular restaurant, nightclub and bar.
Rumeli Hisari Istanbul
Rumeli Hisari, or European Fortress, was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452 prior to his capture of Istanbul. Completed in only four months, it is one of the most beautiful works of military architecture in the world. In the castle is the Open-Air Museum amphitheater, the site for some events of the Istanbul Music Festival. (Open every day except Wednesdays).
Kiz Kulesi, also known as Leander’s Tower, is one of the most romantic symbols of Istanbul. On a tiny island at the entrance to Istanbul’s harbor, the first tower was constructed in the 12th century. The present building dates from the 18th century.
Kiz Kulesi, Istanbul
ISTANBUL BOGAZI (THE BOSPHORUS)
A stay in Istanbul is not complete without a traditional and unforgettable boat excursion up the Bosphorus, the winding strait that separates Europe and Asia. Its shores offer a delightful mixture of past and present, grand splendor and simple beauty. Modern hotels stand next to yali (shorefront wooden villas), marble palaces abut rustic stone fortresses, and elegant compounds neighbor small fishing villages. The best way to see the Bosphorus is to board one of the passenger boats that regularly zigzag along the shores. You embark at Eminonu and stop alternately on the Asian and European sides of the strait. The roundtrip excursion, very reasonably priced, takes about six hours. If you wish a private voyage, there are agencies that specialize in organizing day or night cruises.
Rumeli Hisari , Istanbul
During the journey you pass the magnificent Dolmabahce Palace; farther along rise the green parks and imperial pavilions of the Yildiz Palace. On the coastal edge of the parks stands the Ciragan Palace, refurbished in 1874 by Sultan Abdulaziz, and now restored as a grand hotel. For 300 m along the Bosphorus shore its ornate marble facades reflect the swiftly moving water. At Ortakoy, the next stop, artists gather every Sunday to exhibit their works in a streetside gallery. The eclectic mix of people creates a lively scene. Sample a tasty morsel from one of the street vendors. In Ortakoy, there is a church, mosque and synagogue that have existed side-by-side for hundreds of years – a tribute to Turkish tolerance at the grass roots level. Overshadowing Istanbul’s traditional architecture is one of the world’s largest suspension bridges, the Bosphorus Bridge, linking Europe and Asia.
The beautiful Beylerbeyi Palace lies just past the bridge on the Asian side. Behind the palace rises Camlica Hill, the highest point in Istanbul. You can also drive here to admire a magnificent panorama of the city, as well as the beautiful landscaped gardens. On the opposite shore, the wooden Ottoman villas of Arnavutkoy dramatically contrast with the luxurious modern apartments of neighboring Bebek. A few km farther along stand the fortresses of Rumeli Hisari and Anadolu Hisari facing each other across the straits like sentries guarding the city.
Kucuksu Kasri, Istanbul
The Goksu Palace sometimes known as Kucuksu Palace graces the Asian shore next to the Anadolu Hisari. The second link between the two continents, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge straddles the waterway just past these two fortresses.
From Duatepe Hill, on the European side, you can admire the magnificent panorama of the bridge and the Bosphorus. Below Duatepe, the beautiful Emirgan Park bursts with color when its tulips bloom in the spring. On the Asian shore is Kanlica, a fishing village, now a favored suburb for wealthy Istanbulites. Crowds gather in the restaurants and cafes along its shores to sample its famous yogurt. Shortly after Kanlica and Cubuklu is the Beykoz Korusu (Ibrahim Pap Woods), a popular retreat. In the cafes and restaurants there, you can enjoy the delightful scenery and clear, fresh air. Back on the European side, at Tarabya Bay, yachts seem to dance at their moorings. The coastal road bustles with taverns and fish restaurants from Tarabya to the charming suburbs of Sariyer and Buyukdere. Sariyer has one of the largest fish markets in Istanbul and is also famous for its delicious varieties of milk puddings and borek (pastries). On past Sariyer the narrow strait widens and opens into the Black Sea.
Golden Horn (Halic), Istanbul
HALIC (THE GOLDEN HORN)
This horn-shaped estuary divides European Istanbul. One of the best natural harbors in the world, the Byzantine and Ottoman navies and commercial shipping interests were centered here. Today, lovely parks and promenades line the shores where the setting sun casts a golden hue on the water. At Fener and Balat, neighborhoods midway up the Golden Horn, whole streets full of historic wooden houses, churches, and synagogues date from Byzantine and Ottoman times. The Orthodox Patriarchy resides here at Fener. Eyup, a little further up, reflects Ottoman architecture. Cemeteries dotted with dark cypress trees cover the hillsides. Many pilgrims come to the Tomb of Eyup, in the hope that their prayers will be granted. The Pierre Loti Cafe, atop the hill overlooking the shrine is a wonderful place to enjoy the tranquility of the view.
From the North Sea through the European interior, yachters can cruise down the European canal system and the Rhine and Danube Rivers into the Black Sea harbors and to the Istanbul Bogazi and Istanbul marinas. A safe water-born shortcut.
Sail on the Istanbul Bogazi under the enormous bridges spanning two continents and around the Princes’ Islands to their beautiful bays, where you may anchor and enjoy the serenity of the area. After enjoying all of the sights return to one of the two large marinas. Atakoy Marina with a blue flag rating is on the European side and Kalamis Marina is on the Asian side. Both offer 24-hour service. International Offshore Yacht races are held in Istanbul every summer.
Moving on from Istanbul through the Sea of Marmara you come to Canakkale and the famous Dardanelles, site of an historic World War I campaign that annointed Mustafa Kemal as a man of destiny. Continue on into the Aegean Sea for fine cruising and end up along the golden sands of the Mediterranean.
Istanbul offers lovely opportunities for golf enthusiasts:
The Klassis Golf and Country Club, 65 km from Istanbul in Silivri, is one of the area’s largest golf clubs, with an 18-hole course and a 9-hole course.
The Kemer Golf and Country Club , 18 km from Istanbul in the Belgrad Forest near the town of Kemerburgaz, offers a formidable test of golf skill on its 9-hole course.
The Istanbul Golf Club in the Ayazaga district of Istanbul also has a 9-hole course.
THE MARMARA REGION
A fast highway connects Istanbul with Izmit, the capital of Kocaeli province. An important city in Roman times known as Nicomedeia, it is now a prosperous industrial center. The restored Saatci Efendi Konak, a typical 18th-century Ottoman mansion, now serves as the Ethnography Museum. Pismaniye, the local sweet, consists of thousands of thin layers of drawn sugar. Hereke, west of Izmir, is a major carpet center. Renowned throughout the world for their beauty and quality, these carpets fetch the highest prices in Istanbul bazaars. On the Black Sea coast, north of Izmir, particularly at Kerpe, Kefken and Kovanagzi, sandy beaches and comfortable guest houses attract vacationers.
Kefke Rocky Outcrops
East of Izmir, is Adapazari, the provincial capital of Sakarya, an important agricultural and industrial region. The Sakarya (Sangarius) River irrigates this fertile land which abounds in fruit trees and fields of vegetables. In the city of Adapazari, itself, the Ataturk and Ethnography Museum displays personal effects of the founder of the Turkish Republic as well as regional artifacts. The Beskopru Bridge, built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian in 553, stretches for 429 m across the river, with eight arches connect the two shores.
A few km away at Lake Sapanca, quiet restaurants, hotels, and summer residences line the lakeshore. Istanbulites escape to this retreat in the Saman Mountain basin throughout the year. The Arifiye Forest on the highlands of Lake Sapanca has nice camping and picnic areas and an excellent panoramic view of the lake below.
Lake Akgol lies just inland from the Black Sea Karasu holiday center. Both places offer scenic surroundings. At Tarakli you can wander through a town that preserves many of its old buildings.
The province of Bilecik lies southeast of Iznik in the verdant and fertile Sakarya River Valley. In the old quarter of the city stands the mausoleum of Seyh Edebali, who played an important role in the founding of the Ottoman Empire. Every September, a commemorative ceremony and cultural festival are held here in his honor. The Orhan Gazi Mosque is near his tomb.
Set amid the numerous willows which give Sogut its name, the town is well worth a detour.
The migrating Kayi Turks first settled here, and the tomb of their leader Ertugrul Gazi is in the town. In September, a commemorative ceremony is held in his honor. Other tourist attractions include the life-size busts of famous figures from Turkish history and the Ethnography Museum which traces the history of Turkey through its displays.
In ancient times Yalova was known as Helenapolis in memory of Emperor Constantine’s mother Helena who designed the city. Today, Yalova is an important port city, famous for its thermal baths. Termal, in the southwestern part of the city is the center of the thermal district and the best place in Turkey to enjoy the curative thermal bath waters. In Termal, there’s a wonderful panoramic view of the entire Thermal district center from the top of a hill overlooking the city. The Ataturk Mansion, located in Yalova, is now a museum (open to the public weekdays except Monday and Thursday). Built in 1929, Ataturk’s former summer residence displays original furnishings from the early 20th century. For more natural beauty take in Karaca Arboretum, open Sunday afternoons until 6 p.m.
Seventeen km west of Yalova, the relaxing resort area of Cinarcik has lovely beaches and modern accomodations.
Formerly known as Nicaea, Iznik lies at the eastern tip of Lake Iznik, to the south of lzmit. The city was founded in 316 BC by Antigonas, one of the generals of Alexander the Great, and then taken by another general, Lysimachus, who named the city “Nicaea” for his wife. Later the city fell to the Bithynian Kingdom and was bequeathed to Rome in 128 BC. After playing its role as an important Roman, and then later Byzantine city, it fell to the Seljuks in 1078 and passed on to the Ottomans in 1331. The Roman theater was built by Trajan (249-251). On the shore of Lake Iznik stands the Roman Senate, where the first Council of Nicea took place in 325. In the center of the town is the Church of St. Sophia, used by other councils. One of the more important councils was in 745 over iconoclasm, the role of icons in worship. The “Baptisteriurn” has a cupola over the baptistry. The Ottomans converted this church into the Orhan Mosque. Another church is the 6th-century “Komesis” Church built for the ascension of the virgin. Iznik stands along with Jerusalem, Ephesus and the Vatican in importance in the Christian world. It is still a small town which does not seem to have exceeded its original 4227 m of Roman walls with their 114 towers.
The four gates which allowed access to the city still stand. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Iznik was the center of exquisite ceramic ware production which made an important decorative contribution to mosques and palaces throughout Turkey. A museum displays the finds of nearby excavations. Among the important Islamic buildings, be sure to visit the turquoise tiled Yesil Mosque and the Nilufer Hatun Imarethanesi. After exploring the sights, the lakeside fish restaurants provide delicious food and a relaxing atmosphere. Five km from Iznik, in the village of Elbeyli there are a 5th century catacomb and an obelisk 15.5 m high built by Cassius Philiscus.
Yenisehir, 40 km. northeast of Bursa, is filled with many interesting and lovely old Turkish houses. The 18th century Semaki Mansion, now restored as a museum, is open to visitors.
The city of Bursa, southeast of the Sea of Marmara, lies on the lower slopes of Uludag (Mt. Olympos of Mysia, 2,443 m). The city derives its name from its founder, King Prusias of Bithynia. Its previous antique name was Prussa ad Hypium. It subsequently came under Roman, then Byzantine rule before falling to Orhan Gazi in 1326, when it become the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. Many important Ottoman buildings remain.
Known as “Green Bursa,” the city is filled with gardens and parks and overlooks a verdant plain. It is at the center of an important fruit growing region. Bursa was, and is still, famous for its peaches, silk trade, towel manufacture and thermal springs. Make a point to try the local dish Iskender Kebab, a dish of bread, tomato sauce, strips of grilled meat, melted butter and yogurt. Candied chestnuts are another regional speciality.
A tour of the city begins in the eastern section at the Yesil Turbe (Green Mausoleum). Set in a garden and distinguished by its exterior paneling of tiles, the mausoleum holds the tiled cenotaph of Sultan Mehmet 1. Across the street, the Yesil Mosque of 1424 reflects the new Ottoman, as opposed to Seljuk, aesthetic. A medrese nearby completes the complex and is also home to the Ethnography Museum. Before exploring this area, stop for a glass of tea in one of the traditional tea houses. Going uphill, to the east, you pass by the Emir Sultan Mosque in its delightful setting, and after walking through a district of old houses, you reach the Yildirim Beyazit Mosque (1391).
Now make your way to Cumhuriyet Square (known locally as Heykel) and stroll along Ataturk Avenue to Kom Park where outdoor cafes are set among flowers and fountains. At the back of the park, a long building, the Kom Han (1490), houses the silk cocoon trade. From here you proceed to the covered bazaar area, with its narrow streets, caravanserais and bedesten.
On the other side of Kom Park stands one of Bursa’s oldest religious buildings, the Orhan Gazi Mosque, built in 1413. Nearby is the large Ulu Mosque, constructed in the Seljuk style. A finely carved walnut mimber (speaker’s platform) and impressive calligraphic panels decorate the mosque. The sadirvan (ablutionary fountain) lies uncharacteristicly within the mosque itself under the ceiling of twenty domes.
Walking west from the Ulu Mosque you arrive at Hisar, an old and picturesque quarter of Bursa. In the park that overlooks the valley are the mausoleums of Osman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, and his son Orhan Gazi, who commanded the army that conquered Bursa. The cafes of Tophane offer a good place to stop for refreshments. In nearby Ressamlar Sokak (Painters’ Street), local artists work in the open air.
At the Yildiz Park Tea Gardens in the Muradiye quarter, you get a superb view of the Muradiye Complex. The compound, in a tranquil park-like setting, contains the Mosque of Sultan Murat 11 (1426) built in the style of the Yesil Mosque and the tombs of Murat 11, Sehzade Cem and Sehzade Mustafa. These contain some of the loveliest decoration and tile work. The nearby Ottoman House Museum is in a restored 17th century dwelling that provides an interesting glimpse into the lives of wealthy Ottomans.
Other places of interest in Bursa include the Culture Park with the Bursa Archeological Museum, and the Ataturk Museum on the road to Cekirge, The western suburb of Cekirge has been known since Roman times for its warm springs rich in minerals. Many modem hotels have thermal bath facilities or, you can also visit the old hamams. Yeni Kaplica (New Spring) was built in 1552 by RustemPasa, Pasa, the Grand Vizier of Suleyman the Magnificent. The Eski Kaplica (Old Spring), built on the site of the original Byzantine baths, is the oldest bath. The Karamustafa Pasa baths are reputed to have the best hot mineral waters in the area. Buildings of interest in Cekirge, include the Mosque and Mausoleum of Murat I and the tomb of Suleyman Celebi, a religious poet. The monument to Karagoz commemorates the character whose humorous antics are immortalized in Turkish shadow puppet theater.
Thirty-six km from Bursa is Uludag, the largest center for winter sports in Turkey, a variety of activities, accommodation and entertainment. The slopes are easily reached by car or cable car (teleferik). December to May is the best time for skiing, although the neighboring Uludag National Park, is well worth a visit at any time of the year for the lovely views and wonderful fresh air.
A seaside resort town 25 km from Bursa, Mudanya’s fine fish restaurants and nightclubs are popular with the residents of Bursa. The Armistice Museum is also worth a visit. just 12 km from Mudanya, Zeytinbagi (Tirilye) exemplifies the architecture and layout of a typical Turkish town.
The Gulf of Gemlik, 29 km from Bursa has wide sandy beaches, of which Armutlu and Kumla are the favorites.
The province of Balikesir borders both the Marmara and Aegean regions. In the capital of Balikesir, interesting historical sites harmoniously blend with nature. The mid-14th century Yildirim Mosque, built by Beyazit 1, is the city’s oldest mosque. The Zagnos Pasa Mosque, built in 1461 by and named for the Grand Vizier of Mehmet the Conqueror, was once part of a great complex. Today only the mosque and bath remain. The Saat Kulesi (Clock Tower) built in 1827 by Mehmet Pasa is a smaller version of the Genoese Galata Tower. The Karesi Bey Mausoleum of 1336 contains the cenotaphs of Karesi Bey and his five sons. Also take in the artifacts from the area displayed in the newly completed Balikesir Museum (Kuva-i Milliye).
The beautiful Degirmen Bogazi, an area ten km from Balikesir towards Bursa, lies between two hills. On weekends and holidays families flock to this scenic spot and its restaurants at Karakol village photographers can capture three picturesque windmills. Ancient Penderamus now called Bandirma, is today an important commercial and industrial harbor second only to Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara. You can spend a pleasant afternoon in the town’s restaurants and cafes. Belkis (Kyzikos) lies ten km west of Bandirma. In this ancient city on the isthmus of the Kapidag Peninsula, the Temple of Hadrian, a theater and aqueducts still captivate visitors. The Kuscenneti National Park near Lake Manyas is an ornithological site where 239 different species of birds flourish. Every year, over three million birds fly through this preserve. April and May are the best months to enjoy the wildlife. Thirteen km southeast of Bandirma in Karacabey, horse farms breed magnificent specimens of this beloved animal.
Manyas Kus Cenneti, National Park, Balikesir
Once known as ancient Erteka, Erdek is just 14 km northwest of Bandirma. One of the oldest and most famous resort areas on the Sea of Marmara, it offers pristine beaches and every type of accommodation.
Marmara Island, formerly known as Prokonessos, rose to prominence in the Roman period and retained its importance in the Byzantine and Ottoman periods thanks to the marble quarries, which supplied the stone for extravagant imperial building programs.
Manyas Kus Cenneti, National Park, Balikesir
Near Saraylar village, Marble Beach derives its name from the natural marble that lies just off the water’s edge. In town, an open-air museum displays artifacts which date back to the Roman and Byzantine eras. At the marble quarry you can witness every step of the quarrying process.
Turkeli (Avsa) is another resort island that boasts of spectacular beaches and clear water as well as famous vineyards and wine cellars. In the Manastir district stands the Byzantine Meryem Ana Monastery.
Cunta Island, Ayvalik Balikesir
Fifty-five km southwest of Bandirma is Gonen, Turkey’s most important thermal resort. That the springs were used even in Roman times is testified to by a fifth-century mosaic from what was originally a Roman bath. The waters come from 500 m below the ground, emerge at approximately 82C. Another 30 km to the northwest, Denizkent is a nice vacation spot with lovely beaches.
Sindirgi lies at the base of the Alacam Mountains amid beautiful forests and meadows in a region known for the weaving of superb Turkish carpets. The rugs of Yagcibedir are among the most prized in the country, growing more lovely with age. Around the Gulf of Edremit, also in Balikesir province, are some of the most beautiful coastlines in the country where clear waters meet sandy beaches which are encircled by the silvery green olive groves. Ayvalik, Burhaniye, Oren, Edremit, Akcay and Altinoluk are all resort towns which attract vacationers interested in a relaxing holiday with beautiful scenery and a wealth of historic and archeological sites.
The city of Canakkale lies at the narrow, 1,200 meter entrance to the Canakkale Strait (the Dardanelles) that connects the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean. Passenger and car ferries run daily between Canakkale on the Asian side and Eceabat and Kilitbahir on the European side. Yachts navigating the straits stop at the well-equipped Canakkale Marina to allow tourists more time in the area. Hotels, restaurants-and cafes along the promenade, offer a place to enjoy the traffic in the harbor, as well as a view of the Kilitbahir Fortress and the Canakkale Archeological Museum.
In 1451, Sultan Mehmet 11, later the conqueror of Istanbul, built one fortress on the European side of the Canakkale Strait at Kilitbahir and one on the opposite shore at Cimenlik to control the passage of ships through the strait. Today the Cimenlik fortress serves as a military museum dedicated to the World War I Battle of Canakkale.
Gelibolu Peninsula Historical National Park was established to honor the 500,000 soldiers who gave their lives on Gelibolu, also known as Gallipoli. In 1915, MustafaKemal, commander of the Turkish army, led a successful campaign to drive out allied powers from the area. The park includes memorials, monuments, cemeteries, amid the natural beauty of the Ariburnu Cliffs and Tuz Golu (Salt Lake). The beauty of the green hills, sandy beaches and blue waters provides an honorable resting place for the soldiers who bravely fought and died in this historic battle. You cannot help but sense the heart of the Turkish nation in the patriotic spirit of the place.
The largest of the Turkish islands, Gokceada is ringed with pristine bays. Its hills, covered with pine and olive trees, are dotted with sacred springs and monasteries. Regularly scheduled ferries make the trip from Canakkale and Kabatepe. In August, islanders and tourists gather for colorful local fairs.
As you approach Bozcaada Island, the Venetian castle commands your attention. Then your eyes are drawn to the glistening white houses and the restaurants and cafes which line the promenade. Wine seems as plentiful as water on this island and the consequence of numerous vineyards and wine cellars. There are good sandy beaches at Ayazma, Poyraz and Igdelik.
Veterans Cemetry, Gelibolu (Gallipoli), Canakkale
The Fact and Fiction Surrounding the 4000 Year Old Ancient City
Troy existed more than 4000 years as the center of ancient civilization. For many years, it was commonly believed that Troy was a myth, the product of fertile imaginations such as Homer’s, who made Hector, Helen, Achilles, Paris, Agamemnon and Priam so famous. That changed in 1822, when the city’s remains were discovered by Charles Mclaren. Still many wondered if the Trojan War really happened. Did Helen of Troy exist? Was there a real wooden horse?
Once known as Ilium or New Ilium, Troy (Truva) is located in Hisarlik at Canakkale, in the west of Turkey on the Dardanelles, the strait that divides Europe and Asia as it connects the Agean and Marmara Seas. Here at a place that changed the history of the world during World War I with the Gelibolu Campaign, the remains of Troy can be visited today.
The legend of Troy began with Greek and Latin literature. Homer first mentioned it in the Iliad and Odyssey. Later it became a most popular subject in Greek drama, the city’s tale told to generation after generation.
During the Bronze Age, Troy has a great power because of its strategic location between Europe and Asia. In the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC, it was a major cultural center. However, after the fabled Trojan War, Troy was apparently abandoned from 1100 to 700 BC, when Greek settlers began to occupy the region. Troy was resettled and renamed Ilion. Alexander the Great ruled over the area around the 4th century BC. After the Roman capture of Troy in 85 BC, the city was partially restored by General Sulla. However, once the Romans occupied Constantinople (Istanbul), Troy lost its importance.
Troy was destroyed many times and rebuilt. So far, archaeologists have found nine levels; perhaps others are still hidden. However, efforts to uncover more of Troy’s secrets were severely hampered by the destruction wreaked on the site by German archaeologist Heinrich Schlieman, who excavated the city from 1870 to 1890. His theft of treasure from Troy and his damage to its remains will always be remembered in Turkish archaeological history.
TROJAN WAR AND CITY OF TROY (TRUVA)
The tale of Troy is most famously told by Homer in the Iliad and Odyssey. It begins with Laemedon, the son of Ilus who founded the city and gave it one of its names, was the king of Troy. Laemedon tried to cheat the gods of their rewards, thereby offending Herakles (Hercules), who sailed to Troy, attacked and captured the city. Laemedon and his sons were killed except the youngest, Podarces, who was released and took a new name, Priam, as the young king of Troy. Under his rule, Troy was restored and he reigned successfully over three generations, while his progeny – 50 sons and 12 daughters – played major roles in the story that would become one of the greatest ever told. Priam’s eldest son was the great warrior Hector, while, another, Paris, became a pivotal element in Troy’s history.
Paris’s impact on Troy began when Eris, goddess of discord, threw down a golden apple “for the fairest” at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Zeus, king of the gods, could not decide who should be awarded the apple, his wife Hera, Athena (goddess of wisdom) or Aphrodite (goddess of love). The goddesses were led to the Trojan Mount Ida, where the handsome Paris lived, and he was given the task of declaring who was fairest. Vying for his favor, Hera offered Paris the lordship of all Asia; Athena offered him victory in war and wisdom beyond any other man; and Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, whom she declared was Helen of Sparta. Consequently the clever Paris saw a way to avoid choosing among the influential women. He maintained that if the apple was to go “the fairest”, then it should go the Helen.
Helen was married to Meneloas, the brother of the most powerful king on the Greek peninsula, Agamemnon, who was married to Clytemnestra, daughter of Sparta and sister of Helen. Meneloas became king of Lakonia, making the brothers an important force in southern Greece.
Paris went to Sparta to present the apple to Helen. There, Menelaos gave a feast in honor of Paris before departing to visit the king of Knossos. After he left, Paris and Helen decided to run away and sailed to Troy.
When Menelaos heard what happened, he begged his brother Agamemnon to help him take his revenge. The king sent envoys to Troy to demand Helen’s return, but their entreaties were ignored. In response, Menelaos assembled an army, including the great hero warriors Achilles, Odysseus and Ajax, to engage Troy in a war that would last ten years.
In the tenth year, the legendary wooden horse was built as a means to gain access to the city. Well-armed men, among them Odysseus and Menelaos hid in it, while much of Greek army made a great show of withdrawing from Troy’s shores. The Trojans thought the horse had been left behind and pulled it into the city as a spoil of what they considered their victory over their enemy.
That night, there were celebrations throughout the city fueled by the consumption of large quantities of wine on the part of many of the Trojan forces, lulling them into a stupor. After midnight, the Greek soldiers emerged from the horse, killed the already pacified guards at the gates and opened the city to their comrades, who had returned under cover of darkness.
The Greeks entered Troy and killed all of its male inhabitants. The Trojan king Priam was killed on the threshold of his palace, while Paris was killed by Philoktetes. But the remaining Trojans still refused to give Helen up. Menelaos decided to kill her. However, once again confronted by her remarkable beauty he found he could not go through with it. After plundering and burning the city, the Greeks left Troy.
Temple of Athena, Assos (Behramkale)
The acropolis of Assos (Behramkale) is 238 m above sea level. The Temple of Athena was constructed on this site in the 6th century B.C. This Doric temple is being restored to its former glory and role as guardian of the Biga Peninsula and Gulf of Edremit. Linger to see the moonlight scattered through the temple ruins, or rise early for the gently awakening dawn over the acropolis. From the top you can take in the magnificent vista of the Gulf of Edremit and appreciate why this heavenly location was chosen. On the terraces descending to the sea are agoras, gymnasium and theatre. From the northern comer of the acropolis, you can see a mosque, a bridge and a fortress, all built in the 14th century by the Ottoman Sultan Murat 1. Down below lies a tiny and idyllic ancient harbor. Assos has gained the reputation of being the center of a Turkish art community with its lively Bohemian atmosphere.
This may be the holiday you will remember for years to come. In the village of Gulpinar, 25 km west of Behramkale, is the ancient city of Chryse where the 2nd-century B.C. temple of Apollon Smintheus is located. Babakale, a scenic village of houses terraced on a cliff which drops to the sea is 15 km west of Gulpinar on an unmarked road that follows the jagged coastline.
The town of Biga has given its name to an entire peninsula. It is a town of parks and a good place to see houses built in a traditional style. The closest beaches are at Karabiga, Sahmelek, and Kerner where you will find reasonably priced accommodation. Karabiga was known in ancient times for the god Priapos, and thus has cult and fertility associations is well known for its ceramics and sulphur springs which are thought to be helpful in various disorders of the liver, intestine and urinary tract. Two other hot springs are at nearby Kulculer and Kirazli.
Kaz Dagi (Mt. Ida, 1,774 m) is situated at the southern tip of Canakkale in the beautiful Kaz Dagi National Park and its magnificent landscapes, restful green areas and several hot springs. The main camping facilities are at the northern entrance to the park, via Bayramic and Evciler. In Bayramic, 60 km from Canakkale is the beautiful 18th- century Hadimogullari Mansion (Ottoman House) with its ethnography museum.
On the opposite, northern shore of the Sea of Marmara, is the important commercial harbor of Tekirdag. From both sides of this modem city and its lovely promenades stretch beautiful sandy beaches. A happy mixture of sunflower fields and vineyards cover the surrounding area. The most important architectural monument is the Rustem Pasa Mosque, designed by Sinan and built in 1554 by the Grand Vizier of Suleyman the Magnificent. The Archeology and Ethnography Museum displays an extensive collection of artifacts from the area. The Rakoczy Museum occupies the house where the Hungarian prince, Rakoczy Ferench 11 (1676-1735) lived out the last years of his life after fighting for his people’s liberation. The Namik Kemal Memorial (1840-1888) honors the birthplace of the Turkish National Poet. Sixty km west of Tekirdag, is the holiday center of Sarkoy and Murefte in a region renowned for wine. Beautiful vineyards cover the entire area, and the city hosts a wine festival every year.
North of Tekirdag on the border between Greece and Turkey, Edirne (Adrianople) was for some years the Ottoman capital, and in the 18th century one of the seven largest cities in Europe. On a verdant plain of poplar trees near the junction of the Tunca and Meric Rivers, this gracefully historic city welcomes visitors as they make their way to Istanbul and other points east.
The people of Edirne trace their origins back beyond the rule of the Macedonians. The Roman emperor Hadrian rebuilt the city and renamed it Hadrianople after himself. With the division of the Roman Empire, the Byzantines claimed Edirne In 1361, Sultan Murat I added it to his empire. The city’s role for almost 100 years as capital of the Ottoman Empire accounts for its many historically and architecturally important buildings. With its mosques, religious complexes, bridges, bazaars, caravanserais and palaces, Edirne is a living museum.
Meric Bridge, Edirne
The Selimiye Mosque is the city’s focal point occupying the top of a hill. Sinan’s design reflects the classical Ottoman style. Built on the orders of Sultan Selim. 11, (1569-1575) it attests to the technological abilities of the day and the genius of the master Ottoman architect.
The Eski Mosque is the oldest Ottoman structure in Edirne built between 1403 and 1414 by Mehmet 1. The white marble of its portal contrasts with the building’s cut stone and brick masonry. Calligraphic inscriptions of Koranic verses decorate the interior.
The Uc Serefeli Mosque, built between 1438 and 1447 by Murat 1, presages the great period of mosque architecture under Sinan and embodies a new freedom from restraint as well as advances in engineering. The northwest minaret has three galleries, giving the mosque its name. It was the highest minaret until those of the Selimiye Mosque in Istanbul eclipsed it.
Towards the end of the 15th century, Beyazit II commissioned the architect Hayrettin to build him a complex in Edirne to include a mosque, darussifa (hospital), medrese, kitchen and store rooms. The mosque is square and is covered with a high dome. Over 100 domes cover the remainder of the complex. The most important of the other buildings is the Darussifa which stood out in its time as a modem facility with a unique and humane architectural design.
Little has changed in the Kaleici section of Edirne since the Middle Ages. Narrow streets lined with houses wind through the area. The number of small restaurants and cafes reflect the district’s renaissance.
Sinan built several of the famous baths in Edirne including the Sokollu, Tahtakale, Mezit Bey, Beylerbeyi and Gazi Mihal hamams. His work is also seen in the Ahmet Pasa Caravanserai and the Rustem Pasa Caravanserai of 1561. The latter has been renovated and serves as a charming hotel. The old bedesten of the early 15th century still functions as Edirne’s main market. As you drive around the area you will notice many lovely Ottoman bridges gracing the Tunca and Meric Rivers.
Edirne has retained many of its colorful traditions and customs. Every summer, where the Tunca River divides, an emerald green meadow, called the Sarayici is the site of the Kirkpinar Greased Wrestling Contests. Shiny, slippery, bodies grapple with each other to determine who will emerge as champion.
As you walk through the city and peer into the corners of the grocery stores, you see blocks of white feta cheese, a local speciality. Hardaliye, another of the city’s delicacies, is a grape drink mixed with mustard and marzipan. Scented soaps, earthenware pots and straw baskets from Edirne make good souvenirs. You will also find it difficult to resist the beautiful embroidery work of the local women.
The Archeology and Ethnography Museum traces the history of the area from prehistoric to Byzantine times and exhibits clothing from the late Ottoman period. At the Turkish Islamic Art Museum examples of Ottoman architectural details, calligraphy, manuscripts, Korans, weapons, glass, along with an imperial tent used on military campaigns are on display.
On the way to the Saroz Gulf in the Aegean Sea, you can stop at Uzunkopru to see an interesting bridge built by Murat 11 in 1444 which, spans the Ergene River. Its 174 arches, the highest of which is 12.28 m make up its 1,354-meter length. The mild climate and beautiful surroundings of the Saroz Gulf invite holiday makers for a relaxing break. On the northern edge of the gulf are the lovely Ibrice and Erikli beaches where hotel and guest house facilities are plentiful and reasonably priced.
Enez (Ainos) was an important port in ancient times but today it lies 3.5 km. inland. Its origins can be traced to the 12th century B.C. and Enez became an important settlement during the Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. It was first built by the Kyme people and was known as a colony of the western Anatolian civilization. Currently, it remains an open-air museum. Enez Castle has been restored several times throughout history and is well worth a visit. There is also a church dating from the 6th century, some carved tombs and a beach with clear water. The people here are quite hospitable, making Enez an interesting stopover.
The Yildiz (Istranca) Mountains divide the province of Kirklareli. Lush mountainous landscapes dotted with quaint houses transport you to a tranquil frame of mind. The oldest mosque in the city of Kirklareli is the Hizirbey Mosque, built in 1383. The mosque complex includes a bazaar.
Nearby stands a hamam also built under the patronage of Hizir Bey. The l4th century Kirklar Memorial with its 18 impressive columns stands on Kirklar Hill honoring the site where 40 soldiers lost their lives. Every summer, where the Tunca River divides, an emerald green meadow, called the Sarayici is the site of the Kirkpinar Greased Wrestling Contests. Shiny, slippery, bodies grapple with each other to determine who will emerge as champion.
As you walk through the city and peer into the corners of the grocery stores, you see blocks of white feta cheese, a local speciality. Hardaliye, another of the city’s delicacies, is a grape drink mixed with mustard and marzipan.
Scented soaps, earthenware pots and straw baskets from Edirne make good souvenirs. You will also find it difficult to resist the beautiful embroidery work of the local women.
The Black Sea Coast of Kirklareli is another place to enjoy beaches and good fish restaurants. Igneada, 98 km east of Kirklareli, is squeezed between its sandy shores and the Yildiz Mountains.
Kiyikoy (Midye) is resort town with good accommodations and picturesque dwellings from the Middle Ages. The town and its walls date from the Byzantine period.
There is also a monastery to St. Nicholas.
The Sokollu Mosque in Luleburgaz, on the Edirne-Istanbul road, is an exquisite work of Sinan that dates from 1570. The neighboring town of Babaeski also boasts a Sinan building in the Cedi Ali Pasa Mosque.
Vize (Byzia), an important Byzantine center, houses the Kucuk Ayasofya church along with a castle, both dating from the Byzantine period.
If you are travelling north to Bulgaria, linger for a few hours at the peaceful and green town of Derekoy, the last stop before the border.