Istanbul is a city in Turkey that straddles Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait. The Old City reflects cultural influences of the many empires that once ruled here. In the Sultanahmet district, the open-air, Roman-era Hippodrome was for centuries the site of chariot races where Egyptian obelisks still remain. The iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia features a soaring dome and Christian mosaics.
Three months ago when I began making plans to visit Turkey, people looked at me as though I had lost my mind. Why Turkey? They thought I was headed for a third-world place of little interest and abject poverty. The closer my trip approached my friends let me know they thought I was going to be in danger in that part of the world and that it couldn’t possible be of much interest.
The basic fact is that I am on an Insight bus tour for two weeks. So, why Turkey? It has tons of history and historical places. This tour takes most of them in and in great comfort, I might add.
I knew from the moment I landed in Turkey, I was going to be in for some interesting history lessons and exciting site seeing.
Our first day my fellow bus travelers (all Australians and great people) discovered how modern Istanbul is. It has one foot in Europe and the other in Asia. Yesterday we took a boat trip across the Bosphorus and saw old palaces, forts, and modern bridges spanning the two continents.
Turkey is a Moslem country and you see many women wearing scarves, long dresses, and full dress including only a slit for their eyes. A memorable sight I noted yesterday on a ferry crossing of the Marble Sea were three veiled women taking photos of themselves with their iPhones. Selfies.
Make no bones about it, Turkey is an economic powerhouse. Skyscrapers, tons of Mosques, with the city of Bursa being the new Detroit of Europe. Filled with auto factories of all brands, it furnishes this part of the world with autos.
Today on our way to Ankara, we stopped to see where King Midas ruled and where money was first used, in the form of coins. We also saw where Alexander the Great untied the Gordian knot and we saw the oldest wooden structure in the world, a 2,700 year-old house. All of these things we saw in a very limited area of perhaps 20 miles.
Ankara is a very modern city of beautiful buildings and four million very active citizens. Not to be missed, this cosmopolitan city will take your breath away.
So much to see. So much to experience, and we have only just begun. Tomorrow we go to the Cappadocia region which is full of underground cities.
So why Turkey? Because it’s wonderful, that’s why and the people are super friendly. More next week from this truly exciting place!