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June - July 2005


Delights of Turkey

by Bajrang Bahadur Mathur

Turkish Delights normally refer to sweets, which are amongst the favourite candies around the world. However in this article Turkish Delights are the sights and sounds of Turkey, to include natural wonders and various ancient cities dating from Greek, Roman and Ottoman periods, with their architectural gems, craft of carpet weaving, ceramics and pottery; calligraphy; folk music and dance, and above all its people.

Turkey is a unique nation as it forms a bridge - a big landmass between Europe and Asia. It is bounded on the north by Black Sea, on south by Mediterranean Sea and on the west by the Aegean Sea. 3% of the land is in Europe and is called 'Thrace', while 97% of the land is in Asia, called Anatolia (Asia Minor).

Places of historical, architectural, and archaeological importance:

The remains of ancient civilisations are scattered throughout Turkey, providing a living lesson in history and architecture. The archaeological sites of ancient cities of Aphrodisias, Aspendos, Didyma, Ephesus, Miletus, Pergamum, Perge, Priena, Troy, and many others, are noteworthy places which proudly display their historic edifices.

The ancient city of Ephesus is an important city of antiquity and is one of the best-preserved and most visited historical sites in Turkey. The city, which had many splendid buildings, was dedicated to the goddess of Artemis, whose temple was considered one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World. Now only one column stands on the site.

The famous archaeological site of Troy has revealed, after recent surveys, that nine ancient cities were built on the same site on top of each other. This was due to the fact that Troy was located at a strategic point, at the cross roads of two continents where trade routes converged.

It is said that there are more Greek ruins in Turkey than in Greece and more Roman ruins than in Italy. Turkey is therefore, one of the largest open-air museums of the world exhibiting the treasures of thirteen successive civilisations and 10,000 years of history.

There are three major cities in Turkey. Istanbul, the capital - Ankara and Izmir. Istanbul is no longer the capital of Turkey, but still is its cultural and commercial centre - a shopper's paradise. It is uniquely positioned at the cross roads of the orient and the Occident (west), and the only city in the world to be set on two continents. It is in Istanbul where most of the architectural masterpieces exist and few of them are:

Hagia Sofia: Originally a Byzantine church, later converted into a mosque, and now a museum. It is crowned with an immense dome. It also contains dazzling colourful frescoes and fine mosaics.

Blue Mosque: is a sheer beauty from the architectural point of view. It is unique, because it is the only mosque in the world to have six minarets. There are some 21,000 blue ceramic tiles which adorn its interior.

Topkapi Palace: has opulent treasures, having been the Imperial Residence of the Ottoman Sultans. They ruled their empire from this palace.

Grand Bazaar: is incredible, with a maze of more than 400 shops. It is the main shopping mall,with something to suit every taste and pocket.

Basilica Cistern: There were 45 underground cisterns in the ancient Istanbul to supply water to its residents. This particular cistern is in the centre of the town. Its immense brick vaulted roof is supported by 336 massive columns. It is now a museum, artificially lit, and with classical music played constantly. It has the appearance of a grand basilica.

Natural wonders

Pammukale: is a natural wonder of calcified terraces, which appear as a shimmering snow-white fairytale cotton castle. These terraces were created by the flow of thermal springs, saturated with minerals, over the limestone rocks. It is a spectacular landscape of white cascading stalactites and shallow pools. These thermal pools are reputed to have many therapeutic characteristics. UNESCO has listed the site as a World Heritage Site.

Cappadocia: Violent eruption of volcanoes took place in this area a long time ago and covered the plateau with tufa, a soft stone of lava, ash and mud. The wind and rain over years eroded this brittle rock and created an incredible surrealistic lunar landscape in the form of rock cones, capped pinnacles and fretted ravines. These capped pinnacles are locally called 'fairy chimneys'. Early Christians carved these soft rocks for their shelters and churches with elaborate frescoes for worship. These churches are the finest examples of the Byzantine art.

Religious and Cultural

Turkey is an Islamic country, and 99% of the population are Muslims. However it is a secular state, respecting all religions and cultures. It is interesting to learn about the Mevlevi - 'Whirling Dervishes', who are the followers of the mystic and spiritual teacher Celalleddin Rumi. He was a freethinker and taught love and tolerance. The ceremonial 'whirling' dance of this sect is a symbolic act of worship to seek enlightenment.

All regions of Turkey have their own special folk music and dance with colourful costumes.
People of Turkey are undoubtedly very friendly and hospitable, and this is reflected in all walks of their daily lives. They have many customs. However a visitor can easily participate in sharing gossip in a Turkish bath or a coffee house.

Our journey to the Turkey has been a wonderful experience, visiting many fascinating places, representing many different civilisations of the ancient world. Readers young at heart may note that Cleopatra and Mark Anthony choose to honeymoon in this beautiful land under the divinity of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love.

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