The Blue Lagoon in Ulodeniz, Turkey is one of the most photographed in the world. The gradations of blue and green are spectacular. It swims well too!
Cappadocia. Formed in the same manner as Castle Rock’s buttes, the towers and geology of this region is otherworldly. One can spend days wandering and appreciating the region and the way its people live in and around these formations.
By Joe Gschwendtner; courtesy photos
Beyond Istanbul, Turkey offers attractions for all ages. Roughly a 250 mile by 650 mile rectangle, Turkey is Texas-big. Since her eastern provinces buffer some of the world’s worst trouble spots, focus on the western half.
A manageable circular route from Istanbul would take you south through Bergama, Izmir, Kusadasi, Bodrum, Fethiye, Antalya, and back. Swing a wider arc to the east and include Konya and Cappadocia.
Bergama is the ancient city of Pergamon and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within its massive acropolis (citadel) was once the Temple of Athena, a 200,000 book library, Altar of Zeus and theater. When Rome ruled the world, Pergamon was regarded as the greatest city in Asia Minor.
Bypass Izmir (formerly Smyrna), Turkey’s third largest city. Go beyond it to Kusadasi, Aegean port city and burgeoning coastal resort. Close by are the well-preserved ruins of the former City of Ephesus, built in 10 BC. Of biblical and UNESCO fame, it is Turkey’s most visited attraction. An epic open air museum with antiquities galore, coliseum included, one is numbed by its scale and size.
Further south, explore Bodrum on the Aegean. Known once as Halicarnassus, it is your introduction to the turquoise Turkish Riviera. Early on a smallish seaside fishing village, it’s a watering hole for the rich and famous. Play a game and count yachts more than 50 feet long in the marina. Swim in pristine waters, visit a museum of underwater archaeology, stroll the streets and alleys of whitewashed houses wrapped by bougainvillea. Eye candy everywhere! Nothing disappoints. A mere 50 miles south is Fethiye and then Oludeniz (“Dead Sea in Turkish”) featuring a beach with beauty like no other.
Snaking southeast along the Aegean and then Mediterranean coasts, small towns vie for your fancy; Patara, Kas, and Phaselis among them. Overnight as time allows. Each highway bend warrants your seaside focus, often revealing a cove to be explored. In some, you’ll be quite alone in paradise.
At Antalya, I recommend a swing northeast to the Cappadocia Region via Konya. Konya is home of the Sama ceremony, the dance of the whirling dervishes of the Mevlana Muslim sect. Colorful and riveting, it represents a mythical journey and man’s spiritual ascent. But only if you have time.
Cappadocia is a region, indescribable in breadth and beauty. The rock formations were first deposited as ash from volcanic eruptions, then subjected to erosion and wind over three million years. Above-ground “fairy chimneys” are a dentist’s dream, appearing as tooth decay run amok. On closer inspection, one observes that locals live in the cavities.
That same volcanic material (tuff) also allowed for below-ground burrowing and several monster (30,000 inhabitants) underground cities exist below. In biblical times, these troglodytes were often Christians seeking protection from Roman persecution. Visit Derinkuyu or Kaymakli; you’ll be flabbergasted!
On return to Istanbul, detour to Pamukkale in Turkey’s thermal pool region. One-upping Yellowstone in some ways, a person may frolic and prance in the colored, mineral-caked pools. Be a kid again and also enjoy the healing powers of the mineral spirits.