Turkey is a cultural potpourri that you need to take in as you travel from the East to West. In fact this was the exact route I took entering from Iran. I experienced the Kurdish influence in the East to the European in the West. It’s evident why Turkey was a critical point in the Silk Route that connected Asia to Europe. Since I entered Turkey in the third week of March, the weather was very unpredictable. I experienced heavy winds near the border and the rest of the ride through the Eastern mountains was riddled with heavy rain and snowfall.
The route I took was – Erzurum – Cappadocia – Pamukkale – Selcuk – Istanbul
I rode into Erzurum through the snow peaked mountains. The city has vibrant life along its shopping centre lined streets. It’s a modern metropolis and eastern Turkish hub seamlessly blending with its image of being one of the most pious and conservative cities in Turkey. Its history dates back to 4000 BC. The Selcuk buildings in the town are remarkable. The Ulu (Grand) Mosque is worth the visit, and so is the Cifte Minareli (Double Minaret) Medrese (theological school), which is the most famous feature of the city. It is a perfect example of Seljuk architecture. One of the best meals here is Cag Kebab, which is a traditional meat dish, and is world famous among Turkish Cuisine connoisseurs. I was told to taste it, but since I was vegetarian, I stuck to my normal cuisine. Have to mention here that there is a good variety for vegetarians as well.
I had heard a lot about Cappadocia and a hot air balloon ride was in my bucket list. As I entered the city from the highway, the landscape changed and it opened up into this magical land full of caves, a result of volcanic eruptions aeons ago. Cappadocia was strategically located in the Silk Route, and has seen many civilisations pass by and use the landscape to their advantage, especially during the Wars. They have all left a visible mark on the city that is filled with stone hewn churches, underground cities, ancient cave dwellings and castles perched atop rocky outcrops. The spectacular conical rock formations and graceful valleys look resplendent in the sunrise, making hot-air balloons an unforgettable way to view the landscape. There are many organised tours to see the region, the main options being the green line & red line. I took the green line tour which covers all the important points (underground cities, caves and other important locations) in and around Cappadocia. The beautiful trekking routes from the pretty village of Uchisar, the highest point in Cappadocia, is really worth the effort. Here you can climb to the top of the citadel for panoramic views before hiking along the beautiful Pigeon Valley (named after the numerous dovecotes carved into the cliffs) to Goreme. The small town and the nearby places can be covered in 2 days if pressed for time with enough stay options starting from 8$ a night.
This was one place suggested by many and my mind couldn’t help wandering amidst thoughts of hot water springs and relaxing spas. The reality in fact, was even better. Pamukkale is located in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey, it means “cotton castle” and totally justifies being called one of the natural wonders of the world. What we see as a white terrace covering is travertines formed as a result of underground volcanic activity! Over time, some of these terraces have formed basins that retain water in pools. The water is said to have incredible healing properties, and is a great natural cure for high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive and skin disorders. In order to protect the unique calcite surface, visitors are prohibited from wearing footwear, so be sure to carry a plastic bag to put your shoes in. You can easily spend more than an hour here, depending on the number of photo stops you take and the time you spend bathing or just lounging in the thermal baths. Guess what, this breathtaking landscape has been here since the Roman era and so, it is hard to miss the acres of Roman ruins that cover the hillside. At one time, the ancient city of Hierapolis stood here in all its grandeur. I think a day is good enough in Pamukkale. Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, I rode to my next stop Selcuk which was 200 km towards Izmir.
Selcuk is about tradition, and not about modern luxury and benefits. The city lies at the foot of Ayasoluk Hill, topped by a Byzantine-Ottoman fortress. It is predominantly a working town consisting of locally owned restaurants with menus of mainly Turkish food that serve delicious and cheap dishes. I arrived by noon and was spending a night. Selcuk has a large collection of Christian landmarks. The biggest attraction was the Ephesus, which is the best-preserved Roman city in the Mediterranean region. It is believed that Saint John had written his Gospel here. Also visit the Virgin Mary’s House, high in the hills. Another interesting landmark is The Cave of the Seven Sleepers, that is a 5 minute drive from Ephesus. In the year 250 AD, seven Christians facing persecution for their beliefs were imprisoned within this cave where they fell into a deep slumber as they prayed. They awoke 180 years later to find Christianity fully accepted and outwardly practised. The other notable Christian landmark is Saint John’s basilica, the believed burial site of the apostle.
From Selcuk, I rode up north and took the ferry from Yalova to Istanbul to continue my journey into this mystical and dynamic land called Turkey.
Turkey is a cultural potpourri that you need to take in as you travel from the East to West. In fact this was the exact route I took entering from
Warrier's Trail is a crazy dream of a simple guy that was inspired by a desire to travel, meeting people, see places and live life full of uncertainty.
The dream is to travel 40 countries, in over 500 odd days in 5 regions (S.E.Asia, Australia, Middle East, Europe & Africa)
A journey of exploration!