Travel in Turkey - The West

Not far from Canakkale lies Troja, one of the most important ancient cities in the world according to the travel guide. Right at the entrance there is a 10m large replica of the Trojan horse into which you can even climb. However, the tour through the complex is rather disappointing. After all, the earliest excavations are dated to 3700 B.C. and it is still being diligently dug. But you have to bring a lot of imagination, or a very pronounced archaeological interest, in order to be able to imagine what it was like in former times. The best thing to do is to watch the movie with Brad Pitt again, which helps the imagination a bit. 

 

A few kilometres away from Troy is a long sandy beach where, according to tradition, the Greeks once landed. Today there is a wild camping site where obviously only very rarely a tourist gets lost. It is the weekend and the locals come in droves to enjoy the beach life. Usually it is large families who come here for a few hours to barbecue and relax. Tradition and modernity are to be observed here well. While not few women go swimming in the Burkini, one sees however just as many in the swimsuit or bikini. Everyone is super nice and now and then someone speaks to us in German. Otherwise the communication is unfortunately rather difficult and with English we can't get any further, at least here in the seclusion.  We stand in the first row with a view of the sunset and enough space for the hammocks. More is not possible at first and we enjoy the peace and seclusion again before it becomes more and more touristy in the south.

We continue through the Trojan landscape between Troy and Assos. To the southwest is the sanctuary of Apollon Smintheion, a well restored 2nd century BC temple also mentioned in Homer's Iliad. 

A little further south we pass the ruins of Assos, after Troy the most important sight in this region. From the car park we climb up through the village streets lined with market stalls to the excavation site, a dubious pleasure at 35 degrees. You will be rewarded with a magnificent all-round view up to the Greek island Lesbos and the impressive remains of the Athena Temple that was probably built around 550 BC. 

 

After a day break at the sea we continue to the royal city Pergamon which lies far away from the sea. On the 330m high castle hill an ancient cosmopolitan city arose here in the epoch of Hellenism 350 to 30 BC. A Swiss cable car brings us quite relaxed to the top and this is also a good thing, as in the extensive and almost shadowless terrain, the circular path is exhausting enough at over 35 degrees. Outstanding is the Traianeum, a temple from the 1st century BC restored by German archaeologists.

Slowly but steadily we are approaching the tourist regions on the south coast and now, during the high season, it is crowded. With effort we find a place on the beach near Foca surrounded by Turkish extended families before we continue to Ephesos, probably the most worth seeing excavation site in Turkey. At eight in the morning we stand at the lower entrance and are almost alone. The big tourist buses unload their guests at the upper entrance and pick them up again at the lower entrance. So we walk against the current and have the big theatre and the library for us, before the first travel groups meet us on the big army road. Ionian Greeks founded the city already in the 2nd millennium before Christ. Today's ruins date back to 300 B.C. and are really a piece of jewellery worth seeing. 

Now we're a little undecided as to how to proceed. On the one hand the south coast lures with beautiful beaches and blue sea, but on the other hand there are mostly 50 to 60km long roads which we have to drive back. On the other hand, we know the area from Marmaris to Side from our backpack trips in the 80s and with MOMO it will certainly not be easy on the narrow streets and in the villages. First we decide for a few days break in the Körfezi bay below Mugla. Here we see foreign tourists only sailing by boat and are otherwise among local day trippers. 

We renounce the coastal region and drive to Pamukkale. There are numerous thermal springs in the upper area and the 30-50 degrees warm water forms limestone when cooling down. Thus, in a natural way, there are gutters, terraced basins and deep troughs. Already from a distance, one sees the white limestone terraces that look like an icy waterfall, but also hosts of people that move along it in the early afternoon like on an ant road. We go to a campsite with a pool and a view of the events and wait. At 5:30 a.m. before sunrise we are awake and watch the balloon and paraglider pilots climbing in masses. Unfortunately we miss some contrasts and everything is more grey in grey and less spectacular. Punctually at eight o'clock we stand at the cash desk and are almost alone again. After a few meters one may continue only on a given route barefoot. When we were here in the 80s one was allowed to walk around everywhere and also in the swimming pools. Since 1997 this is no longer possible due to the enormous crowds. But it is still very spectacular despite all the hustle and bustle. After a good half hour and many pictures one is at the upper end and may put on the shoes again, or the bathing trunks, and go swimming with many others in the 35 degrees warm thermal water. 

In the upper part the ruins of Hierapolis from the 2nd century BC begin. The huge excavation site and the many thermal baths show that the healing water was already known in the Roman Empire. The area is huge and you can walk for hours and admire the architectural masterpieces of this period. The best preserved is the large theatre which has been lavishly restored by Italian archaeologists and only completed in 2013. Also the museum with a gallery of statues of the gods and artfully decorated sarcophagi should not be missed. 

Our next stop is the Salda Gölü. The crater lake is regarded as the cleanest in Turkey and with its deep blue water and white shore looks like a beach on the Maldives. We think this is a beautiful environment to celebrate Manfred's birthday. In the evening Susanne and Christian are on their way to Iran with their pickup. We spend a nice evening together and will drive us certainly still some times on the way.  

Shortly before Beysehir we find a very nice overnight place on a headland directly at the lake. But romantic places also have their price in the form of felt three million mosquitoes which we have to scare away in the morning because they like our car so much. We drive to the village and visit a Seljuk wooden mosque from the 13th century. The ceiling is carried by 46 wooden pillars with a height of 7m and gives the interior a very special touch. 

Konja is the seventh largest city in Turkey with 1.3 million inhabitants. The most important sight is the Mevlana Monastery, the religious centre of the dancing dervishes of the Mevlana Order. The city is very strongly religiously stamped and one takes it with the customs of the Islam very exactly. In the wide vicinity of the monastery there is an absolute ban on alcohol and while walking through the city we see more than 90% of women wearing headscarves. The monastery is the destination of many pilgrims and the wooden sarcophagi of the order leaders are highly revered by them. It is a bit strange to push your way through the crowd of visitors while deep believers are immersed in prayer. In the evening we look at the dancing dervishes that perform every Saturday at 19:00 free of charge in the cultural center. A very religious and ritualistic ceremony that lasts about 90 minutes. 

We're heading east. On the way we pass in Sultanhani the very beautifully restored caravanserai Sultan Han from the Seldschuken time. Today it is one of the showpieces at the old caravan route and looks from the outside like a fortress. The beautifully designed interior with columns and half arches and the sonorous music is a very special experience. 

Now we continue to Cappadocia with its fairytale landscape, underground towns, rock dwellings and churches. As always, you can find out what we experience there in the next blog. Until then have fun reading and looking at pictures. 

And finally a few nice snapshots

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