Turkey’s Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations {Part 2, Days 11-20}   Leave a comment

Turkey’s Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations

{Part 2, Days 11-20:  Ankara, Cappadocia, Antakya, Gaziantep, Mt. Nemrut, Tarsus & Adana}

March 28 – April 16, 2014

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{Part 2}  Since we had never been to Eastern Turkey, Jim & I selected this trip, “Turkey’s Sacred Lands & Ancient Civilizations”  from Overseas Adventure Travel.  This was our 32nd trip with this company and as usual we were extremely pleased with the itinerary and the learning and discovery experiences.   We have previously been to Turkey but never to Eastern Turkey.  The only repeats on this journey were Istanbul, Uchisar, and Goreme.   We experienced unforgettable historic treasures, relics of ancient civilizations, Biblical history and interaction with the local people.   There were fifteen travelers in our group, and a fine group it was.  We enjoyed our travel friends.  Pictured below is our trip leader, Adnan.   (This map is copied from the Overseas Adventure web site.) 

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Save Money:  If you decide you’d like to go on this or any Overseas Adventure Travel or Grand Circle Travel trip, and you are a first time traveler with them, they will give you $100 off any trip if you mention the name of my travel blog and my customer #000561413.  New travelers instantly receive $100 off the cost of the trip, and I will receive $100 when you depart on your trip. 


{Beginning of Part 2:  Turkey, from Cappadocia to Adana, Days 11-20}

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Trabzon to Ankara:  After breakfast we took a short flight from Trabzon to Ankara.

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Ankara:  This region of central Anatolia in which Ankara is situated is also the heartland of the long-vanished Hittite civilization.  We visited the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations which was a disappointment because the only section open was the Roman section.  Next we went to the Ataturk Mausoleum & Museum.  He was leader of the Turkish War of Independence and first president of Turkey. 

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Cappadocia, Turkey:  Jim & I have been to this area before, but I don’t think I’d ever tire of seeing this region of exceptional natural wonders, which is characterized by fairy chimneys.  The landscape of Cappadocia was created around 30 million years ago.  The volcanic ash eroded into “tuff”.  Over time, the tuff was worn away, creating distinctive formations, including the capped-cone “fairy chimneys.” This area covers about 116 square miles.   

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Uchisar Rock Citadel:  The natural rock citadel of Uchisar is the tallest point in Cappadocia.  First photo is taken at a distance while we were out on a hike, the second photo is a close-up of the same area.   

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Strolling around the unique town of Uchisar.  They were a lot of fixer-uppers, and a lot that were repaired and in good shape even due to time, erosion and weathering.  It was fascinating!

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Some of the nice hotels in the Uchisar.  We looked into one of the rooms, it would be a fun place to stay. 

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We visited a home where the family actually lives in the cone shaped rock.  Then we did what you rightfully do in Turkey, we had chai (hot tea). 

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We couldn’t get enough of the beautiful sites of Cappadocia.  Love, this place. 

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I about decided that right here in Cappadocia, Turkey, we’d found Doofus, our missing dog.  You have to look carefully but he’s also in the second photo, in the due center. 

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Kaymakli Underground City:  A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia but Kaymakli is the widest.  These cave-cities were excavated as early as Hittite times, (1600 BC-1180 BC) and expanded over the centuries.  Early Christians suffered a lot from the Romans, pagans, and Arab invaders, so they refuged in underground cities.  The softness of the tuff made it easy to excavate in order to create dwellings.  This settlement had living quarters, stables, wells, ventilation systems, churches and storage rooms.  There are nearly one hundred tunnels in this underground city.  Archeologists think that this city could have been had a population up to 3,500 people, in addition to their livestock.  This underground city consists of 8 floors below ground, but only 4 of them are open to the public today.  Amazing!

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Walking through the tunnels.  Second photo is the church with the altar in the foreground.  The top part of the third photo shows shows a stone door. 

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Oh dear, a little entrance and double oh dear……Jim made it through!

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Well, now that was an experience, wasn’t it? 

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We did an invigorating hike from Uchisar to Goreme.  It took us a couple of hours, some longer than others, but I ask, “what was the hurry?”  Then of course it was time for chai. 

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So first thing the next morning we continued on with another splendid hike in the beautiful sunshine through elongated shaped columns that are capped with layers of slightly harder material.

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Chai time right?  Nope, it was fresh squeezed orange-juice time.  And a little shopping opportunity. 

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Goreme Open-Air Museum:  A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This area contains the finest of the rock-cut churches, with beautiful frescoes whose colors are still vivid.  Most of the churches located here belong to the 10th, 11th and 12 centuries.  Pictures weren’t allowed inside.

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Way to go Jerry, are you going to ride all the way home?

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Looking out the window on our bus ride from Cappadocia to Antakya (Ancient Antioch).

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Antakya:  We traveled to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, stayed at a nice hotel in Antakya, and from there visited close by areas of interest. 

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Vakifli:  We set out to experience A Day in the Life of two Turkish villages.  First, we visited Vakifli, an Armenian village perched on the slope of a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean.  It is known as the last Christian Armenian village in Turkey. 

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Along the mountain road.  We discovered a mule under all that grass. 

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Kapisuyu:  We visited a local school in this mountain village near Syria.  It is supported by Grand Circle Foundation, a part of the World Classroom initiative. 

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We enjoyed a nice home hosted lunch in the same village as the school.  I brought the kids bubbles, and it appeared to be a hit.  The mayor & his staff showed up for lunch with us also.

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Now for a demonstration of bread baking.  The bread was very good.  We had it hot and fresh for lunch. 

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Ancient Seleucia:  In 301 BC Seleucia was a port for Antioch (now Antakya).  The apostle Peter chose this locale for his first mission to the Gentiles, and his converts in Antioch were the first group to go by the name Christians.  Seleucia was the seaport from which Paul and Barnabas departed for their first missionary journey in 49 AD.  (Acts 13:4).  It was amazing to see remaining structures in this area. 

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Titus Tunnel at Seleucia:  This is another Roman engineering marvel.  The Romans decided to divert a river, so slaves cut a channel along and through the rock for nearly a mile.  The project started around 69-79 AD and was continued during Emperor Titus reign in 79-81 AD.

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Hatay Archaeological Museum:  We saw the collection of Roman and Byzantine mosaics dating from the 1st to 5th centuries AD.  The works in the museum are arranged according to where they were found.  I was amazed at the vibrant colors that remained in mosaics that are over 2,000 years old.  An excellent museum. 

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Overland to Gaziantep.

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Gaziantep, Turkey:  Next we headed back to the Eastern Anatolia region.  The site has been occupied since Hittite times.  A crumbling citadel with 36 towers looms over the town.  Just below the citadel is a bazaar that sells anything and everything you can think of. 

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On our way to Mt. Nemrut.  And then a picnic lunch at the base of Mt. Nemrut.

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 Mt. Nemrut:  A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The huge stone heads on the summit of Mount Nemrut were built by King Antiochus I Theos, who ruled the Commagene kingdom between 64 & 38 BC.  To glorify his rule, the king had three enormous terraces cut in to the mountain top.  Colossal statues of himself and the major gods were placed on the terraces, and the summit became a sanctuary where the king was worshipped.  It is believed to be the site of King Antiochus tomb, but to date, it has never been found. 

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Well, trust me, this was a goodly hike for the senior set.  It has become apparent to me as I post this blog, just exactly what my favorite things were.…and this is one of them.  The destination of our hike is up the mountain and to the peak seen in the first picture.  It all started out with a nice sidewalk, then towards the end it was slip, sliding rocks, but we all made it with weak smiles & a huff & a puff. 

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Now we are nearing the top and no more nice sidewalk.  A few times I thought I might slide with the rocks down to the valley below.  Of course I hugged the inside of the path, and anyone that wanted, was free to pass me on the outside. 

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Rounding the last bend in the trail and this is what we saw.  We gazed upon statues that are over 2,000 years old!  And located on top of the mountain were they were originally placed.  The bodies of the colossal statues stand, with their carved heads laying scattered at their feet around the haunting peak of Mount Nemrut. 

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On the eastern terrace of the mountaintop were huge statues of King Antiochus, flaked by two lions, two eagles and various gods.  These statues were once seated, with names of each god inscribed on them.  The heads of the statues have at some stage been removed from their bodies, and they are now scattered throughout the site. 

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We stand amazed among these relics of an ancient civilization. 

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To get from the eastern terrace to the western terrace we encountered snow in the path.  So, we could either walk through the knee deep snow or get off the path that was way too close to the edge of the mountain for me.  As I stumbled along this lovely young lady took my hand and we stumbled through the railroad ties and large rocks together and she kept me safe. 

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On the western terrace the statues are just here, there and everywhere.

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On the western terrace there are several reliefs that are in good condition.  The relief carving of a lion surrounded by stars and a crescent moon is considered to be one of the oldest horoscope representations in the world.  It shows the arrangement of stars and the planets Jupiter, Mercury and Mars on 7 July 62 BC. This may be an indication of when construction began on this monument.

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Heading down from Mt. Nemrat.  It was a great sidewalk path all the way down. 

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We packed up and left Gaziantep and headed in a westerly direction to Adana, which would be the destination for the last two nights of our trip. 

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Kastabala, Turkey:  On our drive to Adana we made a brief stop here, just because we wanted to see some more “old” stuff.   The ruins seen at Kastabala historic site today are all from the Roman Period.  The colonnaded street at the entrance was built around 200 AD.  Ruins were as far as the eye could see.  Very little of the site is excavated. 

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Karatepe, Turkey:  This place was a late Hittite city dating from the eighth century BC.  It was in a beautiful site in the Taurus Mountains and on the bank of the Ceyhan River. 

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Tarsus, Turkey:  We went to visit the antiquities regarding St. Paul, but first we got to enjoy a festival. 

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Paul the Apostle was born in Tausus, around the first century AD.  He was an early Christian missionary, and was a writer of much of the New Testament.  This is the ancient stone well and also a foundation that is believed to be the site of St. Paul’s house. 

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Adana, Turkey:  We stayed at the Hilton in Adana.  Next to the Hilton on the left was this 4th century Roman bridge.  Next to the Hilton on the right was Turkey’s largest mosque with grand minarets. 

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We had a lovely lunch at a restaurant overlooking waterfalls.  Some kind of a festival was going on so our send-off was a spectacular water show complete with fireworks right in front of our hotel. 

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So long Turkey.  It was a grand trip!  Kansas here we come. 

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Posted May 8, 2014 by marilynfarmer in Travel

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