If you’ve always wanted to see the wonders of the East but weren’t sure your travelling skills are up to it, Turkey is the perfect compromise. It has enough of that exotic mystique you hope to find in eastern cultures, but is modern enough not to test your travel mettle. Not only is the countryside beautiful and the cities intriguing, but there are also some wonderful sunsets to be seen.
Creativecommons.org/ Martin Holland
The ancient city is built on seven hills and divided by the Bosphorus. The European section is clearly a place of business, bustling with suited business people. There are a few things to see but the best part of Istanbul is across the bridge. The Asian half of the city is filled with early Byzantine mosques, their minarets rising over the decorated domes that provide space for the worshipers. The streets are twisted cobblestone lanes that hide shops and there are surprises around each corner.
Although a sunset almost anywhere in the city is a delight when the minarets of the Hagia Sophia are backlit in orange and gold, the best thing to do is take a ferry across the Bosphorus. As the ferry moves north you’ll see the changing colours of the sea in front of you as the European side of the city comes to life with twinkling lights. You’ll hear the faint voice of the Meuzzin from the minarets, calling the faithful to prayer and the splash of the water against the sides of the boat. As you move farther from the city, the stars appear.
Creativecommons.org/ Esther Lee
In the tenth century BC this was a thriving city with a library, amphitheatre and several temples. The roads were wide and even, trodden by many a horse pulling heavy wagons over the centuries. The Book of Revelation cites the city as one of the seven churches of Asia and it was home to many successive cultures that destroyed and rebuilt structures to suit their own tastes. The largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean are there although only a small part has been excavated.
As larger pieces are uncovered, workers try to reconstruct some of the original buildings. Find a stone bench and settle yourself down to watch the shadows grow as the sun disappears behind the columns. In this silent, ancient place you can almost hear the echoes of thousands of lovers sighing as they watch the sun disappear behind those same columns.
The name refers to a large region that is filled with historic structures such as cave house, underground cities and dramatically shaped and coloured formations. The town of Goreme is close to the Goreme National Park, a UNESCO site, although the town itself has rock churches and other houses that have survived for centuries.
Just outside the town you’ll find a landscape of fairy chimneys – tall rock formations that are so striking in their appearance that it’s easy to imagine them belonging to fairies and sprites. Explore the park in the bright of day and as evening approaches head back towards town. When you’re clear of the fairy spires, find a sun-warmed stone to lean against and stay to watch the growing night fill the valley. Are those wisps of fog you see? Or do the fairies still play when the sun has gone?
Creativecommons.org/ Siegfried Werginz
The Turkish Riviera is beautiful. Like much of Turkey its history contains a series of conquests, but each civilization found the city so compelling that very little changed over the centuries. Structures from the 1st and 2nd centuries are still intact and some are even in use.
Karaalioglu Park is green and peaceful with splashing fountains and trees to sit under. Towards the evening the children head home and the park is left to the quieter crowd. Settle down near the edge that overlooks the sea and watch as the deep blue water turns golden as the sun dips behind the hills and the blazing sky reflects in the calm waters.
Near the city of Fethiye, this island has the ruins of five churches that date from around 400AD. It’s also believed to the first resting place of the remains of Saint Nicolas, who became the model for the modern-day Santa Claus. You can hike the entire island in a few hours and there’s a small but pricy restaurant if you need a snack.
The land curves around to create a small, crescent-shaped bay that is a popular anchorage for summer cruisers. If you’ve chartered your own boat you can hike to the crest of the hill for the sunset, or just settle down on the western edge near the bay and watch the sun sink behind the hills of Fethiye. Even a sunset cruise out to the island is enough to convince you that you definitely need to come back here one day.