The Middle East

Turkey: Ancient, Historic, Marvelous

written by | Posted on May 1st, 2009

The ruins include an amphitheater, churches and the majestic columns that once supported the Temple of Artemis, a masterpiece that still astounds. The backdrop of the Anatolian mountains dwarfs the ruins and gives them a unique Greek perspective.

Those interested in more recent history will take delight in the program’s visit to Gallipoli, site of WWI’s blood-drenched campaign and Winston Churchill’s misguided adventure to bring Turkey into the fold of the Allies and thus ease the German pressure on the Western Front by isolating and conquering the peninsula separating the Aegean Sea from the Dardanelles.

Gallipoli today conveys the somber mood of a military cemetery, which it is, and the scrub-covered terrain dominates the heights from where the hazy blue blanket of the Aegean stretches below. The harshness of the terrain demonstrates the futility faced by the Australian and New Zealand invaders attempting to capture the heights.

The desolate countryside around Gallipoli is now mostly barren land. But British, French and Turkish institutions maintain the manicured battlefield national park around Anzac Cove, along with cemeteries and monuments scattered around it.

The land-only FLO-USA package cost varies depending on the season, but generally runs anywhere from $2,846 to $3,007 pp dbl.

Far to the east, in the middle of the great peninsula that makes up Turkey, tourists will be awed by Cappadocia, a province towering with bizarre cones, caves and the remnants of ancient churches carved out of rock. There are even underground cities where early Christians once hid to avoid persecution.

The cones are the result of a volcanic upheaval a few million years ago when Cappadocia was blanketed with a soft type of lava called tufa. Erosion, wind and rain eroded the tufa, creating in the process the tall chimney rocks that are protected by slabs of basalt.

This rugged beauty alone is enough to make Cappadocia a popular destination. It’s enough just to walk through the formation to get the sense that this is a magical land.

To top it off, history buffs will be thrilled to walk in this cradle of Christianity and admire the murals painted by early monks on the cave walls and ceilings.

The most spectacular attractions within Cappadocia lie within the towns of Avanos and Urgup, two important stops for tours that make the province one of the most popular destinations in Turkey.

Pilgrim Tours offers an alluring 15-day tour that stops in many of the places where early Christians worked and lived. The Turkey in Depth tour follows the steps of the Apostle Paul, who spent considerable time here, and unwinds through the coastal mountains and pauses in some of the most thrilling cities in the country.

In Cappadocia, the tour stops to explore the history and scenery of the area, including the rock formations and the sites of other Christian communities who lived underground while fleeing Roman persecution. Additional sites include the natural citadel of Uchisar and the small, picturesque village of Avanos—famous for the red clay pottery manufactured nearby.

The price is $2,836 pp dbl and includes air transportation from New York City.