Turkey. Gobble-gobble.

Turkey is a really special place to visit, and whilst Istanbul is a truly great capital with so much to see and enjoy, the rest of the country is a veritable treasure chest where you might run the extraordinary sights and experiences through your fingers, each town, site and village sparkling ever more brightly than the last, all demanding your recollection. Turkey and its people occupy an enviable geographical spot that has been fought and thought over for millennia. Whatever it is that inspires you, whatever truly moves you you’ll find in this wonderful country. A pilgrimage to Turkey will reward the sympathetic traveler with unique memories including architectural gems, beautiful design, delicious food, vibrant street life, gallons of history, a benevolent summer sun and cultural significance stretching back thousands of years.

Where to start. I suppose the capital makes sense, especially as we’re going to be accompanied by the Superlative Police who will be checking on the amount of amazings that I’ll be using on the trip. Do a morning visit to the Grand Bazaar where you can find a good strong coffee to prepare you for a noisy and claustrophobic walk around the place. You should get some great shots here, with bright colorful spices and fabrics creating a Fauvesque foreground for a wealth of interesting figures. The magical Hagia Sophia soars above both the city’s landscape and any complacency that you might have had imagining you are in an ordinary capital, the building is a stunning testament to man’s need for transcendence. No need for fatuous comparisons, as you make your way to the Blue Mosque, a different ‘other’, an extraordinary building with its own unique history, not to mention a breathtakingly beautiful interior. Places like this is why you travel as you might otherwise fear your life was incomplete by not having come, if only to applaud the genius of the people who forged this city’s history.

After this, we spent a pleasant afternoon around the Topkapi Palace where there are gardens and old statues. We went below ground to enjoy the architectural marvel that is the Basilica Cistern. It is surprisingly quiet and you experience a degree of tranquility that seems impossible in this constantly bustling city. Anyway, the columns and vaults that appear to float on the water are unbelievable. Galata Tower is yet another building nudging you for your attention. Other sites and monuments such as the Dolmabahçe Palace and Ciragan Palace are just bog-standard beautiful as are so many other buildings and gardens sitting on the banks of the Bosphorus.

Leave the city reluctantly and head down the Ionian coast. We actually took a driver and he accompanied us all the way to the southern coast, regaling us with his excellent conversation and insights of his country . He took us first to the ancient ruins of Pergamon and then on to Ephesus. Even after the spectacle of Istanbul, the city of Ephesus manages to amaze. On a (typically) sunny day with piercing blue sky as a backdrop, the Library of Celsus, hemmed by green hills, trees and shrubs is another genuinely emotional moment. Have a drink, check your photos, go back and get better ones if need be. Always have a memory of this place.

We carried on to Antalya and took a boat for a few days to enjoy the coastline from the sea. It was a gulet with a super seating area at the back of the boat where we could enjoy our dinners and drinks. We slept the first two nights on deck as the autumnal nights were a perfect temperature, though the third night a storm came in and the captain took us to port where we were still tossed around, kept awake by the spectral clanking of the mast.

Finding our land legs again we travelled up to the remarkable Pamukkale that feature travertine terraces that are apparently made by deposits from the mineral water from the hot springs. The water pools lie languorously on the mountainside changing their colours throughout the day, sparkling brightly as the midday sun scatters its fiery rays, or blushing coquettishly in the evening light.

It is a short walk to the pools in Hierapolis that at different times was a Roman spa town, even visited by the troubled Emperor Caracalla, possibly trying to cleanse himself of his crimes and later a Seljuk stronghold with its own castle, now it has imposing stone ruins, some sitting in the waters that are unfortunately popular with men wearing wearing Speedos.

Caracalla without the Speedos

You’ll want to see more of the country, experience more of every requited promise, so we flew up to Cappadocia to see the famous fairy chimneys of the regions. Do try to visit the Churches of Göreme whilst here as they are definitely worth the trouble and discomfort of walking in the inevitable heat. That was all we had time for on this particular trip, and though we were sad to have left, we’ve often thought of the country since, revisiting in fond conversations as we scroll through the pictures that capture us as just two more people drawn to the amazing country.

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