Without a shadow of a doubt, Istanbul is one of the world’s great cities. Superbly situated either side of the blue ribbon of the Bosphorus Strait separating Europe from Asia it is, unlike any other city in the world, split between two continents.
The old quarter, with its oriental-fantasy skyline of domes and minarets, and its narrow cobbled streets lined with quaint old wooden houses, lies on a tapering peninsula pointing gravely across the straits to Asia. To the south, the blue waters of the Sea of Marmara glitter invitingly. North, across the graceful curve of the Golden Horn, flicker the bright lights of the pulsating entertainment quarter of Beyoğlu.
Originally founded by the Greeks in the seventh century BC, in the fourth century AD Istanbul became Constantinople, capital of a Byzantine Christian world which kept the warriors of Islam from Western Europe for several centuries, before finally falling to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The relics of these two great powers stud the old quarter, from the mighty Byzantine Church of the Holy Wisdom (Aya Sofya), through to the splendid pavilions of the fulcrum of the Ottoman Empire, the Topkapı Palace.
Cappadocia, Turkey is the historic area of central Anatolia bounded by the towns of Hacıbektaş, Aksaray, Niğde and Kayseri.
Cappadocia is Turkey’s most visually striking region, especially the “moonscape” area around the towns of Ürgüp, Göreme, Uçhisar, Avanos and Mustafapaşa (Sinasos), where erosion has formed caves, clefts, pinnacles, “fairy chimneys” and sensuous folds in the soft volcanic rock.
Prime activities here are visiting the historic painted cave churches of the many monastic valleys (especially the Göreme Valley and Zelve Valley), flying in a hot-air balloon at dawn above the incredible landscape, hiking the volcanic valleys (especially the Rose Valley), and spending the night in a comfortable cave hotel room with all the modern comforts.
Ephesus is the best-preserved Roman city in the Mediterranean region, and one of Turkey’s top sights along Istanbul and Cappadocia. If you want to visit a place where you can really get a feel for what life was like 2000 years ago during the glory-days of Greece and Rome, Ephesus (also spelled Efes, Ephesos or Ephessos) is the place. In terms of ruins, it’s better than Rome itself.
Ephesus was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In 268 AD, the Temple was destroyed or damaged in a raid by the Goths. The town was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD.
Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15% has been excavated. The ruins that are visible give some idea of the city’s original splendour, and the names associated with the ruins are evocative of its former life. The theatre dominates the view down Harbour Street, which leads to the silted-up harbour.
Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of St. John may have been written here.