Travelogue : Turkey
Beyond Istanbul

This is the country where the eastern and the western civilizations meet in a great harmony. It is like an open air museum of various important civilizations. During this fantastic journey we encountered many wonders starting from the fascinating city of Istanbul, previously known as Constantinople, to the marvels of Pamukkale, treasures of art and nature in Cappadocia and the mystery of Nemrud Dag.

It was a great adventure which reached deep into Turkey's mountainous interior, to historic sites and out-of-the way places where time seems to have stood still.


Turkey includes a variety of natural environments, from sunlit coast to wild, eroded highland. Besides a look at the great mosques and palaces of Istanbul we visited old Pergamum and arrived at Ephesus, the magnificent Greco-Roman seaport. This is a highlight of any visit to Turkey. At least a half day is needed to do justice to the magnificent site. The city, whose wealth and patronage supported its splendid architectural program, was dedicated to he goddess Artemis. Her enormous temple, once considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and rebuilt several times.

We drove on to the white stalactites of Pamukkale - a castle of snow and ice, cascading down the hillside. It is a magical and spectacular natural site, unique in the world. Thermal spring waters laden with calcareous salts running off the plateau's edge, have created this fantastic formation of stalactites, cataracts and basins. Of course we took a dip in the hot mineral water of this ancient spa, just as the Romans did. A little futher, at the marble ruins of Aphrodisias, we discovered a superbly preserved stadium, where the best athletes completed for honour and glory.

Goreme ValleyNemrut tumulus

Then, at the small coastal village of Dalyan, we chartered a local boat to explore the ruins of Kaunos. Travelling via Fethiye and Antalya, we explore the fragrant Turquoise coast. You've to make a stop at Phaselis. There are some ruins within the woods and a very quiet and beautiful beach, a sustainable alternative to the juggernaut of mass tourism!

Heading deeper into Central Anatolia we entered the weird volcanic world of the Goreme Valley, a surrealistic landscape of cones, pillars and pyramids. Three million years ago, violent eruptions of the volcanoes Mt. Érciyes (3891 m) and Mt. Hasan (3250 m) covered the surrounding plateau with tuff. This fantastically eroded moonscape of Cappadocia, between the cities of Nevsehir, Kayseri and Nigde, is one of the most beautiful places on earth I've been to yet. Since the most ancient of times, men have hollowed out troglodyte dwellings in this soft rock. Whole villages are hewn out of the soft volcanic tuff, as hundreds of subterranean churches and chapels. Following ancient pathways we had the chance to discover some of Anatolia's oldest archaeological sites. Perched at 1300 meters, the ancient village of Uçhisar dominates this breathtaking scenery. Also in this region are a number of underground cities which were used by Christians as places to retreat to and live in until danger from their enemies had passed. They are well-lit and would be an interesting part of our tour. I would like to advise you to spend at least five days in this area.

We moved deeper into Turkey and finally reached Nemrut! It is famous for the artificial tumulus that covers the peak of the mountain (the highest in the Taurus range), like a Phrygian cap. It contains enormous seated statues on a high pedestal of Zeus-Oromasde, father of the gods for the Greeks and Romans. The heads of the statues fell off during an earthquake but the spot has an enormous appeal, particularly at dawn.

Our final days we spend in Istanbul. Istanbul embraces two continents, one arm reaching out to Asia, the other to Europe. It is a very fascinating city; the museums, churches, palaces, great mosques, bazaars and sights of natural beauty seem inexhautible. Istanbul is also an international art and cultural center. You have to spend at least half a day to walk in the gardens of the Topkapi Palace and explore its secret corners, old intrigues and the spirit of a unique and bygone culture.

If you are interested to read our journal about the trip through TURKEY, you are able to download the following Acrobat PDF files. You can download the whole story at once or separate parts of it. Remark: the journal is written in Dutch and is best viewed with Acrobat Reader.

Indien u interesse heeft om ons TURKIJE dagboek (met foto's) na te lezen, kan u het in zijn geheel of in delen downloaden met behulp van deze Acrobat PDF files. Het dagboek is in het Nederlands geschreven en vereist Acrobat Reader.

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This is a non-profit web page. All the establishments mentioned in this travelogue are places I've been to and which I would like to recommend to people who like to travel around in Turkey.

Special thanks to Lotte.

Travelogue and photographs by Joël Neelen © October 1992. All Rights Reserved.