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Travel Turkey's Hidden Gems Through The Eyes of Edu Jarque

Turkey's Hidden Gems Through The Eyes of Edu Jarque

Turkey's Hidden Gems Through The Eyes of Edu Jarque
A former theatre converted into a palace of the Seljuks, who ruled much of Central Asia and Anatolia in the 10th century in Aspendos
By Philippine Tatler
November 28, 2019
Sitting between the divergent landscapes of Europe and Asia, Turkey is blessed with many facets. With a rich history brought about by the Assyrians, Greeks, Thracians, Phrygians, Urartians, and Armenians, it is a melting pot of influences which reflect its unique heritage, customs, traditions, and practices. Notwithstanding Istanbul’s popularity, for the veteran travellers, the Land of Four Seasons offers a spectrum of lesser known destinations waiting to be discovered.

KARMIC KONYA

A three-hour drive from the often-written-about Cappadocia, Konya is a hopelessly storied city from glorious pasts continuously inhabited by ruling empires since the third millennium BC: the Phrygians, Persians, Romans, Seljuks, Byzantines, Karamanids, and Ottomans.

Resulting from the non-stop power struggles, the hub has been known for its contrasting cultures and distinct religions.

A must-see site is the Mevlana Museum. On this revered spot lies the gilded mausoleum of the Persian Sufi mystic Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, whose spiritual legacy has transcended national borders with devoted followers. We bumped into one of the mystic’s followers who was on a personal pilgrimage.

The imposing Aspendos Roman Theatre built in 155, which today continues to host productions for the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festivals
The imposing Aspendos Roman Theatre built in 155, which today continues to host productions for the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festivals

Surrounding the depository are life-size dioramas as well as ancient manuscripts and artefacts of the Mevlevi sect, popularly known as the Whirling Dervishes, a Muslim order that conducts rituals where devotees spin in a circular motion, causing their all-white tenure attires to fan out.

Within the museum complex, we marvelled at the century-old Archaeological Museum, the oddities-stuffed Koyunoglu Museum with the extremely personal Izzettin Koyunoğlu House, gave us a peek into the life of ages ago.

Notable structures were likewise visited, such as the domineering Alaeddin Mosque, beside the remains of what was once the Seljuk Imperial Palace.

The intriguing ruins of Pegre
The intriguing ruins of Pegre

ASTOUNDING ANTALYA

A three-hour drive from Konya, Antalya proudly boasts of azure waters and cloudless skies. Its verdant forests with shifting foliage is a kaleidoscope of colours, a feast for the eyes. The district is dotted with ancient cities.

Aspendos hosts the Roman Theatre, the best-of its kind preserved from antiquity. It could sit an impressive 12,000 individuals and owing to its perfect acoustics, was utilised for operas, concerts, and performances. Today, it hosts a multitude of productions during the annual Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festivals.

Across, the accompanying stage was converted into a palace for the Seljuks.

The Library of Celsus, the icon of Ephesus, one of the greatest libraries of ancient times, completed between 114 to 117 AD
The Library of Celsus, the icon of Ephesus, one of the greatest libraries of ancient times, completed between 114 to 117 AD

Some 30 kilometres away lies Perge, one of the best laid out Roman cities and great archaeological sites lined with ruins; numerous columns of different sizes, widths, and heights are a distinguishing feature of the area.

Guided by the pillars from one sight to the next, we made a beeline to the massive structures still visible today including the simply named Theatre, Stadium, Agora, Baths Complex, Fountains, Nymphaeums, and Hellenistic Gate.

The city’s most notable citizen was Apollonius, a mathematician hailed as “the Great Geometer,” whose concepts of ellipse, parabola, and hyperbola are still in use today.

The people of Perge likewise welcomed the Alexander the Great without much resistance. The subsequent era brought about a lasting period of peace and prosperity—historically known as the Pax Romana.

A relief of the Greek Goddess of Victory Nike in Ephesus
A relief of the Greek Goddess of Victory Nike in Ephesus
The arches of the Fountain of Trajan showcase marble sculptures of gods and goddesses
The arches of the Fountain of Trajan showcase marble sculptures of gods and goddesses

ENCHANTING EPHESUS

A one hour flight from Istanbul, Ephesus, hailed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, is among the largest outdoor museums in the world. Best described as an archaeological jungle, this focal point of commerce and trade was the centre of early Christianity. We were mesmerised by its vast architectural wonders that have been expertly preserved to this very day.

We gazed our eyes on e Odeon, a small theatre patronised in the second century A.D. by the Senate for meetings and for concerts, a reflection of the conduct of politics and entertainment. In contrast, was e Great Theatre, with a capacity of 25,000, arguably the forerunner of its time, spotlighting a spectrum of events, from stage dramas to gladiator fights.

A most curious sight is the Latrines, rows of public toilets with no dividers, which they say were used even by the royalty back in the first century AD.

What caught our attention was the striking bas-relief of the Greek Goddess of Victory Nike, whose silk-like robe folds, interestingly enough, seem to have inspired the logo of the now popular athletic brand by the same name.

The gilded mausoleum of Persian Sufi mystic Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi in Konya
A devoted pilgrim obliges the author with a photo of his recent memorable visit to the Mevlava Museum in Konya
 

Meanwhile, the Fountain of Trajan proudly displays three arches boasting sterling carvings of gods and goddesses.

Perhaps, everyone’s favourite sight was the domineering Library of Celsus, a three-story ruin—save for the iconic façade—which stored over 12,000 scrolls, second only in importance to the legendary Library of Alexandria, the envy of all.

A short car ride away and we were transported to what is known as the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary. is solemn hideaway, only discovered through a vision of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich in the 19th century, continues to be a prevalent Marian axis, attracting the devout and the curious from around the world, including two papal visits.

All three destinations had their own shopping adventures—fanciful patterns of carpets and kilims, intricate icons, traditional Turkish lamps, colourful ceramics and delicate pottery—in as many souks as one could possibly dream of.

Intricate and exquisite dioramas of the Mevlevi sect
Ancient manuscripts on the Whirling Dervisheswhose devotees spin around in white garments that fan out
 

We enjoyed the company of our travelling buddies as we savoured together great food—from the classic filling Turkish breakfasts, home-cooked meals derived from passed-on heirloom recipes of lamb, beef and sh, to snacks such as the popular Turkish delight and most desired baklavas. And oh, how can anyone ever forget the variations of tea flavours: from flowers, to vegetables, and fruits?

During our 10-day, 1,024 kilometre road trip in the vast landscape that is Turkey, Konya, Antalya, and Ephesus stood out as the jewels. And yet, the country has much more to offer. The highlights of which include the massive hot air balloons that filled the vast skies of Cappadocia, the open-air museum of Goreme, the cascading cotton-like springs of Pamukkale, the vast Ancient Greek City of Hierapolis, the well-preserved ruins of Epidauros, glimpses of the past at Mycaenae and the list goes on and on. Turkey is one destination you can return to as o en as you want, and you will never run out of memorable places to visit.

This article was originally published in Philippine Tatler Traveller Volume 16

  • Words Edu Jarque
  • Photography Edu Jarque

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