REST OF TURKEY
Hard winters and hot summers dominate the lands of central Turkey, but this charming region welcomes guests year-round to its rich array of historical and cultural sites. The Great Mosque at Divriǧi, the Hittite imperial city at Hattusa, the beautifully preserved Ottoman houses of Safranbolu, the Neolithic remains at Çatalhöyük, and the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire at Bursa are all listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Stroll the Ottoman-era streets of Bursa, and marvel at the famed whirling dervishes of Konya. Central Turkey harbors great history and tremendous local diversity—enjoy the cuisine, the people, and the fascinating remnants of past human achievements.
Turkey’s finest example of a preserved Ottoman town is Safranbolu’s old town, known as Çarşı, 200 kilometers north of the modern capital at Ankara. Stroll through the meandering alleyways filled with shops, and admire the timber-framed architecture and red-tiled roofs. First made famous as an isolated source of the precious spice saffron, today Safranbolu allows you fully to experience life in an eighteenth-century Ottoman town, complete with creaky wooden floors, carved ceilings, cupboard bathrooms, and cobblestones.
Four hours south of Ankara, Konya embodies the historic and the contemporary, the whirling dervish and the global economy. The Neolithic settlement at Çatalhöyük, on the Konya plain outside the city, dates back at least 9,000 years; since then, Konya has been home to Hittites, Phrygians, early Christians such as Saint Paul, Seljuks, and Ottomans.
The superb Museum of Anatolian Civilizations provides a perfect introduction to the complex weave of Turkey's ancient past, housing artifacts carefully selected from just about every significant archaeological site in Turkey. The museum is housed in a fifteenth-century bedesten (covered market) on the south side of Ankara’s castle. Its central room houses reliefs and statues. The surrounding hall displays exhibits from Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Assyrian, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, and Lydian periods.
The mausoleums of the earliest Ottoman sultans, as well as the religious centers they built, comprise Bursa’s main highlights, all surrounded by verdant parks, gardens, and forests. Ulu Camii is the largest mosque in Bursa, and a fabulous specimen of early Ottoman architecture, with twenty domes supported by twelve columns. Commissioned by Sultan Bayezid I, Ulu Camii was designed and built between 1396 and 1400.
Hattuşa was once a busy and impressive city, defended by stonewalls over six kilometers long. Today the ruins of Hattuşa include several large temple complexes, fortifications, and that impressive city wall. The absolute highlight is the Great Temple, dedicated to two deities: Teshub (the God of the Storm God) and Hepatu (the Goddess of the Sun).
Constructed in the thirteenth century by the Anatolian Seljuks, the Divriǧi Great Mosque and Hospital are immediately recognizable for their artistic architecture and exquisite stone carvings, considered by many to be the best in Turkey. Attracting particular attention are the beautiful patterned reliefs found on the main door that distinguish the monument at Divriǧi.