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Amazing Turkey

On the way to Istanbul, I visited a city named Konya. Visiting Konya, it is a must to drop by at the Mevlana Museum or in Turkish “Mevlana Müzesi“. The museum is one top tourist attraction in the city and it is also an important place of Muslim pilgrimage.

In the museum, visitors can learn about the dervishes’ training, and the unique practice of Islam that this region has produced. Why is it an important place of Muslim pilgrimage? It is because the museum also holds the tomb and shrine of the Mevlâna Jelaleddin Rumî. For Muslims, Rumî is a saint. He is also the founder of the Whirling Dervishes.

Great dome of the museum exterior

Great dome of the museum exterior

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What is Whirling Dervishes is similar to a form of meditation in a continuous twirling dance with one hand pointed upward reaching for the divine and the other hand pointed toward the ground. Their dance is a traditional form of Sufi worship and was influenced by Turkish customs and culture. It emphasises universal love, peace, acceptance of various spiritual paths and a mystical union with the divine. I watched the dance at Cappadocia together with the belly dancing performance.

Whirling Dervishes (performance was at Cappadocia)

Whirling Dervishes (performance was at Cappadocia)

Before entering the museum, we have to wear a plastic cover on our shoes. The shape is very unique, well, it is really creative by the way. Maybe I should provide at home to for my guest to keep my floor clean 😛

Plastic shoes cover to be worn before entering the museum

Plastic shoes cover to be worn before entering the museum

The interior of the iconic mosque is beautifully decorated – the mausoleum area is awe inspiring. Because tombs are present and to respect the pilgrims who pray, indoors photography is forbidden. It was very peaceful and silent inside.

This is an fairly interesting place to look around even if you are not into the Muslim history. You can learn a lot from the exhibits that are well presented.

 

 

Beautiful scenery of Cappadocia

Beautiful scenery of Cappadocia

Cappadocia gave me the most thrilling but yet exciting experience ever happened in my life so far : riding Hot Air Balloon!

Flying on plane has been my hobby, well could be said my travel need. I’ve been hearing from my friends that if I were to travel to Turkey, riding an hot air balloon is an unforgettable experience that not to be missed. So, hot air balloon? Here we go!

Once you book your hot air balloon, the crew will provide a pick up service to the takeoff site at the hotel before dawn. While waiting for the hot air balloon to be ready, small breakfast such as biscuits, bread and warm tea or coffee are served. Then, the van will bring us to the take off site. Here you will see the crew busy flaming up the balloon, not to burn, but to fill up the balloon with heated air so it can fly.

Filling up the balloon so it can fly

Filling up the balloon with heated air before flying

One by one, hot air balloon are set to take off

One by one, hot air balloon are set to take off

Cappadocia balloon flights is getting more popular every year. Of course, perfect weather conditions is required. The best time for the fly is from April-October. If your balloon company cancels your flight because of unsafe conditions, don’t be upset because safety will always go first. The pilots are skilled and experienced too, certified to fly the balloons.

The ride took about 1 hour and you will be able to watch the sunrise from the balloon. The views from the top are breathtaking. People who enjoy photography like me, please bring extra memory card because you are going to shoot hundreds or even thousands. I took around 800 shoots just from the ride alone. 

Ms. Sunrise shyly wakes up.

Say hello to Ms. Sunrise who is shyly waking up

View from 900m above the land, the max height of the day

View from 900m above the land, the max height of the day

The most important part from riding the balloon are the landing moment. The pilot will teach the passengers the correct landing position. This is important for the safe-landing.

Once done, the crew will pick us up where we landed. We will be awarded by certificate to acknowledge the experience of riding hot air balloon. Then, take a sip a traditional champagne toast to a successful aeronautical adventure.

Once you reach Cappadocia, you will be welcomed by vast field and stone mountains. Many of them have holes carved on. Approximately 9 to 3 million years ago, these stones eroded because of the eruption of ancient volcanoes, into hundreds of spectacular pillars and minaret-like forms.

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Goreme Open Air Museum or in Turkish “Göreme Açikhava Müzesi”, is one of the most important towns and destinations in Cappadocia. This outdoor museum which listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage, contains the remains of many churches carved into the stones.

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There are many churches and chapels here but the most important ones are: Nunnery, St. Barbara Church, Apple Church, Snake Church, Sandals Church, Buckle Church and Dark Church (you need to pay an extra 8 TL to enter). I only visited 3 of them:

  • St. Barbara Church which the walls and the dome are painted with motifs in red including geometrical patterns, mythological animals and military symbols,
  • Apple Church that shows scenes from the Bible and the life of Christ, the Hospitality of Abraham and Three Hebrew Youth,
  • Snake Church that shows Christ with a book in his hand, and images of Emperor Constantine and Helena. Next to it, there is St. Theodore and St. George killing the Snake.

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The carving as seen on the stone wall

What amazing about the caves is the ways and means in which people of the 11th century used to live. Everything showed that there was a very sophisticated civilisation. Much of the rock in the area is sandstone (tufa) which is fairly soft, and for centuries rooms (and houses) have been created by cutting directly into the soft rock. Many of the caves on the stones are transformed as hostels and hotels and offer the tourists the unusual experience of sleeping in a cave.

Pamukkale or also known as Cotton Castle, is a beautiful place that I will never forget. On the other hand, I will not forget that my skin is burnt because of the scorching hot sun. So if you are thinking to go here in the summer, don’t forget your umbrella, hat and SUNBLOCK!

From the main gate to the travertines hot spring, 10 mins of walking is needed. The surrounding of the walk path is vast fields with a few trees around. Many visitors walk with their swimsuits or bikinis only, going to or coming back from bathing in its pools.

The big field are used to be hotels. However since the place is claimed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the hotels are demolished to avoid the area from being damaged.

The weather is extremely hot in the summer

The weather is extremely hot in the summer

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The ancient city of Hierapolis

On the plateau overlooking the travertines is the ruins of the ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis as well as the Sacred Pool. For an extra 30 TL each you are able to swim in the Sacred Pool. Unfortunately I did not go the the Sacred Pool, but according to people’s reviews, it is well worth the money. The water of Pamukkale is the combination of calcium bicarbonate, magnesium and calcium-sulphate therefore it is believed to have healing properties to the eyes and skin and also to asthma and rheumatism.

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Hot springs of Pamukkale

pamukkale4Seeing a snow-cotton-like calcareous castles at Pamukkale is one of the most important highlights of my Turkey tour that I will not forget.

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The House of Virgin Mary or in Turkish “Meryemana Evi” is an important place for Catholics and Muslims. The place is located on Mt. Koressos. It is a very tranquil and peaceful place.

This chapel, long believed to be the place where Mother Mary spent her later years, is a very small and modest building. This place came about from a dream by an invalid nun in Germany in the early 19th century who had a series of visions about this place. The house is made of preserved stone, not large and very modest.

In 2013, there was a massive forest fire along Turkey’s Aegean coastline. Miraculously, the fire stopped within 1.5 meters of the house. Though the flames had destroyed everything within 1 to 1.5 meters of the house, there was not even a spot of damage to the house itself.

No photograph allowed to be taken inside the house. Upon entering, an altar with a large statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is prominently displayed in the center. It is very peaceful inside and those who want to pray can kneel down.

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The House of Virgin Mary

Once you have walked through the house you then will travel down the path to the natural spring where you can gather your own holy water. Pilgrims believe that the water from the spring water have healing properties. Next to the spring was the wishing wall where you place your notes written with a wish.

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Spring water, believed to have healing power

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The wishing wall, believed to be miraculous

This ancient Greek city is located at Selçuk, Izmir. It was one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean era in the first century BC. Ephesus is also a sacred site for Christians due to its association with several biblical figures, including St. Paul, St. John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary.

The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the World), but the temple was destroyed because of an attack of the Goths. The city had been rebuilt by Constantine I, but it was destroyed again because of the mob led by St. John.

Strolling around in Ephesus brought my imagination of Hercules movie came alive. It is magnificent to see how high the human civilization especially in architectural. The city-remains speak a thousand words itself. It is unbelievable that human during that era, knows how to build a city from marble and stones.

Celcus Library

Celcus Library

One of the most magnificent remains of the city is Celcus Library. It was the third richest library in ancient times after the Alexandria at Egypt and Pergamum.

Ornaments of Greek God and Goddess are carved on the pillars and marble stones. Such as the Hercules on the Hercules Gate, Medusa on the Temple of HadrianApollo, Athena, Nike etc.

Goddess of Nike, the inspiration of Nike brand

Goddess of Nike, the inspiration of Nike brand

The Great Theatre

The Great Theatre

This magnificent classical theater is the most magnificent structure in Ephesus and considered an important biblical site. This is the place where Paul preached to the pagans in Acts. It is 18 meters high and has the capacity of 25,000 seats.

*If you were to visit Ephesus in the summer, I would suggest to bring umbrella or hat. The weather will be very humid and hot.

From Istanbul, I continued my Turkey Tour to Bursa. Bursa has a few famous places that worth the visit. 

Yesil Camii is another great mosque of Turkey built in Ottoman architecture style. It is also known as Green Mosque. Similar as Sultanahmet Mosque or also known as Blue Mosque, Yesil Camii also takes its name “Green Mosque” from the green-blue tiles of the interior.

Same as Sultanahmet Mosque and Great Mosque, before entering appropriate attire is required, shoes must be taken off and women need to cover their head. It did not take so much time to explore Yesil Camii. Outer appearance of the mosque is covered in white marble with very exquisite decorations. But the interior inside is magnificent with the walls covered with dark green tiles. There is also a beautiful mirhab (prayer niche) is apparently known as the ‘gate to paradise’.

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Outer part covered with marble

Green mosaic walls inside, behind the mihrab (prayer niche)

Green mosaic walls inside, behind the mihrab (prayer niche)

Behind the Green Mosque is the Yesil Türbe (Green Tomb), which is only about 1-2 mins away. It is built on a hexagonal plan with a hemi-spherical dome. The exterior is clad with green-blue tiles give it its name. The door is made of wood, and carved in a very detailed carving. Inside, the tomb on the platform belongs to Mehmed I stands on a platform at the center surrounded by seven other tombs.

The total hour spent for both places are lesser than 1 hour, but both places are worth to go.

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Tomb of Mehmed I as seen on the platform

Exterior of the Green Tomb

Exterior of the Green Tomb

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Initially, Bosphorus Cruise was not inside our tour itinerary since we have chosen to visit Dolmabahçe Palace. But since that we still have some time, we decided to take on the cruise as well.

Many people said it is a must-do activity in Istanbul, but I would say that if I were to choose between the Palace and the Cruise, go for the Palace instead. For me, visiting the Palace is the experience to feel the historical and culture of Ottoman Turkey. The Cruise is for those who prefer to sit down and relax, enjoying the view of both the bridges connecting Asia and Europe and see the number of palaces on both sides of the straits.

Blue seas, clear skies and cooling weather make our cruise trip worth the money. Since that we are in a big group, we could go on a private cruise. Not exactly a cruise, it was more into a ferry with an open-deck seats. It’s going to be very windy, so avoid wearing skirts for ladies unless you want to keep doing Marilyn Monroe pose…

Bosphorus Bridge seen from our ferry

Bosphorus Bridge seen from our ferry

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An hour and 30 minutes cruise tour for me is more than enough, and just sit back, relax and enjoy the breeze…

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Before going to Dolmabahçe, my local tour guide said that this Palace is the most beautiful palace he ever seen. So I really looked forward to enter and see with my own eyes how beautiful the Palace is. The Palace is one of the most historical place in Turkey since it was the residence of 6 Sultans and Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. He passed away in this palace and then it was converted in to a museum.

Dolmabahçe is built during the reign of Abdülmecid I. It took 13 years to build this Palace, from 1843 to 1856. Dolmabahçe means “Filled up Garden”, because it was built on the  bay-site of the natural harbor, filled up time to time, eventually became a unique gardens of Bosphorus. Similar as the Topkapi Palace, Bosphorus lies just behind the Dolmabahçe.

There are regulations that need to be followed to enter the museum. Visitors could not enter freely, but  with guided tours. Not only that, we have to wear a shower-cap-plastic-like shoes cover and strictly NO PHOTOGRAPHS are allowed to be taken inside and it is forbidden to touch the displays.

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Bosphorus as seen from the back gate of Dolmabahçe

Being the largest palace in Turkey, the interior is built on a symmetrical plan with paintings on the ceilings. The Palace is divided into 3 sections:

  1. Selamlik ( Men’s administrative section or Mabeyn-i Humayun)
  2. Grand Hall / Ceremonial Hall, the highest and the large and magnificent square hall where the  largest Bohemian crystal chandelier, weighing around 4.5 tons and a Hereke carpet in the size about 120m², are placed.
  3. The Harem (Harem-i Humayun), the private section of Sultan and his family. Any man, except for Sultan himself, are prohibited to enter. Since that the wives and Queen Mother stayed in the Harem section, the interior are pinkish and more feminine compared to the other two section.

I was lucky to be able to see because usually Harem section is closed and I was able to see almost all part of the palace.

Well, after exploring the Palace, indeed, it is one of the most beautiful palaces in the world. It is so unfortunate that I could not take picture of the interior and post it here. But, now you have a reason to see it with your own eyes right? ;^)

Topkapi Palace is the royal residence of the Ottoman Sultans in Istanbul, Turkey for 400 years. It is no longer serves as the main residence and revert into a museum. It has hundreds of rooms and chambers, but only the most important are accessible to the public today.

The palace is divided into 4 Courtyards. The First Courtyard consists of the main Gate of Salutation. The Second Courtyard which consist of the hospital, kitchen, imperial harem (female members of the family) and chief official and soldiers quarters. The Third Courtyard is where the imperial treasures are kept. Last but not least, the Fourth Courtyard which is the innermost private sanctuary of the sultan. I did not go to the Fourth Courtyard because it was not opened to public. 

Gate of Salutation

Gate of Salutation

The palace is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the palace complex, important holy relics of the Muslim world are displayed such as the cloak of the prophet Muhammad, swords, a bow, one tooth, hairs of his beard, his battle sabres, autographed letters and the Sacred Trusts. Not only that, Ottoman treasures and jewelry and the largest diamond in the world is also here as well as the staff of Moses and the turban of Joseph

However, when entering the museum, photographs are not allowed. The security is very strict and each room is guarded by the security to avoid any visitors taking picture secretly. 

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Third Courtyard section, where they keep the Moses’s cloak as well as the sword and cloak of Muhammed

Marmara Sea seen from Topkapı Saray

Magnificent view of Marmara Sea seen from Topkapı Saray

 

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