I really had no idea. Jan and I, along with 11 other friends, had signed up to go on a tour with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), a small group travel company. Our tour would be titled "Turkey's Magical Hideaways". Little did I know we would travel by plane, bus, boat, and foot across about half of the country over a 17 day span.
Our trip broke into four main parts: Three days in Istanbul, then fly to Cappadocia for three nights, then bus to Antalya for two nights and cruise the Turqoise Coast on a Turkish Gulet for four nights, and finally, bus to Ephesus for two nights. I have created a Turkey Collection with galleries for each of these sections here.
I had no idea. Officially known as the Republic of Turkey, the country has a population of about 75 million people. Most of the folks are Turkish in heritage with a sizable minority of Kurds. The country is quite large, roughly 1,000 by 500 miles in dimensions. It is a temperate mediterranean climate and is the only country in the world located on two continents: Europe and Asia.
The geography is varied and our tour reflected much of it.
The biggest aspect of a trip to Turkey is history. The area has been at the center of three empires over time, the Greeks, the Romans and the Ottoman. Before these started, there were folks living on the Anatolian peninsula, being one of the oldest known population centers in history. In fact, much of ancient history has taken place in this area of the world. According to our guide, there are more greek ruins in Turkey than there are in Greece, and more Roman ruins than there are in Italy. Much of our tour encompassed visits to some of the most famous.
Turkey is a secular republic, but also a muslim country. It appears to me that due to the foresight of their founding leader in the early 1920's, Mustaphe Attaturk (the George Washington of Turkey), the country has been able to make the transition to the modern world while still retaining its strong ties to Islam. Much of the culture we experienced found its roots in the almost monolithic presence of Islam. Having said that, there were many of the most important Christian sites in the world located in Turkey and we were able to visit a number of them.
I had no idea. When I went to Turkey, my image was of a middle east/arab based country. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a modern country with a key role to play in the region and centuries of history to call upon for knowledge. I for one, am glad they are one of our allies in the region.
A few words about OAT. This was our second trip with them. The first was Argentina/Chile last year. It is a well run organization. They attract outstanding people to be their in country guides. We were fortunate to have the most senior guide in Turkey, Ahmet Memis, with 24 years of guiding experience. He was a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge of all the layers of history and culture in all the areas we visited. One of the hallmarks of Oat is that their groups are always small. We had 13 folks. It was especially nice that we were all friends and there was a lot of laughter throughout the trip. Another aspect of OAT is that they "go off the beaten path" and there is generally quite a bit of exercise. On this trip we hiked on trails that had been a trail continuously since 2000 b.c. What a feeling you have knowing how many different generations have placed their feet in the same place over such a long period of time. Finally, in my opinion, OAT provides their tours with great value. We stay in 3 star hotels, which I like as they represent the local charm of each place. We even spent a night in a local village home, breaking up a long bus ride. The trips are well organized and exceed my expectations. They add a lot of small touches: we went to a Turkish bath and had a shave and haircut in a Turkish barber shop. And, the logistics seem to go without a hitch. The guide and support people do a great job of making sure the participants get the value they expect.
A few words about the galleries. I have organized them around the four different experiences we had:
A note about travel photography.
Normally, I wouldn't post over 500 images for a trip. But, this trip had so much action, so many activities crammed into each day, that I felt it necessary to show you all the different things we did, and in so doing, give you a good flavor for Turkey.