27 of us landed in Istanbul, the capital of Turkey in the morning on 18th April 2015. Though advanced in years, none of us felt tired, may be because we were looking forward to an exciting few days ahead. At last, we were in Europe..........!. 5% of Turkey the city of Istanbul is on the European side and the rest of this large country of 67 million people being on the Asian sector.
It is strange to see these two areas being separated by the river Bhosporus, a natural strait connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. Sailing down this water way, we were between Europe and Asia. On the banks of the river on either side we could see Ottoman palaces, fortresses, parks, gardens and restaurants. From the cruising boat we could see the heavy traffic on the two suspension bridges connecting Europe to Asia and in fact we passed under both bridges and on our return journey we had to pass through one of them. Istanbul, the capital of turkey is the largest city having 17 million residents. The 2nd in extent and size is Ankara, the third being Cappadocia.
We were awed by Sultan Ahmet's beautiful Blue Mosque, a wonder of the world, the Topkapi Palace, the residence of Ottoman Sultans and Hagia Sophia Museum, a cathedral transformed into a mosque by Emperor Justinian. Yet, the symbols of Christianity were visible on several glass panes above. Going towards the Blue Mosque, I expected something completly Blue: quite contrary there was only a little blue enhancing the dome. Starting the tour from Istanbul we travelled , to the interior about 3600km passing many cities to reach Cappadocia our final destination. The excavations of Troy with its 4000 year history,the Ephesus, an ancient city dating back to 6000 BC, the Virgin Mary Hause, Hierapolis ancient city believed to be the greatest necropolis in Anatolia were amazing. At Pamukkale a cold breeze enveloped us and walking in the hot spring waters in the snow white terraced ponds gave us a lovely sensation though ephemeral.
Kaymakli underground city, a troglodyte cave city, which had been a place of refuge to 15,000 Christians , Gorem Open Air Museum which could accomodate 25,000 spectators made us marvel at the past glory of these cities. A most alluring sight was the Pigeons Valley with its unique rock formations made from wind and water erosion on soft volcanic rock rising from the valley floor. These reminded me of huge Ant hills with large openings resembling windows.
On the way on either side of the wide roads and land extending to the mountains standing like barriers, we could see cultivation of fruits like Peaches, Apricots,Pomegranate and olives etc. Mainly an agricultural country cultivation of Olives seem to be much favoured as export of Olive products contribute a great deal to the nations coffers. A visit to an Olive products sales centre confirmed this.
Though it was a ten day tour varying degrees of temprature from 0'c to 22'c was a unique experience and would you believe it if I say that on one particular day within the 24 hours we were able to experience all four seasons Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. As for me winter was the best. On the way we saw from the bus snow flakes flying. All the past Sixties and Seventies were so enthralled that most of them got off the bus to feel the falling snow crystles. The roofs of houses and trees gradually covering with snow was a magnificent sight.
Our eyes feasted on the beautiful land with slopes, level ground, hills and mountains. We tasted various dishes and fruits as well as drinks. And I think the males loved the indigenous brew Raki, our guide Ahamed recommended. the Turkish Delight was something special, that none of us have ever tasted before and the Turkish Bath ...........!!! those who had the bath say its rejuvenating.Well, I'm not in a position to comment ! There was entertainment too. A pretty Belly Dancer charmed everyone with her fabulous dance.
After seeing the pictures of Hot Air Balloons soaring up in space in the itinerary brochure provided we were dreaming of this new experience in flying. But our hopes and dreams were shattered as the wind condition was not favourable for flying. That was the only disappointment.
However, it was ten days of beauty, joy and laughter,sharing and caring and new experiences.
Thank You RCPTA. !