The central Anatolian plateau, ochre-hued, cleft by ravines and dominated by volcanic peaks, forms the heart[and of Turkey. Covered with wheat fields and outlined with ranks of poplars the boldly contoured steppe has a solitary majesty.
This plateau was one of the cradles of human civilisation. At Çatalhöyük remains of settlements from as early as the eighth millennium B.C. have been unearthed. The homeland of many people and the historic battleground of East and West, here the Hattis, Hittites, Phrygians, Galatians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans all fought for their sovereignty and established their rule. In the 11th century the migrating Turks from the east made the plateau their own. During its turbulent history Central Anatolia has endured invasion by great conquerors such as Alexander the Great and Tamerlane. In the course of ten millennia of habitation the denizens of the area have reflected in their art – from the vigorous paintings of Çatalhöyük to the confident lines of Seljuk architecture, to, more recently, the impressive modern form of Atatürk’s mausoleum – the dramatic contours of the surrounding landscape.
The seat of Turkey’s government in the strategic heart of central Anatolia, Ankara is the city selected by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the republic’s founder, to house the capital of the newly politically defined country. Though thoroughly modern in appearance Ankara’s history and that of the surrounding area dates back to the Bronze Age and the Hatti civilisation. In the second millennium B.C. the Hittites followed as lords of the land and were succeeded in turn by the Phrygians, Lydians and Persians. In the third century B.C., the Galatians, a Celtic race, made Ankara their capital. It was then known as Ancyra, meaning anchor. The Romans and then the Byzantines held this strategic expanse of land until 1073 when the Seljuk Turks commanded by Alpaslan conquered it. Just over three centuries later in 1402, the city, then but a small outpost, passed into the hands of the Ottomans led by Beyazit I.
After the first World War, Ankara assumed a prominent position at the center of Atatürk’s national resistance, and the War of Independence that liberated the Turkish homeland from the domination of foreign powers. On the 13th of October, 1923, Ankara was declared the capital of the new Republic of Turkey. Dominating the modern part of the city, much of it constructed since Ankara’s rise to prominence, is the imposing limestone Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Completed in 1953, this fusion of ancient and modern architectural concepts testifies to the power and grace of Turkish architecture. A museum at Anitkabir displays some of Atatürk’s personal items and documents. His house in Çankaya, next to the Presidential Palace, is open on Sunday afternoons. The oldest parts of the city surround the ancient hisar or citadel. Within the walls, the 12th century Alaeddin Mosque although much rebuilt by the Ottomans, still boasts fine Seljuk woodwork. Many interesting traditional Turkish houses have been restored in the area, and some have found new life as art galleries or attractive restaurants serving local dishes. Close to the gate, Hisar Kapisi, the beautifully restored bedestan (covered bazaar), houses the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations with its priceless collection of Paleolithic, Neolithic, Hatti, Hittite; Phrygian; Urartian and Roman artifacts. It is open every day except Monday.
Outside the citadel the 13th century Arslanhane Mosque and the 14th century Ahi Elvan Mosque are worth visiting. The legacy of Roman times – the third century A.D. public baths, the fourth century Julian Column and the second century Corinthian style, Temple of Augustus – is all located in an area below the citadel, near Ulus Meydani (Nation Square). The sole surviving “Political Testament of Augustus”, a statement detailing the achievements of the Emperor Augustus, remains inscribed on the wall of his temple in Ankara. At one time every temple dedicated to him throughout the Roman Empire bore this document; this is the only complete copy in existence today. In the fifth century the Byzantines converted the temple into a church.
Near the citadel excavations of a Roman theatre continue. In the same vicinity stands the 15th century Mosque and Mausoleum of Haci Bayram.
From Ulus Meydani, with its equestrian statue of Atatürk, continue down Atatürk Boulevard to the Ethnographical Museum which houses magnificent Seljuk doors of carved wood, and other artifacts of daily life. Nearby the Sculpture and Painting Museum illustrates the history of the Turkish fine arts. The biggest mosque in Ankara graces the Kocatepe quarter. Kocatepe Mosque was built between 1976 and 1987, and is in the Ottoman architectural style. Ankara has an active artistic and cultural life with world class performances of ballet, theatre, opera and folk dancing. The city is especially well-known for its Philharmonic Orchestra which attracts a loyal following. Ankara hosts two international festivals in April: “The Arts and Music Festival”, and the world-famous “April 23rd International Children’s Festival”.
Visitors to the city usually like to browse through the old shops in Çikrikçilar Yokusu near Ulus. On the street of coppersmiths, Bakircilar Çarsisi, you can find many interesting old and new items, not only of copper but jewellery, carpets, costumes, antiquities and embroidery. A walk up the hill to the Citadel Gate takes you past many interesting stalls and vendors selling spices, dried fruits, nuts and all manner of produce. Modern shopping areas are mostly found in Kizilay, on Tunali Hilmi Avenue and in the recently completed Atakule Tower in Çankaya. The top of Atakule, at 125 meters, offers a magnificent view over the whole city. Its excellent revolving restaurant allows you to enjoy the complete view in a leisurely fashion. In the new Karum shopping mall, in Kavaklidere, some of Turkey’s most chic clothing stores tempt the passer-by.
West of Ankara
The most important Phrygian sites in Anatolia are to be found in the provinces of Ankara, Eskisehir and Afyon. Yassihöyük (Gordion) was the capital of Phrygia and the place were Alexander the Great cut the Gordion Knot to gain the key to Asia. The tumulus of King Midas, who turned whatever he touched to gold, can be visited here. Nearby, the remains of the ancient city Gordion, still under excavation, and a small museum are worth a quick tour.
Off the same Ankara-Eskisehir road is Ballihisar (Pessinus), an important Phrygian religious cult center. The most important remains are those of a temple to Cybele, the mother goddess whose worship was at the heart of the Phrygian culture. The small open air museum has some interesting sculptures and tombstones. At Midas Sehri two enormous facades cut into a rocky promontory once held cult statues for the worship of Cybele in their niches. Throughout the area rock tombs – cave-like openings – pierce the sand coloured stone. A recently discovered underground passage leads from the site to the valley below.
Aslantas and Aslankaya were both centres of cult worship in Phrygian times. The former, 34 km north of Afyon, has two monumental lion reliefs; the latter, 52 km from Afyon, comprises a temple and a lion relief. Other Phrygian monuments can be explored at Doganlikale, Kümbet and Deveboynu.
Eskisehir was founded in the first millennium B.C. on the banks of the Porsuk River by the Phrygians. Significant architectural monuments include the 13th century Alaeddin Mosque and the 16th century Kursunlu Complex. All three of the city’s museums are worth visiting: the Archaeological Museum has Phrygian objects and sculptures from the area; the Ottoman House Museum; a fine example of 19th century domestic architecture, houses a collection of local ethnographical items; and the Atatürk Culture Museum has a photographic exhibition of Atatürk’s life, a number of personal effects and a display of items made of meerschaum. The world’s best meerschaum, a soft white stone, comes from mines in the area surrounding Eskisehir. Pipes and other objects can be purchased in the town’s souvenir shops. A spring-fed lake Sakaryabasi, surrounded by beautiful parkland, draws many visitors who want to enjoy the fresh air and eat in one of the fresh fish restaurants.
Sivrihisar’s charm derives from its many typical Ottoman houses which imbue the town with a faded elegance. The 13th century Ulu Mosque, formerly a caravanserai; and the Alemsah Mausoleum are very interesting and worth a visit. Connoisseurs of carpets will know that kilims from Sivrihisar are particularly prized.
On the hillside above Seyyit Battal Gazi stands the imposing 13th century mosque and tomb complex built in memory of the warrior of Islam, Seyyit Battal.
Yunus Emre Köyü (Sariköy) is the burial place of Yunus Emre, the great 13th century poet. His poetry lives today, its message of love and humanity as relevant as ever. Commemorative celebrations are held in the town every May. In addition to his grave, visitors can see a small museum dedicated to his life and works.
North of Ankara
In the third century B.C. the Galatian settlement in Çankiri was called Gangrea, a name which evolved into Kangri. The ruins of an 11th century fortress overlook the city. In town the Ulu Mosque, built by Turkey’s greatest architect, Sinan, in the 16th century, recalls the years of Ottoman culture. Tas Mescit, a medieval hospital built in 1235, lies just outside the city. North of Çankiri is the beautiful Ilgaz National Park and Ski Center.
Northeast and East of Ankara
Kirikkale is a rapidly expanding industrial center on the major highway that leads east out of Ankara and to the Black Sea. The Kizilirmak River, known in ancient times as Halys, passes by Kirikkale. You can spend a pleasant afternoon relaxing in one of the good restaurants surrounded by the pastoral landscape. After the highway divides, the eastern fork leads to Yozgat, 217 km from Ankara. Founded in the 18th century by the Ottomans the city has two important buildings from this period – the Çapanoglu Mosque, and the adjoining Süleyman Bey Mosque. The 19th century Nizamoglu Mansion, an attractive example of Turkish domestic architecture, now houses ethnographical exhibits. Çamlik National Park is a few kilometres south of the city.
All the major early Hittite sites lie in the province of Çorum in Bogazkale National Park, between Yozgat and the city of Çorum. Impressive double walls, in which are set the Royal Gate, the Lion Gate and the Yer Kapi (an underground tunnel), ring the Hittite city of Hattusas, known today as Bogazkale. This city, the Hittite religious center, was known as the City of Temples because over 70 temples stood there. The largest ruins are those of the great temple of the storm god Tesup. The Acropolis contained government buildings, the Imperial Palace and the archives of the Hittite Empire. In 1180 B.C. the Phrygians devastated the city. After thorough excavations at the site the city walls are now being extensively restored.
Yazilikaya, an open air rock pantheon dating from the 13th century B.C., contains fine reliefs of all the Hittite gods and goddesses. Alacahöyük, north of Bogazkale on the road to Çorum, was the center of the flourishing Hattian culture during the Bronze Age. The magnificent Hattian gold and bronze objects in the Museum of Anatolian Civilisation in Ankara were found in the Royal Tombs of this period. All the standing remains at Alacahöyük, however, such as the Sphinx Gate, date from the Hittite period.
Çorum, an important city on the road from central Anatolia to the Black Sea, is known to grow the finest chickpeas in Turkey. Significant historical buildings include the 13th century Ulu Mosque and the 19th century clock tower.
The small town of Merzifon, between Çorum and Amasya, has several Ottoman monuments including the Çelebi Sultan Mehmet Medrese (theological college) and the Kara Mustafa Pasa Mosque. Set in a narrow gorge of the Yesilirmak (Iris) River, Amasya dates from the third century B.C. The ruins of the citadel – inside of which an Ottoman Palace and a secret underground passageway remain – rise from the craggy rock. Hewn into rock above the city impressive Roman rock tombs are lit at night creating a spectacular image. The beauty of Amasya’s natural surroundings and its splendid architectural legacy have combined to endow the city with the accolade of one of the most beautiful cities in Turkey. Among the sights of interest to visitors the 13th century Seljuk Burmali Minare Mosque, the Torumtay Tomb and Gök Medrese, the 14th century Ilhanid Hospital with lovely reliefs around its portal, the 15th century Beyazit I Mosque complex and the unusual octagonal Kapi Aga Medrese should not be missed.
Traditional wooden Turkish mansions, or konaks, on the north bank of the Yesilirmak River in the Hatuniye quarter (Yali Boyu), have been restored to their old splendour, and some of these have been turned into guest houses. The restored 19th century Hazeranlar Konagi, one of the loveliest, now houses an art gallery on the first floor and the Ethnographical Museum on the second. The Archaeological Museum has an interesting collection of regional artifacts including the mummies of the Mongol Ilhanid rulers of Amasya. Cafes, restaurants, tea gardens and parks line the riverside and provide tranquil spots from which to enjoy the city’s romantic atmosphere. From the top of Çakallar Hill you have a beautiful view of the city. Just 50 km northeast of Amasya amid magnificent mountain scenery, Borabay Lake is a popular place for a day trip.
Tokat, also on the Yesilirmak river, has many Seljuk and Ottoman monuments which lend a picturesque yet solemn aesthetic to the cityscape. Among the main historical buildings are the ruins of a 28 towered castle, the 11th century Garipler Mosque and a Seljuk bridge. The 13th century Pervane Bey Darüssifasi (Gök Medrese), one of Tokat’s finest buildings, is now the Archaeological Museum. A regional commercial center, Tokat has retained many of its hans, or commercial warehouses, including the Tashan, Suluhan, Yagcioglu Hani and Gazi Emir (Yazmacilar) Hani. A walk down Sulu Sokak in the city center, a street lined with hans, mausoleums, bazaars and baths, provides an excellent overview of Tokat’s architecture. In the Gazi Emir (Yazmacilar) Hani you can find many examples of the block printed cloth – a 300-year-old tradition – for which Tokat is famous.
A tradition of carved and painted wood decoration and painted murals give Tokat’s konaks a particular elegance. The 19th century Madimagin Celalin Konak and the Latifoglu Konak have been restored to their former splendour and give a picture of wealthy life in rural Turkey 100 years ago.
Sixty-nine kilometres northeast of Tokat, Niksar, once a capital of the Danismend Emirs, has a well preserved citadel and early Turkish monuments, including the Çöregi Büyük Mosque which has a very fine 12th century carved stone portal. It was in Zile, south of Amasya and west of Tokat that Julius Caesar, after a particularly speedy battle, declared his famous “Veni, vidi, vici”. Beneath the citadel which guards the city stands the restored Ulu Mosque of 1269.
Sivas, an important commercial center stood, during the Middle Ages, at the junction of the caravan routes to Persia and Baghdad. Between 1142 and 1171 it was the capital of the Danismend Emirs and a vitally important urban center during Seljuk rule. The remaining architectural monuments reflect Sivas’s former prominent position. The Ulu Mosque dates from the Danismend Emirate but the Seljuk buildings: the 13th century Izzeddin Keykavus Sifahanesi – a hospital and a medical school – the beautifully decorated Gök Medrese, the twin minarets of the Çifte Minare Medrese as well as the Buruciye Medrese all testify to the exciting aesthetic of the Seljuk period.
In 1919, the decision to liberate Turkey from the occupying foreign powers was made by the National Congress which had convened in Sivas. Today the 19th century building where the congress was held has been restored as the Atatürk and Congress Museum, with a display about the War of Independence as well as an ethnographical exhibit. In town there are excellent Sivas carpets for sale; the city has long had a reputation for fine weaving. Kangal, 68 km south of Sivas, is the home of Turkey’s most famous breed of dog – the Kangal. Used as sheep dogs, these golden haired animals have also proven themselves in police and security work. Twelve kilometres northeast of Kangal is the famous spa, Balikli Kaplica, where scores of tiny fish swim in hot spring waters and aid, it is said, in the cure of skin complaints.
Once a Byzantine outpost, Divrigi became the capital of the Turkish Mengücek Emirs in the 12th and 13th centuries. Although very much off the beaten track, visitors come to Divrigi to see the Ulu Mosque and Medrese of 1229. Seljuk stonework reached its most exuberant in the animal and vegetal carvings of the portals. UNESCO declared this site one of the world’s most important cultural heritages.
Southeast of Ankara
Founded in ancient times Kirsehir became, in the Middle Ages, the center of the Ahi Brotherhood, a Moslem sect whose moral and social ideals played an important role in the spiritual and political life of Anatolian towns. Among Kirsehir’s many fine Seljuk buildings are the Cacabey Mosque of 1272 (a former astrological observatory), the Alaeddin Mosque of 1230, and the Ahi Evran Mosque beside which is the tomb of the founder of the Ahi sect. Out of town, on the road toward Kayseri, is the attractive Asik Pasa Mausoleum which was built during the period of Mongol rule, in 1333.
The road to Nevsehir and Cappadocia passes through Hacibektas, the town where Haci Bektas Veli settled and established his Bektas Sufi order in the 14th century. The dervishes who followed the sect’s tenets of love and humanism were housed in the monastery which includes a mausoleum and mosque. The complex is now a museum open to the public. Onyx, plentiful in the region, was used by the disciples of this order and has come to be called Hacibektas stone. In town there are many onyx souvenirs for sale. It is worth stopping to wander through the interesting Archaeological and Ethnographical Museum.
Nevsehir, a provincial capital, is the gateway to Cappadocia. In the town itself the hilltop Seljuk castle, perched on the highest point in the city, and the Kursunlu Mosque, built for the Grand Vizier Damat Ibrahim Pasha, are among the remaining historical buildings. The mosque forms part of a complex of buildings which includes a medrese, a hospice and a library. An ablution fountain in the courtyard still bears its original inscription. The Nevsehir Museum displays local artifacts.
Violent eruptions of the volcanoes Mt. Erciyes (3916 meters) and Mt. Hasan (3268 meters) three million years ago covered the plateau surrounding Nevsehir with tufa, a soft stone comprised of lava, ash and mud. The wind and rain have eroded this brittle rock and created a spectacular surrealist landscape of rock cones, capped pinnacles and fretted ravines, in colours that range from warm reds and golds to cool greens and greys. Göreme, known in Roman times as Cappadocia, is one of those rare regions in the world where the works of man blend unobtrusively into the natural surroundings. Dwellings have been hewn from the rock as far back as 4,000 B.C. During Byzantine times chapels and monasteries were hollowed out of the rock, their ochre-toned frescoes reflecting the hues of the surrounding landscape. Even today troglodyte dwellings in rock cones and village houses of volcanic tufa merge harmoniously into the landscape.
Ürgüp, a lively tourist center at the foot of a rock riddled with old dwellings, serves as an excellent base from which to tour the sights of Cappadocia. In Ürgüp itself you can still see how people once lived in homes cut into the rocks. If you wish to buy carpets and kilims, there is a wide selection available from the town’s many carpet dealers. These characters are as colorful as their carpets, offering tea, coffee or a glass of wine to their customers and engaging in friendly conversation. If ‘sightseeing and shopping haven’t exhausted you, the disco welcomes you to another kind of entertainment. At the center of a successful wine producing region, Ürgüp hosts an annual International Wine Festival in October. Leaving Ürgüp and heading to the south, you reach the lovely isolated Pancarlik Valley where you can stop to see the 12th century church with its splendid frescoes, and the Kepez church which dates from the tenth century. Continuing on to the typical village of Mustafapasa (Sinasos), the traditional stone houses with carved and decorated facades evoke another age. Still travelling in a southerly direction, just past the village of Cemil, a footpath on the west side of the road leads to Keslik Valley where you will find a monastery complex and the Kara Kilise and Meyvali churches, both of which are decorated with frescoes. Back on the main road you come to the village of Taskinpasa where the 14th century Karamanid Mosque and Mausoleum Complex, and the remains of a medrese portal on the edge of town, make for a pleasant diversion. The next village is Sahinefendi where the 12th century Kirksehitler church, with beautiful frescoes, stands at the end of a footpath 500 meters east of the village.
Soganli, 50 km south of Ürgüp, is a picturesque valley of innumerable chapels, churches, halls, houses and tombs. The frescoes, from the 8th to the 13th century, trace the development of Byzantine painting.
Four kilometres north of Ürgüp is the wonderful Devrent Valley where the weather has eroded the stone into peaks, cones and obelisks called fairy chimneys.
Two kilometres to the west, in the Çatalkaya Valley, the fairy chimneys have a peculiar mushroom-like shape, which has been adopted as a symbol of the town.
The Göreme Open-Air Museum, a monastic complex of rock churches and chapels covered with frescoes, is one of the best known sites in central Turkey. Most of the chapels date from the 10th to the 13th century, the Byzantine and Seljuk periods, and many of them are built on an inscribed cross plan with a central cupola supported by four columns. In the narthexes of several churches are rock cut tombs. Among the most famous of the Göreme churches are the Elmali Kilise, the smallest and newest of the group; the Yilanli Kilise with fascinating frescoes of the damned in serpent coils; the Barbara Kilisesi; and the Çarikli Kilise. A short way from the main group; the Tokali Kilise, or Buckle Church, has beautiful frescoes depicting scenes from the New Testament. The town of Göreme itself is set right in the middle of a valley of cones and fairy chimneys. Some of the cafes, restaurants and guest houses are carved into the rock. For shoppers, rugs and kilims are plentiful.
Continuing on the road out of Göreme, you enter one of the most beautiful valleys in the area. Rock formations seemingly out of a fantasy rise up before you at every turn and entice you to look longer and wonder at their creation. For those who climb the steps to the top of the Uçhisar Fortress the whole region unfolds below. Rugs and kilims, and popular souvenirs can easily be purchased from the shops which line Uçhisar’s narrow streets.
At Çavusin, on the road leading north out of Göreme, you will find a triple apse church and the monastery of St. John the Baptist. In the town are chapels and churches, and some of the rock houses are still inhabited. From Çavusin to Zelve fairy chimneys line the road. Unfortunately, it is dangerous to visit the churches in the valley because erosion has undermined solid footing.
The charming town of Avanos, on the banks of the Kizilirmak River, displays attractive vernacular architecture and is known for its handicrafts. Every August the town hosts an Art and Tourism Festival where a creative and friendly atmosphere pervades. Pottery is the most popular handicraft and it is usually possible to try your hand at making a pot in one of the many studios. Rug weaving and knotting is also making a revival. Leaving Avanos in a southerly direction you come to an interesting Seljuk caravanserai. On the Nevsehir – Ürgüp road you can’t miss Ortahisar and its rock carved fortress. The churches in the Balkan Valley are some of the oldest in the Göreme region. In the neighbouring Hallaç Valley, the Hallaç Monastery displays decorations from the 10th and the 11th centuries. North of Ortahisar, the Kizilçukur Valley is breathtakingly beautiful especially at sunset. In the valley is the 9th century Üzümlü church.
The underground cities of Kaymakli, Mazi, Derinkuyu and Özkonak were all used by the Christians of the seventh century as places of retreat in order to escape persecution. They fled from the iconoclastic strife of Byzantium as well as other invasions in these safe and well hidden metropolises. A complete environment, these cities included rooms for grain storage, stables, sleeping chambers, kitchens and air shafts. Today they are well lit and an essential and fascinating part of a Cappadocian tour.
West of Avanos, Gülsehir has Hittite rock inscriptions, and nearby, at Gökçetepe, there is a bas-relief of Zeus. South on the Nevsehir road brings you to the 13th century church of St. John, and farther along is Açiksaray where the carved rocks hold churches and chapels.
West of Cappadocia, over the mountains, lies Kayseri, known as Caesarea in Roman times. The city spreads out at the foot of Mt. Erciyes (3916 meters), an extinct volcano. In the winter months the ski center has excellent runs for downhill skiers. Close to the Byzantine fortress the 13th century Huant Mosque and Medrese and the Mahperi Hatun Mausoleum comprise the first Seljuk complex in Anatolia. South of the complex stand the beautifully decorated Döner Kümbet of 1276, the Archaeological Museum and the Kösk Medrese, a Mongol building of classic simplicity. A major Seljuk city, Kayseri was an important center of learning and consequently there are many medreses among the remaining historical buildings. Those interested in this particular architectural form should see the Çifte Medrese, the first medieval school of anatomy and the lovely Sahabiye Medrese. Near the city’s bedestan is the restored 12th century Ulu Mosque. The Haci Kiliç Mosque, north of the Çifte Medrese, dates from 1249. Rugs woven in finely knotted floral patterns continue a centuries old tradition. Local production can be purchased in any of the town’s carpet shops. South of Kayseri, in Develi, stand three more important Seljuk buildings: the Ulu Mosque, the Seyid-i Serif Tomb and the Develi Tomb. Nearby, the Sultan Marshes, the habitat of many species of bird, are of interest both to ornithologists and nature lovers. North of Kayseri, Kültepe, known in ancient times as Kanesh or Karum was one of the earliest Hittite commercial trade cities. Today, however, only the foundations remain. Many of the finds can be examined in the Kültepe Museum as well as in the Kayseri Archaeological Museum.
On the same road is Sultan Han, a caravanserai built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in the early 13th century and a favourite stop for tourists.
Nigde, the Nahita of Hittite times, lies in a valley flanked by volcanic peaks and commands the ancient trade route from Anatolia to the Mediterranean. Nigde’s castle owes its present form to the Seljuks, and the elegant Alaeddin Mosque dates from the same period. From the 14th century era of Mongol rule are the Sungur Bey Mosque and the Hüdavend Hatun Mausoleum. an excellent example of the Anatolian tomb tower. The 15th century Ak Medrese now houses the Archaeological Museum.
Ten kilometres out of town is Eskigümüs, a Byzantine monastery and church with massive columns and frescoes. These frescoes, which date from the 10th and the 11th centuries, are among the best preserved in the region.
Bor, south of Nigde, was once a Hittite settlement. The town’s historical buildings include the Seljuk Alaeddin Mosque and the Ottoman bedestan. Farther on, in the same direction, Kemerhisar is the site of the important Roman city of Tyana. A few more kilometres brings you to some Hittite ruins and a Roman aqueduct. Most of the historical buildings in Aksaray, west of Nigde and south of Cappadocia, such as the Ulu Mosque, date from the 14th century. The Kizil Minaret is noted for its attractive decorative brickwork. Two of the most famous caravanserais from the Seljuk period remain in the environs. Just 40 km west of the city is the well preserved Sultanhan Caravanserai built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat, and 15 km towards Nevsehir is the Agizkarahan Caravanserai. The Melendiz River, at Ihlara, has eroded the banks into an impressive canyon. Byzantine rock chapels covered with frescoes pierce the canyon walls. Some of the best known are the Agaçalti (Daniel) Church, the Yilanli (Apocalypse) Church and the Sümbüllü (Hyacinth) Church.
Güzelyurt is another valley with dwellings dating from prehistoric times. You can see the beautiful silhouette of Mt. Hasan rising like a crown above the town. The valley’s underground cities, buildings carved into the rock, interesting vernacular architecture, churches, chapels and mosques embody all of the characteristics of Cappadocia and give visitors a sense of historical continuity. A popular tourist destination, Güzelyurt’s hospitable residents, extensive accommodation and restaurants ensure a pleasant stay.
South of Ankara
Konya, one of Turkey’s oldest continuously inhabited cities was known as Iconium in Roman times. The capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th century, it ranks as one of the great cultural centres of Turkey. During this period of artistic, political and religious growth, the mystic Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi founded a Sufi Order known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. The striking green tiled mausoleum of Mevlana is Konya’s most famous building. Attached to the mausoleum the former dervish seminary serves now as a museum devoted to manuscripts of Mevlana’s works and various artifacts related to the mysticism of the sect.. Every year, in the first half of December, this still active religious order holds a ceremony commemorating the Whirling Dervishes. The controlled, almost trance-like turning of the white robed men creates a mystical experience for the viewer.
Alaeddin Mosque, built on the site of the ancient citadel in 1220 during the reign of the great Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubat, commands Konya’s skyline. To one side of the mosque are the scant remains of the Seljuk Imperial Palace. The Karatay Medrese, now a museum, displays bald and striking Seljuk ceramics. On the other side of the mosque the Ince Minareli Medrese of 1258 is remarkable for its marvellous baroque Seljuk portal. Other Seljuk works include the Sirçali Medrese and the Sahip Ata Complex.
Visitors find Konya’s Archaeological Museum of exceptional interest. The collection of the Koyunoglu Museum is a varied one, and among its displays one is devoted to natural history while another to old kilims. Within the museum complex the restored Izzettin Koyunoglu house illustrates the way of life of a prosperous Konya family.
Sille, 10 km north of Konya, has a Byzantine church and several rock chapels with frescoes. Aksehir, to the northwest, is known throughout Turkey as the birthplace of the 13th century humorist Nasrettin Hoca, whose mausoleum stands in the town. The 13th century Ulu Mosque and the Altinkale Mescidi are other monuments worth seeing; the Sahip Ata Mausoleum has been converted into the town’s museum.
On the way south to Beysehir stop at Eflatun Pinar next to the lake to see this unusual Hittite monumental fountain. Several interesting Seljuk buildings are scattered around lovely Beysehir, on the shores of Turkey’s third largest lake, Beysehir Lake. Among the monuments are the Esrefoglu Mosque and Medrese, and the Kubad-Abad Summer Palace across the lake. Another medieval palace stands on Kizkalesi Island, opposite the Kubad-Abad palace.
Çatalhöyük, 45 km south of Konya, is a fascinating Neolithic site dating from the eight millennium B.C., which makes it one of the world’s oldest towns. Archaeologists have determined that holes in the roofs of the mud houses were the entrance doors. Ankara’s Museum of Anatolian Civilisations displays the famous temple, mother-goddess figures and Neolithic frescoes from the site. At Ivriz, a Hittite site 168 km east of Konya, you can see one of Turkey’s finest neo-Hittite reliefs of a king and fertility god. Karaman, once the capital of the Karamanid Emirate, was the first Turkish state to use Turkish, not Persian, as the official language. Fittingly, Yunus Emre, the first great poet to write in Turkish, lived here in the 13th century. The surrounding fortresses date from Seljuk times, although the town’s most significant buildings, the Araboglu, Yunus Emre and Aktekke Mosques and the Hatuniye Medrese, were all built during the Karamanid reign.
Near Taskale, 48 km east of Karaman, on the rocky northern slope of Yesildere Valley, are the remains of the fascinating, historical city of Manazan. Built during Byzantine times, the entire city of narrow lanes, houses, squares, storage facilities, chapels and cemeteries (occupying an area approximately three kilometres long and five stories high) was carved into the rocky hillside of the valley. Today parts of the city are still used for wheat storage. South of Karaman up a steep narrow road are the remains of a beautiful Byzantine monastery, Alahan. Much still stands, and there is some fine stone carving to admire. This magnificent location offers a breathtaking view.