Turkey is a land of contrasts–modern and ancient, Eastern and Western, light and shadow.
Everywhere we went, people welcomed us warmly.
We saw ancient churches and mosques, and magnificent palaces.
Cappadocia, in Central Turkey, was the home of the Hittites, nearly two thousand years B.C.E.
Uncle Mustafa guided us through an underground city there. The ancient Hittites had carved eight levels of tunnels in the soft volcanic rock.
The city served as a shelter in case of attack, with stores of food and water to feed 5,000 people for three months.
Then we saw Cappadocia from above, in a hot air balloon…
We swam in the Mediterranean off the coast near Antalya, and ate fish caught from the back of the boat for lunch.
Near Konya we visited Tinaztepe Magaralari, a cave with underground lakes.
At Hieropolis, we soaked our feet in the hot springs where Cleopatra and Marc Antony honeymooned.
In Istanbul we visited the Byzantine Cistern, built by Emperor Justinius in the 6th century. It’s a huge underground stone forest built with recycled Roman columns. It was the size of two football fields, and held 57 million gallons of water.
A cruise on the Bosphorus took us past this fortress.
The Bosphorus divides Istanbul, a city of 17 million. One side is in Eurupe, and the other in Asia. This bridge joins one continent to the other.
Kusadasi was a lovely harbor town, where we could watch the sun set from our balcony each evening.
They say the beaches of Gallipoli are haunted by ghosts from the disastrous war between the British and the Turks in 1915. Many New Zealanders and Australians were called in to fight for the British. Nearly everyone we met there was either a Kiwi or an Aussie.
After a tragic waste of human life on both sides, the British and their allies withdrew. Eli and I visited British and Turkish cemeteries; both were heartbreaking. A few years ago, one of the few survivors of the 57th Turkish Battalion returned to the site at the age of 108, with his great granddaughter. This statue commemorates their visit.
I don’t know when I will see the sun set over Turkey again, but I am already looking forward to the day.
All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck.