The Central Anatolia Region
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.