(Photo by: Adam Jones)
Caption: The Church of Mary in Ephesus is believed to be the first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, as it is also believed she passed away in Ephesus.
Turkey is one of the oldest nations in the world. But it hasn’t always been Turkey. In fact, Turkey has kind of been, well, kicked around a little bit. Throughout the centuries, Turkey has found itself invaded and ruled by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Mongols, and the Ottomans, among other great ancient civilizations. And Alexander the Great ruled there for a while, too. Turkey didn’t actually become Turkey, or the Republic of Turkey, as it’s officially called, until 1923. Turkey makes an amazing travel destination, and exploring Turkey should be on the top of your dream itineraries.
Cities and Things to See
Turkey isn’t just Istanbul, although you do have to see Istanbul. Since we’re exploring Turkey, however, I’m going to talk about three additional must-see cities over and above the most popular one. Each area I’m going to discuss has its own special charm and reasons why you simply must explore it, which I’ll touch upon briefly. There are simply so many things to do in each city, however, that if I listed everything, we’d have a book, and I’m not writing a book, I’m writing a blog… so here we go:
- Istanbul: Many think that Istanbul is Turkey’s capital, but Ankara is; Istanbul is Turkey’s breadwinner. This is the most visited city in the country because there a ton of cool things to do. Plus, it lives and breathes excitement and culture just like New York City. While there, you really need to check out the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, the Spice Bazaar, and Topkapi Palace. Once you’ve checked all of that out, head down to Taksim Square to enjoy the wild Turkish nightlife at one of its many bars and clubs.
- Cappadocia: Cappadocia is a trip! I’m speaking figuratively here. Where else in the world can you wander through an entire underground city? …Okay, many places. Allow me to rephrase that. Where else in the world can you wander through 36 underground cities? Nope, I ain’t whistling Dixie. More than 20,000 people called Cappadocia, or underneath it, anyway, home, and there were even horse stables under there. You have to see it!
- Ephesus: There is so much to see in Ephesus, including the beautiful Ionian Coast on which it rests. As I said at the beginning, Turkey’s been knocked around just a bit, and Ephesus bears some of those scars. You’ll find both Greek and Roman ruins in Ephesus as well as a museum housing numerous historical relics. There are also 2,000-year-old public toilets. I’m sorry, I know that sounds crass, but it’s actually amazing to see. Ancient plumbing was pretty darn good!
- Pamukkale: Say that three times fast. Okay, fine, say its translation, “cotton castle,” three times fast! I’ve been going all crazy and sending you all over Turkey to see the ancient architecture and ruins, underground cities, and amazing shopping, but now, it’s time to take a load off. Pamukkale is a 17-hot-spring natural wonder in which you can dip your tired and barking feet. In fact, some of the springs are so deep that you can dip your entire tired and barking body in, but I wouldn’t recommend it. That can damage this Turkish natural wonder.
Time for Food!
Okay, let’s eat. Come on, you knew it wouldn’t take me long to get to the food part. One of the reasons I love traveling so much is because there is so much incredible food throughout the world. And you’re constantly on the go when you’re sightseeing, which can work up a very hefty appetite. Since I’ve given four fantastic Turkish cities, and the sites they offer, to see, I’m going to give you some restaurants to enjoy while you’re there as well!
- Istanbul: Because of Istanbul’s size, I’m sure you can imagine that there are countless restaurants and amazing street food vendors to fit any traveler’s budget. Those looking for finer dining won’t be disappointed by Mikla. Mikla is run by a Turkish celebrity chef and sits atop a 20-story building. If Mikla’s a little too rich for your blood, check out fast food Turkish-style, i.e.., some really awesome kebab, at Hamdi Restaurant.
- Cappadocia: The food in Cappadocia is as amazing as Cappadocia itself… and don’t worry, you don’t have to eat underground. Many agree that the best place to grab some grub is Ziggy Cafe and Restaurant. If you’re simply looking for a sandwich or a really good sweet treat in the afternoon, Mado is a Turkish ice cream franchise serving plenty of the frosty treat throughout Cappadocia.
- Ephesus: You won’t find any restaurants in Ephesus, but there are plenty of places to grab a bite outside the gates of the city and in nearby towns. For a truly unique dining experience, visit The Prince of the Castle. I do not have an online menu for you to peruse, but this restaurant serves Ancient Roman recipes that are more than 2,000 years old. You can also grab a great salad, kebab, and dessert at Mehmet and Alibaba Kebab House.
- Pamukkale: Let’s get a little creative in Pamukkale. If you want to enjoy some pizza because you’ve eaten glorious kebabs until they are coming out of your ears, swing by Mustafa’s while in Pamukkale. Do you just want to chill with a brew and watch a football – oops, sorry, it’s not the NFL in Turkey – watch a European football game on a big screen? Then walk into Kaya’s. I don’t have online menus for these places either, but hey, what’s better than pizza anyway?
If you haven’t considered adding Turkey to your list of places you simply must visit, I’m going to encourage you to rethink that. As you can see by reading this blog, Turkey is an amazing ancient and modern playground for visitors from all over the world. There is much history to see in Turkey alongside some amazing food and drink. Don’t let yourself down: Add exploring Turkey to your list of things to do!