Central Turkey



Istanbul to Syria and the Middle East
We must admit it was difficult leaving Istanbul after having felt so at home at the Armada. Leaving was also difficult as we clearly sensed there was something wrong with going back East ! We had made it this far and had been talking so much with Kathleen's parents about the future that it was somehow difficult to hit the road again. Furthermore, we had been staying in cool hotels for the last 2 weeks and we didn't look forward very much to camping with the poor weather. Torrential rain turned into.. torrential snow fall as soon as we drove eastwards. After queuing for a few hours in a traffic jam of people stopping everywhere to put their snow chains on (the lucky ones) and people sliding all over the place (the unlucky ones), we decided to call it a day and stopped for a meal and... a good night's sleep in our tent. Next morning, we had the first part of "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas !"



After visiting the cities of Safranbolu and its Ottoman wooden houses to see how Turkey must have looked 1 or 2 centuries ago, we headed for Turkey's capital Ankara. Ankara was a small if strategic town in the 20ies of only 20 or 30 thousand people when Attatürk decided to move the country's capital here. After heading for the Belgian embassy, we thought how lucky we must be to be nationals of a small country. We have so far always had a marvelously warm welcome when visiting these and Ankara was no exception. Thank you Bruno & Ha !


Ankara's car bodywork shops prepare for many weeks of good business as another snowstorm hits the capital !


Visit to the Hittite town of Hattusas, next to Bogazkale village. We were mightily impressed to see a stone sculpture of a lion 4000 years old.


From the Hittite area, East of Ankara, we moved even further eastwards into Anatolia to visit Amasya, Zile and Tokat, famous for their Ottoman architecture. A few years ago, it is from somewhere between Amasya and Zile that Julius Caesar crushed the local warlords and sent his famous one-liner home : veni, vidi, vici. 


Driving through a small Anatolian village on our way to the city of Zile, Turkey


A group of schoolchildren immediately gathered when we stopped to remove our chains (centre), the caravanserai of Agzikarahan, East of Aksaray


"The caravanserai or caravan palace was a luxury "motel" on the 13th century Silk Road through Anatolia." (LP) The main gate provides access to an open court in which caravans were loaded and unloaded. This open court was surrounded by rooms which served as refectory, treasury, repair shop, accounting and exchange office, store room and hammams. The vaulted hall further on served as shelter for people and goods in bad weather.


The highly decorated front portal of the Agzikarahan caravanserai


Two of the most well kept (and restored) caravanserai were on our way to Konya, the home city of the whirling Dervishes. From Konya we headed south again towards the Mediterranean. This road was to take us right through the Taurus mountain range to the Mediterranean where we were hoping for warmer temperatures !


Another stunning road through Turkey's snow covered countryside (left), the monastery of Alahan perched high in the Taurus range north of Cyprus (centre), amazingly beautiful ice stalactites along the road (right)


The road South finally brought us round the Bay of Iskenderun to warmer temperatures and the city of Antakya (Antioch). Antioch is home to the world's first cathedral in the cave-church of St Peter (where the apostle is said to have preached and the term "Christian" was first used. Antakya is also home to an incredible museum of Roman mosaics

The Church of St Peters (left) was restored several times over the centuries by the Church but also by Napoleon III, a amazing roman mosaic in the poorly lit Antakya Archaeological Museum


Heading to Halep (Aleppo) in Northern Syria on Christmas Eve hoping to find a Christian church


For the first time during our journey so far, we have noticed we were not eager to leave a country and head for the next one. The warm but more importantly very natural hospitality of Turkish people have made us feel welcome. Besides, Turkey is one very special country to discover. The country is dotted with majestic old buildings everywhere and most of the landscape would qualify as national park in most countries. One thing is sure : our two months were clearly not sufficient !


Here is the first of our extra pages : Constantinople !


We are doing well !

Coming from Mediterranean Turkey Back to Trip page Heading to Lebanon