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The queen of the cities. Some ancient cities are the sum of their monuments. But others, suach as Istanbul, factor a lot more into the equation. In the former Byzantine and Ottoman capita, you can start the day visiting the churches and mosques left by two empires, shop in chic boutiques during the afternoon. In the space of a few minutes you can hear the evocative strains of the call to prayer issuing from the Old City’s tapering minarets, the sonorous horn of a crowded commuter ferry crossing between Europe and Asia, and the strident cries of street hawkers selling fresh seasonal produce.
Perched on a hilltop above the modern town of Bergama, the great acropolis of Pergamon is one of the most dramatic sights in Turkey. Originally sttled by the Aeolian Greeks in the 8th century BC, it was ruled for a time by one of Alexander the Great’s generals. The city prospered under the Pergamene dynasty founded by Eumenes I, who ruled from 263 to 241 BC, when this was one of the ancient world’s main centres of learning. The last ruler of this dynasty, Attalus III, bequeathed the kingdom to rome in 133 BC, and Pergamon became capital of the Roman province of Asia. The great physician Galen was born here in AD 129, and established a famous medical centre, the Asclepieum.
In Hellenistic times, the thermal springs at Hierapolis made the city a popular spa. Today, the ruins of Hierapolis stil draw visitors, who come to swim in its mineral-rich pools and to see the startling white travertine terraces of nearby Pamukkale. Founded by Eumenes II, king of Pergamon, the city was noted for its textiles, particulary wool. Hierapolis was ceded to Rome in 133 BC along with the rest of the Pergamene kingdom. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 60, and was rebuilt and reached its peak in AD 196-215. Hierapolis fell into decline in the 6th century, and the site became partially submerged by water and deposits of travertine.
Kas was built adjoining a long, narrow peninsula, over the ancient port city of Antiphellos (port of Phellos), and was noted for its cork oaks. In 1839, it was so tiny and impoverished that the English archaeologist Charles Fellow (who excavated the nearby Lycian site of Xantos) had to cross to the island of Castellorizo to buy chickens to eat. Today, the situation is reserved: the islanders buy their chickens at Kas market on Fridays. The harbours are filled with scuba-diving boats and yachts making trips to the Blue Cave and the sunken city at Kekova with hotels and pensions along the waterfront. Uzun Çarşı, the shopping street, has many unusual and original handicraft and antique shops. A 5th-century BC Lycian sarcophagus is at the top of the street.
The majestic jewel of Central Anatolia is the Cappadocia region, a bewitching landscape of spectaclary eroded tuff (hardened volcanic ash.) Mount Erciyes, an extinct volcano, looms over this haunting panorama. Volcanic deposits have made this a fertile area for agriculture, with grapes, apricots, cherries, sugar beets and chickpeas grown locally.
The main Hittite sites in Asia Minor are found at Bogazkale and Alacahoyuk. Often neglected, Kayseri is a treasure-trove of Seljuk history and should not be missed. The Pontic kings once ruled in Amasya, an unspoiled town in the valley of yhe Yesilirmak River. The region’s varied sights complement the country crafts, such as carpet weaving and the beautiful decorative pottery produced around Avanos.
Don’t miss: Hot Air Balloon Tour …
Like most of the resorts along the Aegean coast, it s difficult to envisage Marmaris as the quaint fishing village it used to be. The stretch of beach, now lined with hotels, extended to the main street until the 1990s. Marmaris was extexnsively damaged by an earthquake in 1957, which destroyed most of the old town. Today the rebuilt (and greatly expanded) town is a top holiday destination.
Ancient inscriptions indicate that Marmaris was once the Dorian city of Physcus, attached to the city of Lindos and part of the island state of Rhodes. Suleyman the Magnificent assembled a mighty fleet here in 1522 to prepare for his conquest of Rhodes, at which time he regained possession of the Datca Peninsula and had Marmaris Castle rebuilt.