My Top Five of Turkey
Our time in Turkey was filled with wonderful people, delicious food, and incredible experiences. We went out and saw as much as we possibly could, and here’s a small taste of some of my favourites from our adventure in Turkey!
Troy was an incredible experience for Nathanael and I; the setting of one of the most famous legends in the world. The English name wavered between Troy, Troya, and Truva, and locals seemed a bit bemused as to why we wanted to visit, but if you’re an ancient history buff it’s a must-see. They have pretty good signage all over detailing what kind of structure you’re looking at and from what time period it’s from (because the city has been rebuilt at least NINE times!). One cliff had signs slowly going down its height detailing at which “Troy” occurred in the sediment layers. Çanakkale is the nearest city to the site and is worth a visit too, you can pose with the Trojan Horse movie prop!
Ephesus was our first sightseeing excursion in Turkey, and it was definitely a lesson in how to manage ourselves in the heat of Turkey’s summer. Despite the mild heat stroke, Ephesus was incredible. It was packed with tourists, but that barely mattered because the site is so large and has so much to see. The first of my favourite spots was probably the Library of Celsus (above!). I had never seen anything like it and to know that this place once held so much knowledge, it was the third richest library in ancient times! The theatre was amazing of course, as its one of the biggest and most impressive structures still standing, but I also loved walking down the Arcadian Street. The Arcadian Street leads all the way from the theatre to what was once the sea, and while now it’s lined with rubble and stork nests perched on crumbling pillars, at one time it was lined with shops and galleries filled with goods that had come up from the harbour.
Ahhh Istanbul, city of wonders and aggressive street vendors 🙂 Honestly though, I loved Istanbul. Highlights of course would be the three big sites: Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace, but there was so much more. We met up with a friend of ours who took us for a walk from Galata Tower, down Istiklal Avenue, and on to Taksim Square; great for people-watching, checking out funky shops, and delicious Turkish delight. Mosques are everywhere, each of which are beautiful and unique in their own way. The Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Spice Market were also among my favourite places we explored. They’re a bit stressful to do much shopping in, especially if you aren’t used to bartering or the crowds of people, but they’re a lot of fun just to look around. I loved looking at the overflowing bins of colourful spices and tea, the beautiful lamps, and the antiques.
Bursa was an unexpected gem on our trip. We were volunteering near Yalova and our hosts recommended Bursa as a fun side trip. Looking into it, it seemed kinda interesting, so away we went. There was so much more to see than we anticipated, and we wished we had booked a bit more time. Bursa itself has been an important centre in Turkey for a long time, with history dating back all the way to 4000 BC, so needless to say there’s a lot to see around the city. The market was probably my favourite site, but the city itself was beautiful, it felt like everywhere we turned was something interesting like city walls, fortresses, and mosques. Ulu Cami is the largest mosque in Bursa, built in the late 14th century, and always seems to have a community of people meeting around it. The Covered Market was a labyrinth, but we were determined to track down the Koza Han, the famous silk market that was established back in the 15th century! After nearly giving up, we finally found it and it was well worth the hours of searching (check out the picture above!).
Heybeliada is the second largest of the Prince’s Islands just outside of Istanbul. The only motorized vehicles allowed on the island are service vehicles, so it’s essentially a walker/cyclists paradise. Heybeliada looked a bit quieter than Büyükada, the largest of the island chain, and we loved the laid-back vibe of the island. Beautiful, old wooden houses (which we hadn’t seen anywhere else in Turkey) are all over and probably make up the majority of our island adventure photos. While people recommend seeing the mountaintop monastery, the best thing about the island is actually the network of paths leading to different beaches and featuring great views of the sea.