Now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople
Istanbul is the place east meets west and a place colour and history are around every corner.
Wandering around the streets of Istanbul, the refrain of the Four Lads song ran on repeat through my head. Getting under the skin of the city could take months, if not years.
It’s where East meets West. You can stand on two continents in one day and where in some moments you might think you were downtown in an Arab city, and the next walking a European boulevard. It’s immense, it’s busy, and the layers of history are on show everywhere.
Built infrastructure from BCE blows my mind. It blows my mind even more that a lot of the skills were lost for centuries and mankind went backwards. One thing that seems to have been a constant is the persecution of certain religious groups.
Here Christians were the target, but to get around that, the answer was build cities inside mountains. Houses, churches, the lot, all built inside the rock, and from the outside the enemy wouldn’t (hopefully) know.
Göreme is a small town in the Cappadocia region, pretty much smack bang in the middle of Turkey, home to these villages. The buildings have been named Fairy Chimnies, because when the light was on inside it glowed through the high windows and people said it looked like fairies were inside.
Paintings of saints, nativity scenes and the last supper cover the walls of the churches. Photography isn’t allowed inside because of the damage it causes. Already many of the paintings have peeled off, some of that is possibly down to vandalism. The eyes have been gauged out by Emporer Constatine’s forces when they eventually overran the town.
The best view of this part of the world is from the basket of a hot air balloon. Getting up at 3:45am isn’t easy, but once your up, the only sound is the gas firing and the quiet chatter of passengers.
I’ve seen so much more in the past week, lots of ancient ruins, archaeological sites dating to 8000BCE, mausoleums, mosques, and the Ak Deniz (the Mediterranean Sea). It’s blue, turquoise, green and refreshing to jump into out of the 30C+/90% humidity.
Swimming with turtles first thing in the morning is a highlight. That was after spending a night sleeping on the top deck of a boat under the super moon. It’s moments like this the rest of the world seems so far away that I wonder how there can be wars and all kinds of other nastiness everywhere.
I’m reminded that life doesn’t have to be hard.
I travelled with G Adventures on their ‘Absolute Turkey’ 15 day tour.