CENTRAL ANATOLIA REGION
The central Anatolian plateau forms the heartland of Turkey: ochre-hued, cleft by ravines and dominated by volcanic peaks. The boldly contoured steppe has a solitary majesty covered with wheat fields framed by ranks of poplars.
This plateau was also a cradle of human civilization. At Catalhoyuk, remains of settlements as old as the eighth millennium B.C. have been unearthed. Here in the homeland of many civilizations and the historic battleground between East and West, the Hattis, Hittites, Phrygians, Galatians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans all fought for their sovereignty and established their rule. In the 11 th century, migrating Turks from the east made the plateau their own. During its turbulent history, Central Anatolia has endured invasion by great conquerors, such as Alexander the Great and Tamerlane. In the course of ten millenia of habitation, the denizens of the area have reflected in their art the dramatic contours of the surrounding landscape, from the vigorous paintings of Catalhoyuk and the confident lines of Seljuk architecture, to, more recently, the impressive modern form of Ataturk's mausoleum.
The city of Ankara lies in the centre of Anatolia on the eastern edge of the great, high Anatolian Plateau, at an altitude of 850 meters. The province is a predominantly fertile wheat steppe land, with forested areas in the northeast. It is bordered by the provinces of Cankiri and Bolu to the north, Eskisehir to the west, Konya and Aksaray to the south, and Kirikkale and Kirsehir to the east.
The region's history goes back to the Bronze Age Hatti civilization, which was succeeded in the 2nd millennium B.C. by the Hittites, in the 10th century B.C. by the Phrygians then by the Lydians and Persians. After these came the Galatians, a Celtic race who were the first to make Ankara their capital in the 3rd century B.C. It was then known as Ancyra, meaning "anchor", one of the oldest words in the language of the sea-loving Celts. The city subsequently fell to the Romans, and to the Byzantines. Seljuk Sultan Alparslan opened the door into Anatolia for the Turks at the victory of Malazgirt in 1071. Then in 1073, he annexed Ankara, an important location for military transportation and natural resources, to Turkish territory.
The city was an important cultural, trading, and arts centre in Roman times, and an important trading centre on the caravan route to the east in Ottoman times. It had declined in importance by the nineteenth century. It again became an important centre when Kemal Ataturk chose it as the base from which to direct the War of Liberation. By consequence of its role in the war and its strategic position, it was declared the capital of the new Republic of Turkey on October 13th, 1923.
SITES TO SEE
Anitkabir (Ataturk Mausoleum): Located on an imposing hill in the Anittepe quarter of the city stands the mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey. Completed in 1953, it is an impressive fusion of ancient and modern architectural ideas and remains unsurpassed as an accomplishment of modern Turkish architecture. There is a museum housing a superior wax statue of Ataturk; writings, letters and items belonging to Ataturk, as well as an exhibition of photographs recording important moments in his life and in the establishment of the Republic. (Anitkabir is open everyday, and the museum every day except Mondays. During the summer, there is a light and sound show in the evenings).
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is close to the citadel entrance. An old bedesten (covered bazaar) has been beautifully restored and now houses a marvellous and unique collection of Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Hatti, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian and Roman works and showpiece Lydian treasures. (Open every day, except Monday. During the summer, the museum opens every day).
The Ethnography Museum is opposite the Opera House on Talat Pasa Boulevard. There is a fine collection of folkloric artifacts as well as artifacts from Seljuk and Ottoman mosques. (Open every day, except Monday).
The Painting and Sculpture Museum is close to the Ethnography Museum and houses a rich collection of Turkish art from the late 19th century to the present day. There are also galleries for guest exhibitions. (Open every day, except Monday).
The Liberation War Museum, diagonally across the street from Ulus Square, is in what was originally the first parliament building of the Republic of Turkey. There the War of Liberation was planned and directed as recorded in various photographs and items on exhibition. In another display are wax figures of former presidents of the Republic of Turkey. (Open every day, except Monday).
The Museum of the Republic, close to the Liberation War Museum, is housed in what was the second parliament building of the Republic. The exhibition here records important events in the early republican period. (Open every day, except Monday). Ataturk's House is on the grounds of the Presidential Palace in Cankaya and was Ataturk's house after the founding of the Republic. The house is much as it was in Ataturk's day, and exhibits photographs that record important events. (Open Sundays and on religious and national holidays, 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm).
The Natural History Museum can be found on the grounds of the MTA (Mineral Research and Exploration Institute) on the Eskisehir road in Ankara. The displays record the evolutionary development of the world. (Open every day except religious holidays).
PTT Museum collections were begun between 1880 and 1888 by then Postal Director Izzet Efendi. The Museum in Altindag was opened in 1982, and contains a postal display, a telegraph and telephone display, and a stamp display. (Open weekdays).
The TRT Museum (Turkish Radio&Television Broadcasting) has exhibits from the beginning of radio in Turkey, including antique phonographs and radios. It is located in the TRT General Directorate building in the Oran district. (Open Mon. Wed., Fri., 11 am - 3 pm).
Mehmet Akif Ersoy Museum, on the Hacettepe University Central Campus, commemorates the famous national poet who, in this house, wrote the text of the Turkish national anthem, as well as songs of independence, and many poems. (Open weekdays from 10 am - 12 pm and 2 pm - 4 pm).
The TCDD Open-air Locomotive Museum, near the railway station by Celal Bayar Blvd.., shows the history of steam locomotion through the locomotives on display. (Open weekdays).
The Cartography Museum, located in the Harita Genel Komutanligi building in the Cebeci quarter, has old and new maps. (Open Tues, and Thurs. from 9 am - 12 pm and 2 pm - 5 pm).
The Meteorology Museum on Sanatoryum Ave. in Kalaba, show the history of meteorology in Turkey. (Open weekdays).
The Education Museum follows the history and technology of education in Turkey. It is located in Ankara Gazi University, in the Besevler district. (Open weekdays).
The Toy Museum in Cebeci houses toys of all kinds made of wood, metal, porcelain, paper, etc. (Open Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 am to 5 pm).
METU Museum on the campus of Middle East Technical University has archaeological artifacts and ethnographic displays. (Open weekdays, 9:30 am to 3:30 pm).
T.C. Ziraat Museum at the Ulus branch of the bank displays a rich collection of coins and money in a building of architectural beauty. (Open weekdays from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm).
Haci Bayram Mosque: This mosque, in Ulus, next to the Temple of Augustus, was built in the early 15th century in Seljuk style and was subsequently restored by Sinan in the 16 th century, with Kutahya tiles being added in the 18 th century. The mosque was built in honour of Haci Bayram Veli, whose tomb is next to the mosque.
Aslanhane Mosque: This Seljuk mosque, near the citadel, was built in the 13 th century. The mosque has a mihrap (prayer niche showing the direction to Mecca) of Seljuk tiles, and an unusual double colonnade of wooden columns. Next to the mosque is the tomb of Ahi Serafeddin. Ahi Elvan Mosque: Found in the Ulus quarter near the Citadel, this mosque was built and finished during the late 14 th and early 15 th centuries. The finely carved walnut mimber (pulpit) is of particular interest.
Alaaddin Mosque: This mosque is inside the Citadel walls. It has a carved walnut mimber, the inscription on which shows that the mosque was built in the 12 th century by the Seljuk ruler, Mesut.
Yeni (Cenab Ahmet) Mosque: This is the largest Ottoman mosque in Ankara and was built by the famous architect Sinan in the 16 th century. The mimber (pulpit) and mihrap (prayer niche) are of white marble, and the mosque itself is of Ankara stone (red porphyry), an example of very fine workmanship. Yeni Cami is Ulucanlar Avenue.
Kocatepe Mosque: This is a recently constructed mosque of great size in classical Ottoman design with four minarets. Built between 1967 and 1987 in the Kocatepe artery, its size and prominent situation have made it a landmark.
In the province of Ankara there are six thermal centres: Kizilcahamam Kaplica 80 km to the north, Haymana Kaplica 72 km to the south, and to the northwest are Ayas Kaplica (57 km), Dutlu Kaplica (85 km) Meliksah in Cubuk (30 km), and Maliköy in Polatli (80 km). All offer comfortable facilities in which to soak away your cares. The thermal baths have beneficial properties and are, of course, altogether pleasurable.
At Gavurkalesi, 60 km from Ankara on the Haymana Highway near Derekoy, the remains of an open-air Hittite temple, a tomb and two reliefs of Hittite gods can be seen. The most important Phrygian sites in Anatolia are to be found in the provinces of Ankara, Eskisehir and Afyon. Yassihoyuk (Gordion), 105 km southwest of Ankara on the Eskisehir highway, was the capital of Phrygia and the place where Alexander the Great cut the Gordion Knot to gain the key to Asia. The tumulus of King Midas, who turned whatever he touched to gold, can be visited here. Nearby, the remains of the ancient city Gordion, still under excavation, and a small museum are worth a quick tour. Farther along the same Ankara-Eskisehir road is Ballihisar (Pessinus), an important Phrygian religious cult centre. The most important remains are those of a temple to Cybele, the mother goddess whose worship was at the heart of the Phrygian culture. The small open air museum has some interesting sculptures and tombstones.
At Midas City (Yazili Kaya), between Afyon and Eskisehir, two enormous facades cut into a rocky promontory once held cult statues for the worship of Cybele in their niches. Throughout the area rock tombs, cave-like openings, pierce the sand coloured stone. An underground passage leads from the site to the valley below.
Aslantas and Aslankaya were both centres of cult worship in Phrygian times. The former, 34 km north of Afyon, has two monumental lion reliefs; the latter, 52 km from Afyon, comprises a temple and a lion relief. Other Phrygian monuments can be explored at nearby Doganlikale, Kumbet and Deveboynu. Eskisehir was founded by the Phrygians in the first millennium B.C. on the banks of the Porsuk River. Significant architectural monuments include the 13 th-century Alaeddin Mosque and the 16 th-century Kursunlu Complex. All four of the city museums are worth visiting: the Archaeological Museum has Phrygian artifacts and sculptures from the area; the Meerschaum Pipe Museum displays pipes and other meerschaum works; the Yesil Efendi Ottoman House Museum, a fine example of 19th century domestic architecture, houses a collection of local ethnographia as well as fireplaces where meerschaum is cured; and the Ataturk Culture Museum has a photographic exhibition taken from Ataturk's life, a number of personal effects and a display of items made of meerschaum. The world's best meerschaum comes from mines in the area surrounding Eskisehir. Pipes and other objects can be purchased in the city souvenir shops. Sakaryabasi, a spring-fed lake surrounded by beautiful park land, draws many visitors who want to enjoy the fresh air and eat fresh fish in one of the restaurants there.
Sivrihisar's charm derives from its many typical Ottoman houses which imbue the town with an air of bygone elegance. The 13 th-century Ulu Mosque, formerly a caravanserai, and the Alemsah Mausoleum are very interesting and worth a visit. Connoisseurs of carpets and kilims will know that kilims from Sivrihisar are particularly prized. Near Sivrihisar, in the village Nasrettin Hoca, the Nasrettin Hoca Museum has ethnographical displays as well as amusing stories and pictures about the famous fabler.
On the hillside above Seyyit Battal Gazi stands the imposing 13 th - century mosque and tomb complex built in memory of the "warrior of Islam", Seyyit Battal.
Yunus Emre Village (Sarikoy) is the burial place of Yunus Emre, the great 13 th century poet. His poetry lives today, with its message of love and humanity as relevant as ever. Commemorative celebrations are held in the town every May. In addition, visitors to his grave can see a small museum dedicated to his life and works.
The third-century B.C. Galatian settlement of Gangrea is the foundation of present day Cankiri, 135 km from Ankara. The earliest evidences of civilization are dated at about 3000 B.C. There are important tumuli (burial mounds) in this province, as well as artifacts from various civilizations in the Cankiri Museum. The ruins of an 11 th - century fortress overlook the city. In town, the Ulu Mosque (Sultan Suleyman), completed in 1558 by Turkey's greatest architect, Sinan, recalls the years of Ottoman culture. The Cavundur thermal spa has bathing and drinking water beneficial for rheumatic and inflammatory diseases. The waters flow from the ground at 54 °C at a rate of 47 litres/second. Tas Mescit, or Cemaleddin Ferruh Darulhadisi, a medieval hospital built in 1242, lies just outside the city.
All the major early-Hittite sites lie in the province of Corum in Bogazkale National Park, between Yozgat and the city of Corum. Impressive double walls running past the Royal Gate, the Lion Gate and the Yer Kapi (an underground tunnel), ring the Hittite city of Hattusas, known today as Bogazkale. The more than 70 temples in the city made this the Hittite religious centre and gave it the name, "City of Temples". The largest ruins are those of the great temple to the storm god Teshup. The Acropolis contained government buildings, the Imperial Palace and the archives of the Hittite Empire. In 1180 B.C. the Phrygians devastated the city. After through excavations at the site, the city walls are now being extensively restored. Yazlikaya, an open-air rock pantheon dating from the 13 th century B.C., contains fine reliefs of all the Hittite gods and goddesses.
Alacahoyuk, north of Bogazkale on the road to Corum, was the centre of the flourishing Hattian culture during the Bronze Age. The magnificent Hattian gold and bronze objects in the Museum of Anatolian Civilization in Ankara were found in the Royal Tombs dating from this period. All the standing remains at Alacahoyuk, however, such as the Sphinx Gate, date from the Hittite period. Important Hittite settlements in the province of Corum include Alisar and Masathoyuk, as well as Sapinuva in the county of Ortakoy, which is situated in beautiful countryside along the Cekerek River. Sapinuva was the second most important Hittite city in the kingdom. Between the Abdullah and Kargi Plateaus is the village of Hacihamza with interesting regional architecture. Corum, an important city on the road from central Anatolia to the Black Sea, produces the finest chickpeas in Turkey. Significant historical buildings include the 13 th - century Ulu Mosque and the 19 th - century clock tower. The tower, which was built in the shape of a minaret, is 27.5 meters high, 5.3 meters in diameter, and has an eight-sided base and is ascended by means of an 81-step circular staircase.
Set in a narrow gorge of the Yesilirmak (Iris) River, Amasya dates from the third century B.C. The ruins of the citadel rise from the craggy rock and contain an Ottoman Palace and a secret underground passageway. Hewn into the rock face above the city, are impressive Roman rock tombs that are illuminated at night creating a spectacular image. The beauty of the natural surroundings and the splendid architectural legacy have combined to endow the city with the accolade of one of the most beautiful cities in Turkey. Among the sights of interest for visitors are the 13 th-century Seljuk Burmali Minare Mosque, the Torumtay Tomb, the Gokmedrese Mosque, the 14 th - century Ilhanid Hospital with lovely reliefs around its portal, the 15 th - century Beyazit I Mosque complex and the unusual octagonal Kapi Aga medrese.
Traditional Turkish wooden mansions, or konaks, on the north bank of the Yesilirmak River in the Hatuniye quarter (yaliboyu), have been restored to their former splendour, and some of these have been turned into guest houses. The restored 19 th -century Hazeranlar Konagi, one of the loveliest, now houses an art gallery on the first floor and the Ethnography Museum on the second. The Archaeology Museum has an interesting collection of regional artifacts including mummies of the Ilhanid Mongol rulers of Amasya. Cafes, restaurants, tea gardens and parks line the riverside and provide tranquil spots from which to enjoy the city's romantic atmosphere. From the top of Cakallar Hill you have a beautiful view of the city.
The whole province of Amasya is filled with orchards which produce some of the world's most delicious apples.
Tokat, also on the Yesilirmak River, has many Seljuk and Ottoman monuments which lend a picturesque yet solemn aesthetic to the cityscape. In 47 BC, the Romans conquered the four cities of Komana, Zela (Zile), Neccaesarea (Niksar), and Sebastapolis (Sulusaray) which were included in the province of Pontus in the first century AD.
A major archaeological centre at Kalehoyuk, in Kaman county, in the province of Kirsehir is still being excavated. Near Kalehoyuk in a centre of what were Hatti and Hittite settlements, is located one of the largest parks in Turkey, the Mikasonmiya Ani Bahcesi which contains 16,500 trees of 33 different species. The road to Nevsehir and Cappadocia passes through Hacibektas, the town where Haci Bektas Veli settled and established his Bektas Sufi order in the 14 th century. The whirling dervishes who followed principles of love and humanism where housed in the monastery which includes a mausoleum and mosque. The complex is now a museum open to the public. Honey and rose-colored onyx, plentiful in the region, were used by disciples of this order and are known as Hacibektas stone. In town, there are many exquisite onyx souvenirs for sale. It is also worth stopping to take in the interesting Archaeology and Ethnography Museum.
Nevsehir, a provincial capital, is the gateway to Cappadocia. In the town itself are the hilltop Seljuk castle, perched on the highest point in the city, and the Kursunlu Mosque, built for the Grand Vizier Damat Ibrahim Pasha. The mosque is part of a complex of buildings which includes a medrese (theological college), a hospice and a library. An ablution fountain in the courtyard still bears its original inscription. The Nevsehir Museum displays local artifacts.
Violent eruptions of the volcanoes Mt. Erciyes (3,916 meters) and Mt. Hasan (3,268 meters) long ago covered the plateau surrounding Nevsehir with tufa, a soft stone comprised of lava, ash and mud. The wind and rain have eroded this brittle rock and created a spectacular surrealistic landscape of rock cones, capped pinnacles and fretted ravines, in colours that range from warm reds and golds to cool greens and greys. Locals call these fascinating capped pinnacles "peri bacalari" or "fairy chimneys." Goreme National Park, known in Roman times as Cappadocia, is one of those rare regions in the world where the works of man blend unobtrusively into the natural surroundings. Dwellings have been hewn from the rocks as far back as 4,000 B.C. During Byzantine times, chapels and monasteries where hollowed out of the rock, their ochre-toned frescoes reflecting the hues of the surrounding landscape. Even today cave dwellings in rock cones and village houses of volcanic tufa merge harmoniously into the landscape.
Urgup, a lively tourist centre at the foot of a rock ridge riddled with old dwellings, serves as an excellent base from which to tour the sights of Cappadocia. In Urgup itself you can still see how people once lived in homes cut into the rock. At the centre of a successful wine-producing region, Urgup hosts an annual International Wine Festival in October.
Leaving Urgup and heading south, you reach the lovely isolated Pancarlik Valley where you can stop to see the 12 th - century church with its splendid frescoes, and the Kepez church, which dates from the 10 th century. Continue on to the typical village of Mustafapasa (Sinasos), where traditional stone houses with carved and decorated facades evoke a former age. Travel on in a southerly direction, just past the village of Cemil, where a footpath on the west side of the road leads to Keslik Valley where you will find a monastery complex and the Kara and Meyvali Kiliseler (churches), both decorated with frescoes. Back on the main road you find the village of Taskinpasa where the 14 th-century Karamanid Mosque and Mausoleum Complex, and the remains of a medrese portal on the edge of town make for a pleasant diversion. The next village is Sahinefendi where the 12 th - century Kiriksehitler church, adorned with beautiful frescoes, stands at the end of a footpath 500 meters east of the village.
Soganli Valley, 50 km south of Urgup, is picturesque with its innumerable chapels, churches, halls, houses and tombs. The frescoes, from the 8 th to the 13th centuries, trace the development of Byzantine painting. Four kilometres north of Urgup is the wonderful Devrent Valley, where the weather has eroded the stone into peaks, cones and obelisks called fairy chimneys.
Two kilometres west, in the Catalkaya Valley, the fairy chimneys have a peculiar mushroom-like shape, which has been adopted as a symbol of the town .
The Goreme Open-Air Museum, a monastic complex of rock churches and chapels covered with frescoes, is one of the best-known sites in central Turkey. Most of the chapels date from the 10th to the 13th centuries (the Byzantine and Seljuk periods) and many of them are built on an inscribed cross-plan with a central cupola supported by four columns. In the north annexes of several churches are cut-rock tombs. Among the most famous of the Goreme churches are the Elmali Church, the smallest and most recent of the group; the Yilanli Church with fascinating frescoes of the damned entwined in serpent coils; the Barbara Church; and the Carikli Church. A short way from the main group, the Tokali Kilise, or Buckle Church, has beautiful frescoes depicting scenes from the New Testament.
The town of Goreme is set right in the middle of a valley of cones and fairy chimneys. Some of the cafes, restaurants and guest-houses are carved into the rock. For shoppers, rugs and kilims are plentiful.
Continuing on the road out of Goreme, you enter one of the most beautiful valleys in the area. Rock formations rise up before you at every turn and entice you to stop and wonder at their creation. For those who climb the steps to the top of the Uchisar fortress the whole region unfolds below. Rugs, kilims, and popular souvenirs can easily be purchased from the shops which line Chaser's narrow streets.
At Cavusin, on the road leading north out of Goreme, you will find a triple-apse church and the monastery of St. John the Baptist. In the town are chapels and churches, and some of the rock houses are still inhabited. From Cavusin to Zelve, fairy chimneys line the road. Unfortunately, it is dangerous to visit the churches in the Zelve valley because erosion has undermined the floors.
The charming town of Avanos, on the banks of the Kizilirmak River, displays attractive local architecture and is known for its handicrafts. Every August the town hosts an Art and Tourism Festival where a creative and friendly atmosphere pervades.
On the Nevsehir - Urgup road you can't miss Ortahisar and its carved-rock fortress. The churches in the Balkan Valley are some of the oldest in the Goreme region. In the neighbouring Hallac Valley-, the Hallac Monastery displays decorations from the 10th and the 11th centuries. North of Ortahisar, the Kizilcukur Valley is breathtakingly beautiful, especially at sunset. In the valley is the 9th - century Uzumlu church.
The underground cities of Kaymakli, Mazi, Derinkuyu, Tatlarin, and Ozkonak were all used by Christians of the seventh century, who were fleeing from persecution. They sheltered from the iconoclastic strife of Byzantium as well as other invasions in these safe and well-hidden complexes. These cities were a complete and self-sufficient environment, including rooms for grain storage, stables, sleeping chambers, kitchens and air shafts. Today they are well-lit, and an essential and fascinating part of a Cappadocian tour.
West of Avanos, Gulsehir has Hittite rock inscriptions, and nearby, at Gokcetepe, there is a bas - relief of Zeus. South on the Nevsehir road is the 13th - century church of St. John, and farther along is Aciksaray, where the carved rocks hide churches and chapels.
South of Kayseri, in Develi, stand three more important Seljuk buildings: the Ulu Mosque, the Seyid-I Serif Tomb and the Develi Tomb. The nearby Sultan Marshes are the habitat of many bird species, of interest both to ornithologists and nature lovers.
North of Kayseri, Kultepe, known in ancient times as Kanesh or Karum, was one of the earliest Hittite commercial cities. Dating from 2000 B.C., Kultepe was also one of the world's first cities of free trade. Today, however, only the foundations remain. Many of the finds can be examined in the Kayseri Archaeological Museum. On the same road is Sultanhan, a caravanserai built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in the early 13th century and a favorite stop for tourists.
Bor, south of Nigde, was once a Hittite settlement. The town's historical buildings include the Seljuk Alaeddin Mosque and the Ottoman bedesten. Farther on, in the same direction, Kemerhisar is the site of the important Roman city of Tyana. A few more kilometres brings you to some Hittite ruins and a Roman aqueduct. The beautiful Aladaglar (Ala Mountains) National Park, perfect for mountain climbing, trekking and relaxation, is 50 km southeast of Nigde. One of the highest peaks is Demirkazik (3756 m). The best place to start your excursion in the park is Cukurbag.
Most of the historical buildings is Aksaray, such as the Ulu Mosque, date from the 14th century. The Kizil Minaret is noted for its attractive decorative brickwork.
Two of the most famous caravanserais from the Seljuk period are in the area: 40 km west of the city is the well preserved Sultanhan Caravanserai built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat, and 15 km towards Nevsehir is the Agzikarahan Caravanserai.
The Melendiz River, at Ihlara Valley, has eroded the banks into an impressive canyon. Byzantine rock chapels covered with frescoes pierce the canyon walls. Some of the best known are the Agacalti (Daniel) Church, the Yilanli (Apocalypse) Church and the Sumbullu (Hyacinth) Church.
Guzelyurt is another valley with dwellings dating from prehistoric times. You can see the beautiful silhouette of Mt. Hasan rising like a crown above the town. The valley's underground cities, buildings carved into the rock, interesting architecture, churches, chapels and mosques embody all of the characteristics of Cappadocia and give visitors a sense of historical continuity. Guzelyurt is a popular tourist destination with hospitable residents, extensive accommodations and numerous restaurants ensuring a pleasant stay. The rest area of Evren by the Hirfanli Dam Lake offers fish restaurants, a beach and swimming.
Konya, one of Turkey's oldest continuously inhabited cities was known as Iconium in Roman times. The capital of the Seljuk Turks from the 12th to the 13th centuries, it ranks as one of the great cultural centres of Turkey. During that period of cultural, political and religious growth, the mystic Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi founded a Sufi Order known in the West as the Whirling Dervishes. The striking green-tiled mausoleum of Mevlana is Konya's most famous building. Attached to the mausoleum, the former dervish seminary serves now as a museum housing manuscripts of Mevlana's works and various artifacts related to the mysticism of the sect. Every year, in the first half of December, this still-active religious order holds a ceremony commemorating the Whirling Dervishes. The controlled, trance-like turning or sema of the white-robed men creates a fascinating performance for the viewer.
Alaeddin Mosque was built on the site of the ancient Konya citadel in 1220, during the reign of the great Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat and commands the Konya skyline. To one side of the mosque are the remains of the Seljuk Imperial Palace. The Karatay Medrese, now a museum, displays bold and striking Seljuk ceramics. On the other side of the mosque, the Ince Minareli Medrese of 1258 is remarkable for its marvellous baroque Seljuk portal. Other Seljuk works include the Sircali Medrese and the Sahip Ata Complex. Visitors find Konya's Archaeological Museum of exceptional interest. The collection of the Koyunoglu Museum is a varied one, from natural history to old kilims. Within the museum complex, the restored Izzettin Koyunoglu house illustrates the way of life of a prosperous Konya family in the last century. Sille, 10 km north of Konya has the Byzantine Aya Eleni church and several rock chapels with frescoes. Aksehir, to the northwest, is known throughout Turkey as the birthplace of the 13th - century humorist Nasrettin Hoca, whose mausoleum stands in the town. The 13th century Ulu Mosque and the Altinkale Mescidi are other monuments worth seeing. The Sahip Ata Mausoleum has been converted into the town's museum. On the way south to Beysehir stop at Eflatun Pinar next to the lake to see this unusual Hittite monumental fountain. Several interesting Seljuk buildings are scattered around lovely Beysehir, on the shores of Lake Beysehir, Turkey's third largest lake. In the south-western region of the lake is the pristine wilderness of Lake Beysehir National Park. Among the monuments are the Esrefoglu Mosque and Medrese, and the Kubad-Abad Summer Palace across the lake. Another medieval palace stands on Kizkalesi Island, opposite the Kubad-Abad Palace. Haci Akif Island also offers relaxation and recreation to visitors.
Catalhoyuk, 45 km south of Konya, is a fascinating Neolithic site dating from the eighth millennium B.C., which makes it one of the world's oldest towns. Archaeologists have determined that holes in the roofs of the mud houses were the entrance doors. The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara houses the famous temple (reconstructed), along with mother-goddess figures and Neolithic frescoes from the original site.
Karaman was once the capital of the Karamind Emirate, the first Turkish state to use Turkish instead of Persian as its official language. Fittingly, Yunus Emre, the first great poet to write in Turkish, lived here in the 13th century. The surrounding fortresses date from Seljuk times, although the town's most significant buildings, the Araboglu, Yunus Emre and Aktekke Mosques and the Hatuniye Medrese, were all built during the Karamanid reign.
The Region of 1001 Churches, the Karaman region, 150 kilometres from Konya is a largely undiscovered, mystical land of gently rolling hills and valleys towering mountains, with monasteries, churches and chapel complexes. It is a paradise for photographers, walkers, nature lovers and explorers. The Hittites settled in this region where many of their remains, including inscriptions have been discovered. One of the highest mountains in this region, Mt. Karadag (2288 meters), is locally called Mahalac; its ancient name was Angel Michael. On top of the mountain, Hittites constructed a temple; the altar of which still remains. There are also the 4th - century remains of a monastery, church and a chapel complex; called the Angel Michael Complex. There is also a beautiful view here.
Derbe, 30 km north of Karaman, was an important early Christian site; one of the many where St. Paul preached the gospel.
Near Taskale, 48 km east of Karaman, on the rocky northern slope of Yesildere Valley, are the remains of the fascinating historical city of Manazan. Built during Byzantine times, the entire city of narrow lanes, houses, squares, storage facilities, chapels and cemeteries (occupying an area approximately three kilometres long and five stories high) was carved into the rocky hillside of the valley. Today, parts of the city are still used for storing wheat.
South of Karaman up a step narrow road are the remains of a beautiful Byzantine monastery, Alahan. Much is still standing, and there is some fine stone carving to admire. This magnificent location offers a breathtaking view.