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Impressions of Northern Anatolia
Black Sea, North-East & Central Anatolia - Turkey

In our 'Impressions of Northern Turkey' we travel along the Black Sea from West to East, then dive along the borders with Georgia, Armenia and Iran into Central Anatolia, ending our loop in Ankara, Cappadocia and Konya. We thus highlight a variety of regions, which are not really off the beaten track, but are definitely not a prime destination of the traveller in Turkey either. Exception is to be made, of course, for the border areas with Georgia, Armenia and Iran, where we are indeed very much off the beaten track, far away from everything and certainly from culture and city lights. Historically we are at the cross-roads of the Argonauts and ancient Greek colonies on the Black Sea coast and the regional empires of Armenia and Georgia, in old days stretching well beyond the borders of the independent Republics as they emerged from the Soviet federation in 1991. We come across cities and monuments from the medieval Georgian and Armenian Kingdoms which reached well into current Eastern Anatolia, until Turkic people started moving West from their Central Asian steppes, Turkmen tribes, Seljuks, Mongols and Ottomans. Cross-roads as well with the ever ambitious Persian Empires which succeeded one another in the East, and with Russia, first the Tsars, later the Soviet Bolshevik governments, both with a keen strategic interest for the Southern coast of the Black Sea and the natural border of the Ararat mountains, which separate the traditional zones of influence and dominance. Ottoman-Persian wars in the 1820s and Ottoman-Russian wars in the 1870s are just illustrations of the geopolitical complexity here around.

All that does not prevent us from exploring these rather remote parts of Turkey: the Black Sea, certainly less glamorous than the Turkish Mediterranean riviera, but breathing a fascinating authenticity in its coastal villages, its towns of history and its rural landscapes of mountains, valleys and tea plantations; the North-Eastern and Central Anatolian inner land, with some surprising traces left behind by the Hittite Empire and medieval Georgian and Armenian kingdoms, not to mention the proto-Christian rock hewn churches nestled in the awesome lunar landscapes of Byzantine Cappadocia; we also meet the splendid architecture of mosques, medreses and tombs of a Seljuk Empire which brought the first massive wave of Turkic influences to Anatolia in the 11th and 12th centuries, later consolidated when the Ottoman Sultans of the 15th and next centuries conquered their way through Anatolia and the entire Eastern Mediterranean Sea towards an Empire of global significance.

'Impressions of Northern Turkey' takes you on a voyage through time, but also guides you on your travels to regions of sea, mountains and valleys, to facets of Turkey maybe less well known, and precisely therefore all the more fascinating.

* Scanned Slides, 1998-2001

Before visiting the place of your choice:

Konya is a very spiritual city as the nervous centre of the Mevlâviye branch of Islam, with many followers in Turkey. However, the city also counts numerous other mosques and Koran schools, which are not necessarily directly related to Mevlâna's movement. Many of those edifices find their origins in the Seljuk era of the 13th century, reflecting the great wealth and prosperity the city had acquired under Seljuk rule. The Alaeddin Mosque is Konya's oldest and largest mosque, commissioned around 1150 and completed in 1221, its main facade adorned with two recycled Roman-Byzantine columns and an impressive portal with typically Seljuk motives incrusted in light and dark marble. Similar geometric motives are also found on the front of the Karatay Medresesi of 1251. Nearby is the Ince Minare Medresesi, another Koran school of Seljuk creation, dating back to 1279 and Sultan Keykuvas II. No shortage of Koran schools in Seljuk Konya, as there is also the Sırçalı Medrese of 1242. The Aziziye Mosque we see today is the work of Sultan Abdülaziz's mother in 1874, after the original version of 1671 was destroyed by fire. One recognises the relatively recent date of its construction from the influence of Western style elements and particularly also from the columned balcony integrated into the minaret, a rarity in classical Ottoman architecture. Back to Seljuk times, the Sahip Ata mosque of 1258 was named after its initiator, a Grand Vizier of the then Sultan . The buildings adjacent to the mosque complex harbour Konya's archaeological museum, with its large garden of column heads and sculptures from Antiquity, Byzantine and Seljuk eras. One of the prominent displays of the museum is the marble high-relief sarcophagus of the 3rd century AD, depicting scenes of the legendary life of Herakles.

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