Must-See Sights In Turkey - Above and Below Ground
by Roy Witman © 2008
When you talk about sightseeing, most people naturally assume you'll remain above ground. But in Istanbul, Turkey, the underground cities are some of the best-loved sights of all! Room after room, city after city is still being uncovered by archeologists- as many as 150 currently, most still unexcavated. With expansive structures that reach far down into the earth, these sights are truly fascinating.
It all started millions of years ago with massive volcanic activity. Three distinct layers were formed in the earth: ash, dust compressed into stone, and a thin layer of lava. Centuries of movement in the earth produced rock formations now referred to as "fairy chimneys" - towering structures that serve as pre- made buildings. Goreme National Park in Cappadocia, Turkey is home to the largest array of fair chimneys: in excess of 26,000 acres of them!
What were these rock buildings used for? Practically everything! Citizens built homes in the rocks, underground chambers to store grain, shelters from storms and invaders, and safe houses for their livestock and possessions. You'll even find elaborate palaces and large dwellings with enormous staircases and multiple levels. Early Christians used fairy chimneys as a hidden retreat to practice their religion.
But underground cities isn't all Istanbul has to offer. You can also enjoy numerous beaches scattered all about the region.
Beaches In Istanbul
Solar Beach is probably the most popular because of all its many offerings. In addition to lounging on the beach, you can also rent jet boats, play beach soccer or volleyball, rent jet skis, kite boards, go carts, banana boats, windsurfing equipment and more. It offers plenty of fun for the whole family. Solar beach is also a popular place for music lovers. It hosts plenty of concerts each year featuring well-known artists. Previously performing musicians have included Gloria Gaynor, Norah Jones, Shakira, Avril Lavigne, Smashing Pumpkins and more.
Kamo's Beach Club gives sun worshipers a place to tan and also a great proximity to the downtown district. The resort offers a swimming pool as well as beach access.
Buzada gives a unique beach experience. This island has a beach club that caters to guests with beach access and a swimming pool. Boats shuttle guests to and from the mainland throughout the day.
No one should leave Istanbul without first experiencing a Turkish bath. This long-standing tradition involves a process, which is much more involved than what Westerners consider typical bathing. According to Wikipeida.com, "A person taking a Turkish bath first relaxes in a room (known as the warm room) that is heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air allowing the bather to perspire freely. Bathers may then move to an even hotter room (known as the hot room) before splashing themselves with cold water. After performing a full body wash and receiving a massage, bathers finally retire to the cooling-room for a period of relaxation." By American standards, this would equate to an afternoon at the day spa!
The Grand Bazaar Market
Travels to exotic places always require the purchase of souvenirs. Everyone loves to return home with items that remind them of the sights they've seen and fun they've had while on vacation or holiday. In Instanbul, the Grand Bazaar Market makes finding such items an adventure all to itself.
Under the ancient arches of the Beyazit Gate, over 4,000 shops can be found in this open-air marketplace that winds on for about one mile. What can you buy? Practically everything! Gold, silk, brass, copper, leather, rugs, baskets, carved wooden items, Turkish crafts, clothing, shoes, fruits, spices and prepared foods from sidewalk vendors. Be prepared to spend some time here and to pay with cash in the local currency: the lira.
A trip to Istanbul, Turkey is an exotic journey that shows you a vastly different way of life than most Westerners have seen. With intriguing sights and activities the entire family will enjoy, it's worth the effort to find a cruise itinerary that offers a stop in Istanbul.
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