Turkey — We have chosen to focus on two contrasting highlights — Istanbul and Cappadocia
November 2-13, 2013
For more information on this trip please contact Literary Traveler
Louise De Bernières’ novel Birds Without Wings tells the story of how modern secular Turkey was forged out of the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul presents a breathtaking portrait of a city, an elegy for a dead civilization and a meditation on life’s complicated intimacies.
Istanbul is one of the world’s truly great cities, a grand mosaic of East and West, ancient and modern, the only city built on two continents. Straddling the Bosphorus with its skyline studded with domes and minarets, Istanbul hums as Turkey’s cultural heart. Its history tracks back from Byzantium to Constantinople to its place at the head of the Ottoman Empire. It offers Roman aqueducts, Byzantine churches, monuments, museums, great mosques lifting their minarets to the sky, but best of all, it delights visitors with the friendly, delicious activity of its streets.
The Turkish region of Cappadocia boasts one of Europe’s most dramatic landscapes. Natural cone formations, made from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago and smoothed over time by wind and rain are known as fairy chimneys. As early as the third century, those chimneys became a hiding place for early Christians who fled persecution from the Romans, and then later from raiding Muslims. We can visit their sophisticated caves and labyrinthine communities.
We have become fascinated with the world of the East – the Muslim world. We know how little we know, which, regrettably, has not prevented us from forming strong impressions.
Turkey is singular in the Muslim world as a country that is situated partly in Europe and partly in Asia. It is both
modern and secular in ways that seem familiar to us. It is also exotic, foreign, and strange and, for reasons we little understand, seems to be choosing to become less western, even as it becomes both more progressive in some ways and more traditional in others.
During this in depth trip to Turkey, we will use our visits, our readings and our encounters with Turkish citizens
to help us better understand this country of seeming contractions, how it became what it is today, and where it may be heading.
Upon arrival, you will be met and assisted by our local representative and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure to rest up from your international flight before dinner together this evening.
Begin the day at the magnificent Topkapi Palace. Once home to the great Sultans, it is filled with treasures and antiquities.
We’ll begin the day with our first discussion. Then we’re off to visit the unique Blue Mosque built in 1609 by Sultan Ahmet.
Today we visit the Basilica of St. Sophia, which has inspired architects and religious leaders for over fifteen hundred years. Constructed in 326 by Constantine the Great, it has been a cathedral, a mosque, and now a museum. In the afternoon venture into the Grand Covered Bazaar. Built in 1457, it is famous for its selection of goods and is the largest bazaar in the world with over four thousand shops.
This morning we have our second discussion, then we’re off to the Archaeological Museum, one of the world’s largest museums with rich and very important works of art. We’ll also visit the largest surviving Byzantium Cistern.
Today we explore more about the contrasts between Christianity and Islam as evidenced by the architecture
of Istanbul. We’ll visit the Chora Church, an 11th century Byzantine monument, and the Rustem Pasha Mosque.
Our group discussion this morning, and in the afternoon we explore the Spice Bazaar, where the scent of hundreds of spices permeates the air.
Fly to Cappadocia
There is scenery and then there is Cappadocia. The incredible “fairy chimneys” standing out against the stark
lunar landscape make this a truly wondrous setting. While there is a perfectly natural explanation (the towers are the result of volcanic ash solidifying into soft stone eroded over centuries), the landscape seems to defy logic.
Our fourth discussion happens this morning, then the day’s sightseeing begins with a visit to the eerily beautiful Goreme Valley. In the afternoon you will explore the valley of Pasabag, which has a large number of carved rock houses and churches. You’ll also visit Zelve, one of the most important settlements and religious centers for the early Christian community.
Today’s exploration takes you to one of the underground cities. Around the sixth century, the Christian inhabitants of the region began to tunnel into the soft volcanic rock of of the area, building complex multi-storyed homes. You’ll also visit Soganli Valley, an open air museum with its different style of rock-cut churches and frescoes; newly discovered mosaic houses at Sahinefendi; Keslik Monastery, famous for its frescoes; the old Greek town of Mustafapasa with its spectacular architecture; and finally the typical Turkish village of Avanos to see the techniques of ceramic art dating from the 12th century BC to the 3rd century BC.
We’ll gather one more time for discussion this morning, then continue to take in the incredible sights of Cappadocia. We should have time for some last minute shopping!
Fly to Istanbul and depart
This morning you will fly to Istanbul and connect with your homeward bound flight. Or consider staying on and exploring more Turkey!
Gary Schoepfel is a seasoned discussion leader with the Great Books Foundation, Harrison Middleton University, Classical Pursuits and beyond.
Approx. US$4795 per person
Fee includes books, accommodation based on double occupancy, domestic flights, two meals a day, discussions, tours, excursions and admissions.