TURKEY: Off the Beaten Path

 

Balanced stone shapes form the gate to Blaundos.

We’ll visit this interesting and little-known ancient city site in western Turkey.

Rug vendor holds up a handmade blue carpet.

Carpet vendor holds up handmade tapestry rug; Konya.

TOUR DATES:  March 27 – April 13, 2022.
Fly home April 14, 2022.
Scroll down for price. 

Trip is FULL, check later
for 2023 dates.

Off the Beaten Path Tour Highlights:

  • 18-night textile, archeology and cuisine tour, to some fascinating, less-visited areas.
  • Begins and ends in Istanbul; see trip map at the bottom of page.
  • Explore 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites! Ephesus, Çatalhüyük, Hattuşa, Byzantine churches, and more.
  • Watch artisans as they knot and weave carpets in several workshops.
  • Shop in the famous Grand Bazaar for crafts and textiles.
  • See the breathtaking Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
  • Tour historic Ottoman homes; see vintage textiles & clothing.
  • Whip up a Turkish meal in a private home cooking class.
  • Float over Cappadocia in a hot air balloon!
  • Sample all the authentic Turkish foods in each region we visit.
  • See unusual archeological sites in remote areas.
  • Watch the women make tiny needlework flowers for scarves.
  • Visit active archeological sites and famous museums such as Topkapi Palace.
  • Learn about the complex and fascinating history of Turkey. (I’ll give you a cheat-sheet!)

Trip Details

We’ll fly in to Istanbul, one of my favorite cities in the world! Turkish Airlines and others do this efficiently; we’ll send flight suggestions later. Hopefully our visit will coincide with the beginning of tulip blooming season so we can revel in the millions of blooms planted around the city. Our pretty hotel is located in the heart of historical Istanbul, two blocks from world-famous architectural and cultural treasures. For our UNESCO site visit of historic Istanbul, we’ll have a local specialist guide to tell us about treasures such as the exquisite Blue Mosque.

We’ll also visit the nearby Hagia Sophia, and learn its complex story as the superb building was changed from church, to mosque to museum and most recently, back to a mosque. The Grand Bazaar is within easy walking distance to the hotel so we’ll familiarize ourselves with the easy route to that shopping mecca of art, rugs, textiles and jewelry.
Vendors are no longer pushy like in the past; bazaar edicts encouraged a more laid-back attitude and vendors are now very pleasant. In the bazaar, there is a fabulous restaurant owned by some friends, where we’ll have lunch. We may also be able to see a friend’s upscale textile gallery near the hotel.

 

Ottoman era homes in old Safranbolu.

After two nights in Istanbul we’ll meet up with our excellent guide and driver and head east into rural Turkey to begin our ‘off the beaten path’ adventure!

Safranbolu

The UNESCO-designated town of Safranbolu is our first stop. From the 13th century to the advent of the railway in the early 20th century, Safranbolu was an important caravan station on the main East–West trade route. The Old Mosque, Old Bath and Süleyman Pasha Medrese were built in 1322. Safranbolu enjoyed great prosperity as a trading center. As a result, it set a standard in public and domestic architecture, with its apogee in the 17th century. The Safranbolu Ottoman styles exercised great influence on urban development over a large area of the Ottoman Empire.

The old Çarşı district contains hundreds of preserved, red-roofed Ottoman houses on cobblestone streets. Cinci Han is a 17th-century caravansary with rooftop views over town. Nearby, Tarihi Cinci Hamam is a restored 17th-century bathhouse, still in operation. You may decide to experience a traditional Turkish soak and scrub!

Lion's gate at Hattusha ruins UNESCO site.

Ancient lion gate at Hattusa.

Safranbolu is famous for saffron of course, and Turkish jelly candy called lokum. We’ll take time to explore the old part of the city with lots of saffron and lokum shops, and we’ll sleep in a traditional Ottoman home-turned-hotel.

Hattusha

Continuing eastward, we come to Bogazkale, and our next destination: Hattusha (Hattuşa), the Hittite capital. The Hittites were an ancient group of Indo-Europeans who moved into Asia Minor and formed an empire at Hattusa in Anatolia (modern Turkey) around 1600 BC. The Bronze Age site consists of the Hittite city area  and the rock sanctuary of Yazılıkaya among other sections.

A monumental enclosure wall about 8 km in length surrounds the whole city. Archeologists from Germany and Turkey cooperated to uncover a large variety of buildings such as temples, palaces and dwellings, but also technical and communal installations such as large buried granaries and artificial water ponds. These discoveries have given access to one of the most fascinating ancient cities of the Near and Middle East. The site is impressive and this visit will add another puzzle piece to our view of the complex history of Turkey!

Room at our lovely cave hotel.

Cappadocia

Continuing south, we head to the Cappadocia area with its dramatic eroded landscape. There we’ll sleep peacefully near Urgup village, in cozy rooms at our unique and delightful cave hotel. In our cooking class in a village home, we will learn to make delicious traditional dishes, perhaps bouerek or dolma, with fresh local, organic ingredients.

We’ll also visit a carpet gallery in Urgup to learn about local styles and techniques. Here most of the women will be knotting lengths of wool for pile rugs. But as we travel around the country, we’ll see them making rugs using regionally characteristic techniques, patterns and colors. We’ll see how they knot a pile rug and weave a kilim with discontinuous weft, or wrap the warp for the cicim  (jijim) technique.

One day in Cappadocia will be spent exploring the astonishing eroded rock shapes and valleys that make the area famous. In one valley of spires and “fairy chimneys” is a large group of fascinating Byzantine-era cave churches, excavated from the soft volcanic tufa stone.

Landscape in Capadocia is even more exciting from the air; Goreme, Turkey.

Exciting hot air balloon ride over the dramatic landscape of Goreme.

It is believed that the first signs of monastic activity in Cappadocia date to the 4th century when hermit-monks lived in rooms dug out of the tufa rock formations. Later, in order to resist Arab invasions, people began banding together and hiding in underground villages which served as places of refuge. They also needed to worship in concealed churches hollowed out of the rock. Though interesting from a geological and ethnological point of view, the incomparable beauty of the decor of these Christian rock-cut churches makes Cappadocia one of the leading examples of the post-iconoclastic Byzantine art period.

Uchisar town at sunset, Cappadocia.

The density of Cappadocia’s cave-houses, secret churches, and subterranean cities within the rock formations make it one of the world’s most striking and largest cave-dwelling complexes. We’ll clamber up stairs to see some of these churches; the saints’ portraits are colorful and superbly decorated.

In Cappadocia you can soar over amazing, eroded stone landscapes on the highly recommended (and included) hot air balloon ride. The balloons float safely and silently over the area, offering the passengers unparalleled views of the unusual “fairy chimney” volcanic formations.

Contrary to expectations, the early morning ride is not freezing cold; passengers are kept toasty warm by the balloon heaters. (Anyone not ballooning may sleep in, as the balloon crew leaves at 6am and returns for breakfast around 9am.) From Cappadocia, we’ll drive west to Konya. It’s famous for beautiful flat-weave wool rugs (in discontinuous weft, kilim, or tapestry technique), and it has an interesting bazaar and shops in the old town area.

Red and Navy USAK carpet from Metropolotan Museum, NYC. Creative Commons Zero license.

Antique Usak carpet of type made famous in the 16th C by European painters. The designs are still made today.

Konya

Konya is also famous as the home of famous Sufi poet, Rumi. His mausoleum is a pilgrimage site and a fascinating museum. Several stunning mosques and madrasas (traditional Koranic schools) make Konya an interesting place to visit. We’ll also go out of town to see the remains of the fascinating ancient city of Çatalhöyük. There are ongoing excavations and new displays; it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and believed to be the oldest city in the world!

“The taller eastern mound [at Çatalhöyük] contains eighteen levels of Neolithic occupation between 7400 BC and 6200 BC, including wall paintings, reliefs, sculptures and other artistic features. Together they testify to the evolution of social organization and cultural practices as humans adapted to a sedentary life. Çatalhöyük provides important evidence of the transition from settled villages to urban agglomeration, which was maintained in the same location for over 2,000 years. It features a unique street-less settlement of houses clustered back to back with roof access into the buildings.” (UNESCO)

From Konya, we will head northwest to Afyonkarahisar for lunch and a view of an abandoned, empty castle on top of the outcropping that dominates the town. Then we’ll continue to Uşak to see the carpets for which it is famous, and a nearby ancient city site that is little-visited but fascinating. Archeologists continue to excavate the site which features the largest known rock-tomb necropolis in Anatolia. A temple, theater, stadium, a colonnaded street and well-preserved city walls are other features of the city. Recently discovered lengthy inscriptions on thick stone pillars in the bath building have thrilled archeologists.

Selçuk and Ephesus

Separating saffron strands from the purple crocus flowers; Safranbolu.

Then we’ll head west to the pretty town of Selçuk (close to Izmir). We’ll visit the hilltown village of Sirince and have lunch at a friend’s country restaurant. Sirince is popular with tourists but still has a charming ambiance and interesting little shops that sell the local wine, baklava and handmade textiles. The famous archaeological site of Ephesus is next to the modern-day town of Selçuk. It is different from the other archeological sites we have seen. This UNESCO site was an ancient Greek city, built in the 10th century BC. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. Ephesus was famed for the nearby Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Among many other monumental buildings are the Library of Celsus, and an amphitheater capable of holding 25,000 spectators.

Selçuk also has a number of interesting shops with carpets and interesting crafts on a tranquil pedestrian street in the old part of town. And before we head back to Istanbul, we’ll drive out of Selçuk one day, to attend the local weekly market in a charming town where the women make scarves called yazma, with little flowery oya edging. These were typically worn by women all over Turkey, but yazma are worn more in the countryside nowadays. The little flowers traditionally served as a language to convey feelings that couldn’t be openly expressed, such as ‘I’m not getting along with my mother-in-law, or I’m feeling sad and lonely,’ and so forth.

Back to Istanbul

And finally, we’ll take a quick flight from Izmir back to Istanbul in the late afternoon. The next day in Istanbul (April 13) is a free day – yours to explore the city, see something new, or return to a favorite place. Perhaps walk to the nearby hamam for a sudsy scrubdown, or ask a taxi man to drop you off at the exquisite Chora Church with its stunning frescoes – called the Byzantine marvel of Istanbul. You might want to check out The Archeology Museum (an easy walk from our hotel) or the Yerebatan Cistern, right at the end of our street. Or on this free day, you might want to return to admire the Blue Mosque or just wander this beautiful city and see how many tulips are blooming – your choice.

Celsus Library at the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, Turkey, UNESCO site.

Library at the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, another UNESCO site.

(Lunch will be on your own, and we’ll regroup in the evening for our Farewell Dinner at the hotel.)

I’m always happy to return to the Grand Bazaar with whoever wants to shop for final souvenirs. We could also drop in at the yarn bazaar (if we didn’t go earlier) where they sell mostly acrylics but it’s fascinating to see. And/or we could visit the place that sells loads of needle-worked flowery scarf trims. These can be added to a commercial scarf if you are handy with a needle! (Lunch on your own on the 13th.)

(Last included night of hotel is April 13.)

Pack up and organize for flights home tomorrow, April 14. The hotel will arrange departure transport to the airport for you. Good-bye to Turkey!

PRICE: $6285

Single Supplement: $850

Includes the following:

  • 18 nights accommodations (double occupancy, in charming boutique hotels, or good modern ones, when best available.)
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional Turkish native guide accompanying trip with Cynthia.
  • All meals – except 2 lunches and 2 dinners.
  • All non-alcoholic beverages with meals (tea, coffee, ayran yoghurt drink, water, cherry juice called vişne.)
  • Unless a meal is family-style, you may order your choice of dishes in restaurants; see Food Notes below.*
  • Interior flight from Izmir to Istanbul.
  • Hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia’s surreal landscape.
  • All ground transportation by private Sprinter van with excellent, professional driver
  • Bottled water available in the van for road trips.
  • Transportation from airport to hotel on official arrival date (March 27).
  • Museum visits to see the textiles and archeology of Turkey
  • Cooking class and lunch in a private home
  • Entrance to all six UNESCO sites on the itinerary: Çatalhüyük ancient city, Byzantine cave churches, Ephesus, etc.
  • SPECIAL! Photo book of your adventure once you return home.

    Route for Turkey 2022 tour.

    Map of the route for 2022 trip.

Not included: Turkish visa fee (around $20 for U.S.), departure airport transportation for flight home from Istanbul; airport transportation for early arrivals, alcoholic drinks, and guide and driver tips (suggested guidelines to come).

Typical scarves edged with needlework flowers called oya.

FOOD NOTES: Occasionally the guide will order a generous selection of different dishes so you can taste everything, to familiarize yourself with delicious homestyle Turkish cuisine. And sometimes in a family-style home-based restaurant, everyone will be served a delicious set meal. At these events, vegetarians will find usually find enough vegetable dishes, fresh breads and pasta to survive quite comfortably.

Vegan diets will be more difficult, but salads are available in many places, and pilaf dishes. Many typical Turkish dishes have a small amount of minced meat, such as stuffed eggplant or stuffed peppers and zucchini. They also eat lots of shish-kebabs of chicken or beef, but not huge chunks of meat like American steaks. More on food later.

Tile rooftops of the Hamam (bath house) in Safranbolu.

Be sure to check out the Photo Gallery of TURKEY here.

For more information, E-mail Cynthia: [email protected]
or call 707-939-8874.

Photo Credits: Copyright Cynthia Samake except the following:
Dreamstime.com: Saffron Safranbolu crocus flowers; Mturhanlar
Cappadocia Uchisar hill; Xantana.
Blaundos ruins; Emiralikokal.
Hattusha Lion Gate, Selçuk Koc.
Grand Bazaar by Evren Kalinbacak.
Usak Carpet: Metropolitan Museum NYC, Creative Commons Zero license.
Ephesus Celsus Library: WikiCommons, Binh.
MAP: Rome2Rio.com

TURKEY: Textiles & Tulips

 

Some of the million tulip bulbs planted in Istanbul, Turkey, annually.

It’s said that city gardeners plan a million tulip bulbs in Istanbul every year!

TOUR DATES:  April 15 – 30, 2022.
Fly home May 1, 2022.

Scroll down for price.

Hand-block printed scarves crated by 2011 group.

YAZMA selection printed by BTSA travelers!

Highlights of Tulip Season Tour

  • 16-night textile and cuisine tour, begins and ends in Istanbul.
  • See the breathtaking Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
  • Stamp a traditional block-printed scarf in our workshop.
  • Visit the Byzantine-era cave churches in Cappadocia.
  • Watch artisans knot carpets, make needlework flowers, and print cloth.
  • Tour famous museums and archeological sites such as Topkapi Palace.
  • Shop in bazaars and markets for handmade rugs and textiles.
  • Visit UNESCO Greco-Roman site of Ephesus.
  • Meet a Turkish family for a cooking class of authentic local dishes.
  • Hike in the Ballica Cave nature park and visit the stunning cave.
  • Sample all the amazing Turkish foods in each region we visit.
  • Learn about the complex and fascinating history of Turkey.
  • Explore the traveler-friendly town of Bursa and the Koza Han Bazaar.
Rug vendor holds up a handmade blue carpet.

Carpet vendor holds up handmade tapestry/kilim rug.

Trip Details

We’ll fly from home to Istanbul, one of my favorite cities in the world! Hopefully our visit will coincide with tulip blooming season so we can revel in the million blooms planted around the city, one bulb for each Istanbul inhabitant. Our pretty hotel is located in the heart of historical Istanbul, two blocks from world-famous architectural and cultural treasures. We’ll have a local Turkish guide to tell us about treasures such as the exquisite Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, and Topkapi Palace of the Sultans. We’ll also visit the nearby Hagia Sophia, and learn its complex story as the superb building was changed from church, to mosque to museum and most recently, back to a mosque.

The Grand Bazaar is within easy walking distance to the hotel so we’ll familiarize ourselves with the easy route to that shopping mecca of art, rugs, textiles and jewelry. Vendors are no longer pushy like in the past; bazaar edicts encouraged a more laid-back attitude and vendors are now pleasant. I have several favorite places to look at textiles in the Grand Bazaar, and we will have lunch with old friends in their restaurant in the bazaar.

Block-Printing Center

Next we’ll fly east, meet our van and driver and take off into the Turkish countryside. First stop is a small and charming, traditional riverside town with historic architecture. Our hotel is right at the river in a picturesque location. Next day, in a town known for woodblock-printing,  we’ll have a private printing workshop. The master printer will show us how to stamp cotton scarves (left), called yazma–using your choice of the hand-carved wood-blocks traditional to the area. We’ll savor the local foods, including a famous and delicious regional pasta dish called manti.

Nighttime vew of our Cave hotel in Cappadocia.

In this area we’ll walk through and explore one of Turkey’s tentative UNESCO sites: the beautiful Ballica Cave. “…the Ballıca cave provides geological and geomorphologic richness with its unique onion stalactites, well-developed curtain travertines, settling ponds and column structures. It’s unlike other caves because of the huge variety of different stalactites, stalagmites and other formations.

Cappadoccia

Continuing south, we head to the Cappadoccia area with its dramatic eroded landscape. There we’ll sleep peacefully near Urgup village, in cozy rooms at our unique and delightful cave hotel, right. In our cooking class in a village home, we will learn to make delicious traditional dishes, perhaps bouerek or dolma, with fresh local, organic ingredients.

Delicious authentic dish called Manti, my favorite!

Another wonderful experience in Cappadoccia is the optional hot air balloon ride over sensational, eroded tufa stone landscapes. The balloons float safely and silently over the area, offering the passengers unparalleled views of the “fairy chimney” volcanic formations. Contrary to expectations, the early morning ride is not freezing cold; passengers are kept toasty warm by the balloon heaters. (Anyone not ballooning may sleep in, as the balloon crew leaves at 6am and returns for breakfast around 9am.)

From Cappadoccia, we’ll drive west and visit remains of the fascinating ancient city of Çatalhuyuk, believed to be the oldest city in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage site:  “The taller eastern mound contains eighteen levels of Neolithic occupation between 7400 BC and 6200 BC, including wall paintings, reliefs, sculptures and other symbolic and artistic features. Together they testify to the evolution of social organization and cultural practices as humans adapted to a sedentary life. Çatalhöyük provides important evidence of the transition from settled villages to urban agglomeration, which was maintained in the same location for over 2,000 years. It features a unique street-less settlement of houses clustered back to back with roof access into the buildings.”

Room at our cozy cave hotel in Capadoccia.

Textiles of Turkey

Turkey is famous for exquisite carpets and kilims, historical regional dress of infinite variety, and remarkable little flower edgings on the hand block-printed scarves. Everywhere we go, we’ll explore museums, studios and workshops to see examples of these brilliant creations.

Amazingly tiny and detailed needle-worked flowers trim scarves in Turkey..

Tiny and colorful handmade needle-worked flowers called oya, ready to buy and stitch onto scarves.

Besides making our own hand block-printed cotton scarves, we’ll see rugs being knotted in Cappadocia. And in Konya, we’ll search out the beautiful flat-weave (discontinuous weft, kilim, or tapestry technique) rugs they are famous for. Konya is also the home of famous Sufi poet Rumi. From Konya, we will head for the charming town of Selcuk to see the famous archaeological site of Ephesus. This UNESCO site was an ancient Greek city, built in the 10th century BC. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. Ephesus was famed for the nearby Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Among many other monumental buildings are the Library of Celsus (below), and a theatre capable of holding 25,000 spectators.

Later, we’ll drive north to Bursa, where we stay in a cozy hotel in the old town. There we’ll visit the country’s best textile museum with its many fully-accessorized mannequins in traditional dress from all over Turkey. We’ll also visit the old silk cocoon market in a wonderful building called Koza Han, with its hundreds of scarves and textile shops. There you’ll meet some antique textile dealers who will show us the incredible embroidery and needle lace in their collections. Prices here range from moderate to expensive, but there are textiles not found elsewhere.

Back to Istanbul

Celsus Library at the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, Turkey, UNESCO site.

Library at the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, another UNESCO site.

Then we’ll take a modern ferry back to Istanbul to see more of that exciting city. Lunch on the ferry is on your own. Later we’ll see the excellent Archeology Museum (near our hotel) and a friend’s upscale textile gallery. Our final day in Istanbul is yours to see something new in the city, or return to a favorite place. Perhaps try a hamam for a sudsy scrubdown, or visit the exquisite Chora Church with its stunning frescoes – called the Byzantine marvel of Istanbul. Or you might return to admire the Blue Mosque or see other stunning architectural wonders of the city – your choice. I’m always happy to return to the Grand Bazaar with whoever wants to shop for final souvenirs and also stop by the place that sells needle-worked flowery scarf trims, above.

Lunch on your own this day; there are many restaurants within walking distance from the hotel where we can have lunch. Farewell Dinner with group at our Sultanahmet hotel. Pack up and organize for flights home. (Last included night of hotel is April 30.)

Fly HOME: MAY 1.    Be sure you check out the Photo Gallery of TURKEY here.

Tour Price:  $ 5320    12 people maximum.
Single Supplement: $850

Includes the following:

  • 16 nights accommodations, (double occupancy, in charming boutique hotels, or good modern ones when necessary)
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional Turkish native guide
  • All meals –except 2 lunches and 2 dinners.
  • Unless a meal is family-style, you may order your choice of dishes in restaurants.*
  • Non-alcoholic beverages with meals (tea, coffee, ayran [yoghurt drink], water, cherry juice, etc.)
  • Interior flight to Samsun.
  • All ground transportation by private, high-top Sprinter van with excellent, professional driver
  • Wood-block printing lesson in Tokat; Turkey.Bottled water always available in the van for road trips.
  • Transportation from airport to hotel on set arrival date.
  • Museum visits to see the textiles and archeology of Turkey.
  • Cooking class and lunch in a private home.
  • Entrance to all historical sights on the itinerary such as Çatalhuyuk ancient city, Ephesus, etc.
  • Private Tokat scarf printing workshop with your creation to take home.
  • SPECIAL! Photo book of your adventure once you return.

Not included: Turkish visa fee [$50 for U.S.]; free-day optional activities, airport transportation for early arrivals, departure transportation, guide and driver tips (we will give you guidelines), and optional hot-air balloon ride [pay around $200 directly to the balloon company]. Most hotels have complementary bottled water and free internete.

FOOD NOTE: Occasionally in a restaurant, the guide will order a generous selection of different dishes so you can taste everything, to familiarize yourself with delicious homestyle Turkish cuisine. And sometimes in a family-style home-based restaurant, everyone will be served a delicious set meal. At these events, vegetarians who can be a bit flexible will find enough vegetable dishes, fresh breads and pasta to survive quite comfortably! But many typical Turkish dishes do have a small amount of meat, such as stuffed eggplant or stuffed peppers and zucchini. More on food later.

For more information, E-mail Cynthia: [email protected]
or call 707-939-8874.