The nature in Turkey is a humanized
landscape inseparable from its culture. Nevertheless, to the outsider, nature in
many parts of Turkey gives a new meaning to wilderness, because even in the most
inaccessible or isolated parts (such as the high mountain tops or the secret
places in the valleys) the visitor remains with the feeling that sometime in
history this place, now wild and untended, was the home to a civilizations with
settled villages and city life for nine thousand years.
These were people of different
origin, coming in waves, mingling with those already there, each time creating a
new synthesis. Between 2000 BC to 1500 AD, this landscape was the center of
world civilization. Interpretation of the world scene today is predicated upon
our understanding of what took place on this landscape for the last four
millennia, manifested in the ruins and monuments, which decorate the landscape.
Up until the advent of modernity
(which in Turkey is associated with the comprehensive highway program of the
1950s) the landscape has remained as it was through millennia. When you see a
replica of one of the first agrarian villages in the world dating back to almost
7,000 BC years ago in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara, you
cannot miss the similarity between this prototype and all those others that you
passed by on the way to the museum. As in the other long-civilized
regions of the world, building technologies and layout patterns have survived
until the present day to become what we call vernacular. When you have got
something that works, why
In Anatolia the settlement pattern
is more or less how it was during the ancient civilizations. There is a good
chance that the road you are travelling on is the same one on which great
warriors of the east and the west trod, colorful caravans passed along and
couriers of mail or secret treaties galloped. Perhaps it is the same road
traveled by St. Paul and his disciples or by Sufis spreading divine knowledge.
Graceful aqueducts built by the
Romans made urban concentrations possible. Bridges built by Sinan and other
Ottoman architects dot the countryside and are still used for safe passage of
goods and services. Caravansaries dating back to the Seljuk Empire of the 11th
century offered sanctuary and relief to weary travelers. You can even stay in a
caravansary, for several have been restored into Luxury Villass.
In addition to the historic
edifices proudly displayed at the main archaeological sites such as Troy,
Pergamon, Ephesus, Miletus, Priene, Didyma, Aphrodisias, Heraclia, Caunos, Perge
and Aspendos, many coastal villages and towns are blessed with their very own
Anatolian ruins on the outskirts. This is usually an amphitheater commanding a
spectacular view of the beach where, the villagers will tell you, Cleopatra
often swam. You don't have to look far for the agora either. It is probably
where it has always been; right at the market place! Several villages are also
privileged to have "sunken cities" or ruins under the sea, which you can see if
you look down into the crystal clear, turquoise waters as you swim.
The Anatolian hinterland will show
you glimpses of other ancient civilizations: the Hittites, the Urartians, the
Phyrigians and the Lydians. From these civilizations come many familiar legends:
the wealth of Lydian King Croesus, King Midas with the golden touch and the Knot
of Gordian that young Alexander was able to undo with the strike of his sword.
Then there are the lesser
places, both sacred and ordinary, but with profound meaning: monasteries, tombs
of local saints, heroes, artists or poets, mosques, churches, walls, fortresses,
palaces, fountains, and cemeteries. The hillsides are covered with broken pieces
of ancient pottery; contemporary walls often have comer stones, which may date
back to antiquity. Children play and sheep graze amidst fragile remains. Until
very recently, God's Caves in Cappadocia were used by villagers as cold storage
or wine cellars.
The very richness of the landscape
poses grave challenges for historic preservation in Turkey. Good progress has
been made in safeguarding the integrity of the most important sites, and work is
ongoing to excavate, catalogue and preserve the country's tremendous legacy.
Strict laws prevent the export of antiquities.