Who says history is boring? History becomes more than facts and statistics when you visit the places, where it happened, see the sites and enjoy yourself in the areas where our culture was born. Nowhere is this more evident than in Turkey.
By 2000 BC to 1500 AD Turkey was a center of civilization and a crossroads of culture where people from Europe and Asia mingled, fought, traded and built great cities. A lot of the history has been maintained and a modern tourist visiting Turkey now can learn about the past while enjoying the sun and beauty of this ancient land.
The Western and Southern regions of Turkey abound in areas of both modern and ancient importance. The classical literature of the West, the Iliad, and the Odyssey, not to mention the new Hollywood movie, has glorified the legend of Troy. But Troy is more than a legend. Troy existed over 4000 years ago and was the center of a great civilization. Ruins of the ancient city can be seen in the Turkish province of Canakkale (Dardanelles), which lies in the Marmara region of Western Turkey.
The walls of this ancient city and a museum containing a replica of the famous Trojan horse are popular tourist destinations. In fact, now there are two Trojan horses to be seen, as the horse used in the Hollywood epic was donated to Turkey.
If you travel southward from Troy to the Aegean region of Turkey, you will find more great sites to explore. The city of Pergamon was an important center during the Hellenistic period when the successors of Alexander the Great ruled great stretches of the Middle East and Asia.
Now the modern city of Bergama comprises the ruins of Pergamon. Historical Pergamon was one of the principal military, political, and cultural centers of the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Its library, comprising two hundred thousand volumes, was the second biggest in the world. The biggest library was at Alexandria. The famous doctor Galenus (Galen) was from Pergamon.
Present-day visitors to Bergama can see the ruins of the Theater of Pergamon, which seated 10,000 spectators, the Temple of Dionysus, the Temple of Athena and other sites in the Acropolis of Pergamon, but the books of the ancient library have been long gone, as they were given to Cleopatra as a wedding present!
Another city in the Aegean area that is both a present-day tourist stop and an ancient center of civilization is Ephesus. It was an important ancient port city whose remains have come down to the present day in rather well-preserved condition. The ancient sanctuary however in time became silted in, with the consequence that Ephesus now lies inland from the sea. The Temple of Artemis located in Ephesus was one of the “Seven Wonders” of the ancient world. Banking in the modern sense got its first launch in Ephesus. The philosopher Heraclitus was from Ephesus. The apostle St. Paul lived in Ephesus, St. John wrote his gospel here, and many pilgrims come here to visit a house where the Virgin Mary is believed to have stayed.
The “House of the Virgin Mary” is in the area of Ephesus, ( 5 km from Ephesus). Іt іs bеlіеvеd bу mаnу Сhrіstіаns аnd Мuslіms thаt Маrу, thе mоthеr оf Јеsus, wаs tаkеn tо the stone house by Saint John after the crucifixion of Jesus, fleeing the persecution of the Christians in Judea, and lived there until her assumption into Heaven based on Catholics and Orthodox. According to traditional belief, Mary left Jerusalem with St. John sometime around 40 A.D. and came here where she died. The church dedicated to her title here is the first in the world accepted by the Vatican as a place of pilgrimage for Catholics.
Pope Paul VI visited Virgin Mary’s House on July 26, 1967, and Pope John Paul II also came on November 30, 1979. The Turkish government and Vatican officials said a visit by the new Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey on November 28, 2006, will proceed as planned.
Troy, Pergamon, and Ephesus are just a few of the places which you may visit in Turkey where you can walk in the same places where the great figures of ancient history went before us. An ideal way to see these historical sites and feel this mysterious atmosphere of ancient cities, sandy beaches, and secluded bays would be to combine land tours in Western and Southern Turkey, or to combine a land tour with a luxury yacht charter cruise.