Turkey is often referred to as the World’s largest museum, and one look at the number of sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list gives us an idea of why. Turkey has an impressive 14 sites on the list and another 52 sites on the tentative list. Today we have a look at 7 of the sites on the list and why they are important.
Archaelogical Site of Troy
So how did Troy make the UNESCO list? This ruins site is considered to be one of the most important in the World in that it gives us a good understanding of the development of early European civilization. It is also considered important because it is the setting for Homer’s epic poem, Iliad which has had a huge influence on the literary World.
Bursa and Cumalikizik: the Birth of the Ottoman Empire
Bursa was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, and Cumalikizik is a small, unspoiled village near Bursa, where you could be forgiven for thinking you have stepped back in time. In Bursa there are 127 mosques, 34 medreses, 45 tombs and 37 hamams (Turkish Baths) – these all give a good indication of the Ottoman vision for life for its Citizens. It is listed with UNESCO because it is a great example of the Ottoman approach to life as well as the Ottoman concept of having rural living close by to cities.
The City of Safranbolu
With its well-preserved Ottoman style wooden houses and charming cobblestone streets full of small artisan workshops, what is not to love about Safranbolu? Back in the day it was an important stop on the caravan route that went from East to West. It’s architecture is also said to have influenced much of the Ottoman Empire architecture. Visitors to Safranbolu today can see a number of buildings surviving from the period in the 13th Century when it became an important part of the trade route. These include the Old Mosque, Old Bath, and the Medresse of Süleyman Pasha. Safranbolu reached its peak in the 17th Century, which saw the expansion of the market area of the town to cope with the increased trade traffic. Buildings surviving from the expansion include the Cinci Inn, built between 1640-48, Koprülü Mosque (built in 1661) and Let Pasha Mosque (built in 1796), as well as many stores, stables and baths.
Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği
Located on the slopes below the castle of Divrği, in the Sivas Province in central eastern Turkey, and famous for its ornate decoration, this mosque and hospital complex are one of Turkey’s best kept secrets. While the facade of the hospital is unassuming, the stone carving inside is both an artistic as well as an architectural wonder and are reminiscent of the Baroque, Seljuk and Gothic styles. Image source: By Mxcil (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Hattusa: the Hittite Capital
Located, 200km East of Ankara, near the modern day village of Bogâzkale sit the ruins of Hattusa (Hattusha), the former capital of the Hittite empire. Excavated in a cooperative effort by German and Turkish archaeologists, we know that the site was partially occupied at the end of the 3rd millennium by a pre-Hittite population who permitted Assyrian traders to settle there. At that time the city was called Hattus (Hattush). It was destroyed around 1720 by Hittite King, Anitta who took the trouble to place a curse on those who came after him.
In 1906, Archaeologists excavating the site found a copy of a peace treaty between Hattushili III and the Pharaoh Ramses II, which helped to identify Hattusa. The discovery of Hattusa was significant because it proved the existence of the Hittites who were the rulers of an empire during the Bronze Age, one of the most significant periods in history, yet they disappeared without a trace.
Historic Areas of Istanbul
Istanbul’s location alone makes it one of the most important cities in the world – it lies on the Bosphorus peninsula between the Balkans and Anatolia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, and is on a peninsula surrounded by a body of water called the Goldern Horn. The former capital of both the Eastern Roman Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, it has played a role in major events in political, religious and art history for more than 2,000 years. Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula, on which the former Byzantium and Constantinople developed, was surrounded by ancient walls, built initially by Theodosius in the early fifth century. Visitors to Istanbul today can still see the ruins of the ancient walls as well as its many iconic historical buildings such as the Blue Mosque, the Haghia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.
Nemrut Dag, or Mount Nemrut is located on top of one of the highest peaks of South East Turkey’s Eastern Taurus mountain range. This is the location of the temple-tomb and house of the gods built as a monument to himself by the late Hellenistic King Antiochos I of Commagene (69-34 B.C.). The monument consisted of a statue of the king sitting among five statues of deities such as Zeus, Apollo and Heracles, flanked by guardian animal statues – an eagle and a lion, at each end. Over the years, the statues and their heads, originally 9 metres tall, were sent rolling down the hill by earthquakes, however archaeological excavation efforts have recovered the heads, which is what those willing to make the sunrise trek up the mountain will see today.
If you are interested in ticking off some of Turkey’s UNESCO sites, Fez has a number of tours visiting some of the sites:
- The Turkey Trailblazer tour visits Istanbul, Bursa and Hattusa
- Eastern Turkey tour visits Mount Nemrut
- Spirit of Turkey tour visits Istanbul, Hattusa, Safranbolu and Troy