We entered Turkey from Batumi, Georgia. There was no problem at all with Immigration & Customs, Turkey being a major tourist destination for travellers of the world, thanks to its rich history and beautiful landscape. Turkey is an Islamic country being so obvious with countless mosques with minarets — that looked like rockets on their launch pads — dotting the skyline as you drive along their splendid roads and highways. Indeed the drive along the south coast of the Black Sea to Trabzon was very pleasant.
I had strange mixed feelings upon entering Turkey; a feeling of relief that I had survived the tough journey over mountains and deserts through several strange countries that I only had heard of in geography and history books; and a feeling of gladness that I took on this journey and it was quite unlike what those Silk Road travellers of old would have endured; a feeling of admiration for this progressive Islamic country with the impressive glorious empire of the Ottomans to boast of; and a feeling of awe and inspiration to travel to other places on this beautiful earth.
At Trabzon I had the opportunity to perform the Maghrib prayers at a mosque near the hotel. As expected only old people made up the congregation. The women also took the opportunity to buy fresh provisions for our camping at Tokat the next day. Two small incidents happened at Tokat. One was Sh Abas’ car had bearing failures and the other an inter-personal one. This time a couple of elders from the group decided not to camp; instead they went off to stay at a hotel in town. I should have joined them actually because the campsite wasn’t that well maintained since the showers and toilets didn’t work with obvious signs of vandalism. I was just too glad to leave for Ankara the next morning of 28 Sept.
We didn’t do much in Ankara apart from visiting the Museum of Anatolian civilization. The museum as described by Wikipedia “is housed in an Ottoman building, has a number of exhibits of Anatolian archaeology. They start with the Paleolithic era, and continue chronologically through the Neolithic, Early Bronze, Assyrian trading colonies, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq and Ottoman periods. There is also an extensive collection of artifacts from the excavations at Karain, Çatalhöyük, Hacılar, Canhasan, Beyce Sultan, Alacahöyük, Kültepe, Acemhöyük, Boğazköy (Gordion), Pazarlı, Altıntepe, Adilcevaz and Patnos as well as examples of several periods.” I found the Hittite exhibits fascinating indicative of how civilized they were in the period 1750-1200 BC and the later Hittite period 1200-700 BC.
Istanbul is a transcontinental city, straddling the Bosphorus — one of the world’s busiest waterways — in northwestern Turkey, between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical center lies in Europe, while a third of its population lives in Asia.[Wikipedia]
We arrived in Istanbul on 29 Sep feeling rather elated crossing the bridge connecting Asia and Europe across the Bosphorus. It was late afternoon and traffic was rather heavy, as expected in any big city. We promptly made our way to our hotel for a two nights stay. My nieces’s husband, Akay Viran — who is Turkish — also happened to be around in Istanbul this time, since he was bringing in his mega yacht for some maintenance (not his yacht actually, he was just the highly paid captain.) Akay took Zaki and I for dinner and to talk about our trip and his exploits.
He worked for some billionaire, the job was quite easy but he had to be on standby most of the time to be at his master’s beck and call. He travels the world and would love to do an overland trip. He tried to be with his wife and kids back in Malaysia but could hardly do so with this job; unlike his previous job as a container ship captain. On the way to dinner, I was quite intrigued to see a Proton Wira, Malaysia’s national car, parked on the pavement. Wow, Malaysian industry has made it to Turkey.
The next day we visited the five “must see” tourist sites in Istanbul namely: the blue mosque, the Ayasofia, the cistern, the Topkapi and the Grand Bazaar. Of the lot I was most impressed with the Ayasofia.
I was impressed with the Ayasofia aka Hagia Sophia because of its transformation from a church to a mosque and finally to a museum. It’s amazing that the contents inside the building especially the christian paintings and frescoes are well preserved and not destroyed when it became a mosque. Instead these paintings/frescoes were just hidden by large Islamic calligraphy; even the cross on the entrance door was ingeniously converted into an arrow. Such display of Islamic tolerance and respect for history and the arts is something that we should appreciate; otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to understand our past.