April 26 - May 7, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, Antalya
Arrive in Antalya via Paris and Istanbul. Check into the Kempinski Dome Hotel. Dinner at the hotel is on your own.
Wednesday, April 27, Antalya
Today we begin a full day touring some of the rich Greek and Roman ruins in the area of Antalya, known as the Turkish Riviera. About 45 miles east of Antalya is Side. According to Strabo and Arrian, Side was founded by Greek settlers from Cyme in Aeolis, a region of western Anatolia, probably in the 7th century BC. But, several inscriptions written in a local non-Greek language still remain undeciphered. "Side" means pomegranate and until the Roman era, the pomegranate was the symbol used on the coins of Side. Side was dominated usually by the Seleucids of Syria and less often by the Ptolemies of Egypt. In the 1st century BC, Side reached a peak when the Cilician pirates established their chief naval base here and a center for their slave trade. After an early lunch at the Acanthus Hotel in Side, we drive about 17 miles west to the spectacular Roman Theater in Aspendos, located on the Pamphylian plain. Aspendos was throughout antiquity one of the wealthiest and most important cities along the Pamphylian coast. Constructed in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the theater held about 10-12,000 spectators and is considered the best preserved in Asia Minor. Our last stop for the day is the Antalya Archaeological Museum, one of Turkey's largest. It includes 13 exhibition halls covering 75,000 square feet with 5,000 art and historical objects. Dinner this evening is included.
Thursday, April 28, Fethiye
We leave early this morning for Fethiye. We first visit Phaselis, about 37 miles southwest of Antalya, where, in 334-333 BC, Alexander the Great set up his winter quarters. Here there are remains of a theater, an aqueduct, and an arch erected by the Emperor Hadrian in 114 AD. Our next stop is to ancient Myra with its rock cut pillar tombs imitating the houses of the ancient Lycians. Lunch will be in Kaş located along the Mediterranean coast with its wide island-filled bay..After lunch, we drive on to visit Letoon, the most important sanctuary of ancient Lycia with its sacred Ionic and Doric temples. A well-preserved theater rises above the little village that surrounds the site. It was here that Lycians came to pay their respects to Leto and her two children, Artemis and Apollo. Nearby is the ruined city of Xanthos, which administered the Letoon sanctuary, and was once the capital and grandest ancient city of Lycia. Many of Xanthos' finest sculptures and inscriptions were carted off to the British Museum in 1842. The objects seen today are copies of these originals. From here, we return to the coast and to nearby Fethiye, where we stay overnight at the Ece Saray Hotel. Dinner in Fethiye is at the hotel and is included.
Friday, April 29, Bodrum
This morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we drive to Bodrum to check into our hotel, the Kempinski Barbados Bay Hotel. Lunch will be on your own, and the balance of the day is yours to relax, swim, or whatever. Dinner this evening will be at the hotel.
Saturday, April 30, Bodrum
Known in antiquity as Halicarnassus, Bodrum is a magnificent site with its beautiful bay and the crusader castle that dominates the town and harbor. This morning we tour Bodrum Castle, and afterwards the Museum of Underwater Archaeology. The Crusader Castle, built to dominate the harbor in 1402, is one of the last and finest examples of Crusader architecture in the east. The knights occupied it until 1523, when Süleyman the Magnificent's conquest of their base at Rhodes forced them to withdraw to Malta. The Underwater Archaeology Museum charts the techniques used by an American team to excavate the wreck of a Bronze Age ship that sank 32 centuries ago and was found sitting in water 90 ft. deep. Bodrum is also famous as the birthplace in 485 BC of the ancient historian Herodotus. In 377 BC, King Mausolus, the ruler of Caria, moved his capital here and upon his death in 353 BC, his wife erected a monument to him (the Mausoleum), the largest in its day and one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. You are free for lunch on your own, and the balance of the afternoon free to shop, wander about, etc. Dinner is on your own.
Sunday, May 1, Izmir
This morning we begin our drive northward along the Aegean coast of Turkey - the Turquoise Riviera. We'll visit three towns that make up part of ancient Ionia. Our first stop is to Didyma, famous for its magnificent Temple of Apollo. As grand in scale as the Parthenon - measuring 623 feet by 167 feet - the temple has 124 well-preserved columns, some still supporting their architraves. Started in 300 BC and under construction for 5 centuries, the temple was never completed, and some of the columns remain unfluted. The oracle here rivaled the one at Delphi in Greece. Our next stop is Miletus, one of the greatest commercial centers of the Greek world before its harbor silted up. The first settlers were Minoan Greeks who arrived between 1400 and 1200 BC. The first ancient Greek scientist, Thales, was born here in the 6th century BC. Miletus was also home to the later successors of Thales, Anaximenes and Anaximander. The archaeological site is sprawled out along a desolate plain, containing the remarkably Great Theater capable of seating 25,000 spectators. Our last stop before lunch is Priene, a spectacularly elevated site above the valley of the Maeander River. Dating from about 350 BC, the present-day remains of the city were still under construction in 334 BC when Alexander the Great liberated the Ionian settlements from Persian rule. At that time, it was a thriving port, but as in Ephesus, the harbor silted up and commerce moved south to neighboring Miletus. As a result, the Romans never rebuilt Priene. So, the simpler Greek style dominates as in few other ancient sites. However, excavated by British archaeologists in 1868-69, the site is smaller than Ephesus and far less grandiose.
After lunch on your own in Kusadasi, we visit the large and spectacular site at Ephesus, once a bustling port of call in the pre-Christian era of upwards of 500,000 people. The site includes the ruins of baths, brothels, theaters, temples, public latrines, and one of the world's largest ancient libraries. In pre-Hellenistic times, Ephesus was the cult center of Cybele, the Anatolian goddess of fertility. When seafaring Ionians arrived in the 10th century BC, they promptly recast her as Artemis, goddess of the hunt. With her three tiers of breasts, this symbol of mother nature was, in turn, both beautiful and barren, according to the season. Croessus, king of Lydia, captured Ephesus in the 6th century BC, but himself was defeated by Persia's Cyrus. By the 2nd century BC, Ephesus had become the capital of the Roman province of Asia. The Gospel of Luke recounts how the city's silversmiths drove St. Paul out of Ephesus for fear that his pronouncements would lessen the sale of their silver statues of Artemis. Following our tour, we drive onto Izmir, where we check into the Swiss Hotel Grand Efes for the evening. Dinner is on your own at the hotel.
Monday, May 2, Canakkale
Today we drive from Izmir to Canakkale on the Dardanelles. Along the way we will stop at the vast ancient Pergamum. The Dardanelles are the straits that link the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara, and which separates European Turkey from Asia. Some 24 miles long and about half a mile wide, the straits have been fought over for thousands of years, from the ancient Persians more than 25 centuries ago to the disastrous efforts by the British and French navies, and Anzac infantry in the First World War (1915) to breach access to Istanbul and relieve Tsarist Russia. Lunch will be on your own along the way. Nearing Canakkale on the Asian side of the straits, we intend to make a brief stop at ancient Troy, the subject of Homer's great epic poem, the Iliad, where the Greeks allegedly attacked and ultimately destroyed the Trojans after a 10-year siege. Our hotel this evening is the Kolin Hotel in Canakkale. Dinner this evening is included at the hotel.
Tuesday, May 3, Istanbul
This morning, after breakfast, we cross the Dardanelles by ferry. We'll make a brief stop at one of the many military cemeteries on the Gallipoli peninsula before heading toward Istanbul (about 125 miles northeast). Lunch will be on your own. We'll check into the Hotel Ottoman Imperial in the heart of the Old City, where we’ll have dinner tonight (included).
Wednesday, May 4, Istanbul
This morning we begin our full day of touring at Haghia Sophia, or the "Church of Holy Wisdom", among the world's greatest architectural achievements. More than 1400 years old, it stands as a testament to the sophistication of the 6th century AD Byzantine capital. The vast edifice was built over two earlier churches and inaugurated by Emperor Justinian in 537 AD. In the 15th century, the Ottomans converted it into a mosque. The minarets, tombs and fountains date from this period. Designed as an earthly mirror of the heavens, the huge interior of Haghia Sophia succeeds in imparting a truly celestial feel. Across from Haghia Sophia is Sultanahmet Square and the Blue (Sultanahment) Mosque, which takes its name from the mainly blue Iznik tile work decorating the interior. We visit this most famous religious structure, built between 1609-1616. Our next stop is at the underground Yerebatan cistern, a cavernous vault laid out under Justinian in 532 AD to supply water to the Great Palace on the other side of the Hippodrome. Unknown to the Ottomans for about a century after their conquest, the roof is held up by 336 columns each over 26 feet high. Only two-thirds of the original structure is visible today.
After lunch on your own, we begin our tour of the vast Topkapi Palace. Built between 1459 and 1465 after his conquest of Constantinople, Mehmet II built Topkapi Palace as his principal residence. Rather than a single building, it was conceived as a series of four enormous courtyards; a stone version of the tented encampments from which the nomadic Ottomans had emerged. Initially, the Palace served as the seat of government and contained a school in which civil servants and soldiers were trained. A later sultan abandoned Topkapi in 1853 and the Palace was opened to the public as a museum. We will look at the arms and armor collections, the imperial costumes, and the imperial treasury. In addition, we will take a guided tour of the labyrinth of exquisite rooms - known as the harem - where the sultan's wives and concubines lived. Dinner this evening in the Seraglio district is included.
Thursday, May 5, Istanbul
After breakfast, we drive to the huge city walls that are the remains of Constantinople's Byzantine past. With its 11 fortified gates and 192 towers, the great chain of double walls sealed the city's landward side against invasion for more than 1,000 years. Built between 412-422 AD during the reign of Theodosius II, the walls extended from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn. After visiting one of the gates to the city, we will visit the Church of St. Savior in Chora. The present church dates from the 11th century AD. Between 1315-1321 AD, it was remodeled and the beautiful frescoes and mosaics added by Theodore Metochites, a theologian and one of the elite Byzantine officials of his day. We will then drive to Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. Nothing can prepare you for this labyrinth of streets with painted vaults lined by an estimated 4,000 booth-like shops! Feel free to do some shopping! After lunch at the Asitane Restaurant, those who wish can meet at the Archaeological Museum for a self-guided tour of one of the finest ancient collections in the Near East. Dinner this evening is on your own.
Friday, May 6, Istanbul
Today, we take a relaxing morning tour of the Bosphorus by boat. After a seafood lunch at a local restaurant, we'll return to Eminönü and then visit the Spice Bazaar. Our final dinner this evening is included at the hotel.
Saturday, May 7, Istanbul
Depart for the USA via Paris.