The overwhelming beauty of Turkey is evident in its incredibly varied landscape and the complexity of its history. Pealing back these layers through the centuries and ages, we discover a land of immense archaeological, cultural, and Biblical value. So, though the modern Republic of Turkey may have been imagined by Ataturk as a champion of secularism, it is evident that the Turkey we see today is very much informed by its historical and religious legacy: it is a proverbial Agora of East and West, a successor of an enduring imperial ebb and flow, and an unremitting conversation of faith, spirituality, and culture.
Wedged between the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Aegean, Turkey has always been an important center of trade, and really is the “Cradle of Civilization”! In fact, southeastern Turkey’s Göbekli Tepe (the oldest monument in the world) is around 11,000 years old, predating the famous Stonehenge by 6,000 years! And the nearby site of Çatalhöyük is an impressively well-preserved Neolithic settlement that has significantly contributed to our understanding of human development.
And then there’s Troy, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world! The extensive excavations here were first undertaken by the famous (and arguably reckless) archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the late 1800’s, and unearthed the setting of the Trojan War, as immortalized by Homer in the Iliad.
Turkey is also often mentioned in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and the area surrounding the Tigrus and Euphrates rivers is the setting for many of the Biblical stories many us know so well. In fact, the ruins of Hattusa, the capital of the powerful Hittite Empire, is located near Turkey’s modern town of Boğazkale…the findings here confirm the Biblical accounts which describe the Hittites as a civilizationally sophisticated people. And Mount Ararat is the scene of the landing of Noah’s Ark after the Great Flood!
In Western Anatolia, the New Testament comes alive through ancient sites like Ephesus, Miletus, Pergamum, Laodicea, and Sardis! The remains of these cities of antiquity are not only beautiful to explore today, but also provide meaningful insight into the region’s role in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. In fact, the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul, who was born and raised in what is now Turkey, show us just how fundamental this region was for the spread of Christianity to the West! And all of the Seven Churches mentioned in John’s Letters of Revelation are the early congregations of seven significant Roman cities whose remains rest in today’s Turkey.
Of course, there is so much more to this soulful country than can be summed up in this short (but hopefully, passionate) introduction! From the Azure waters of the Aegean coast to the remarkable honeycombed landscape of Cappadocia…from the Lycian tombs carved into cliffs that tower over some of Turkey’s most charming Mediterranean coastal towns to the city of Rumi; the Sufi mystic whose transformative poetry reminds us to appreciate loveliness and find inner strength!
And what can we begin to say about Istanbul, the only city straddling two continents?! Although Ataturk named Ankara the capital of the Turkish Republic, Istanbul very much remains the nation’s cultural and financial center. And its legacy as the former capital of three empires—Byzantium, Constantinople, and Ottoman – is evident in all corners of the city, from the domed masterpiece of Hagia Sophia to the extraordinary mosques designed by the prolific Mimar Sinan.
On a NET tour, it is our hope that our guests will learn about this history and become judges in Turkey’s Olympics of aesthetics, enjoying its innumerable natural wonders and architectural marvels. However, it is our deepest wish that they not just access the sites of Turkey, but its spirit…that magnetic energy that continues to sustain its innumerable paradoxes of identity, and ignite an empathic curiosity that pulls us to this fascinating place.