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Cruising Turkey

Some cruises of the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Seas include port calls in a country that many cruise travelers have yet to discover: Turkey. These cruises offer a look at a land where ancient roots mingle with modern sensibilities.

Istanbul is a sprawling city where East literally meets West: the city lies on two continents, Europe and Asia, divided only by the Bosphorus Strait. Cruise ships dock in the city center, near the Galata Bridge that spans the romantically named Golden Horn estuary. Some of the many fabulous sights of the city include Topkapi Palace, home of sultans; the Hagia Sophia, (Church of Divine Wisdom), a marvel of engineering from the sixth century; and the Blue Mosque, with its beautiful minarets and cascading domes. You can browse 4,000 shops at the Grand Bazaar or enjoy the aromas of the Spice Market. There are many more historic sites within a short distance of Istanbul, including Bursa, the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, and Gallipoli, site of the World War I battle for control of the Dardanelles. In fact, there is so much to see that some ships dock at Istanbul for two days.

Kusadasi, once a sleepy village, is now a bustling resort town on the Aegean. There are beaches to enjoy and a market to browse, but Kusadasi is also a perfect starting point for some memorable excursions. It’s not far to Ephesus, one of the best-preserved ancient Roman cities in the Mediterranean region. Pirene, Miletus and Didyma are more places to see spectacular Roman ruins.

Dikli is a fast-growing city on Turkey’s northern Aegean coast. It’s a gateway to Bergama, which was famous in Roman times for its massive library and medical center. There’s a fabulous view of the countryside from the ancient acropolis and its dramatic hillside theater.

In Antalya, on the Mediterranean coast, a modern city surrounds a small but charming historic neighborhood. Many of buildings there date from the Roman and Ottoman Empires, with some serving as inns, museums and restaurants today. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you can take a break from antiquities on a hiking or river-rafting excursion to Koprulu Canyon National Park.

To consider cruise itineraries that include some of these Turkish ports, email me at sclarke@cruiseholidays.com.