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Completed in 537 A.D., Roman Emporer Justinian's church - Hagia Sofia (Sacred wisdom) reined as the greatest church in Christendom until the conquest by Mehmet in 1453 when it was renamed Aya Sofia. Mehmet had it turned into a Mosque and so it remained until 1935 when Ataturk proclaimed it a museum. The glory of Aya Sofia is its glittering mosaics, the apparent lack of support for its magnificent dome and its unique Christian and Islamic motifs, although today most traces of its christian past are covered by Islamic symbols.
Photo : Chris Johnson

June 28, 2004
Exploring Turkey
Real Audio Report

Log Transcript

After being hauled out for two weeks conducting maintenance on her steel hull, the Odyssey is almost ready to return to the water. While boat yard workers cut out and replace thin plates of steel, secure zincs and apply bottom paint, the crew is chipping rust on deck, painting the bulwarks and sanding the wood inside the pilothouse and salon.

The work continues seven days a week. However, when one embarks on a project as large as a haulout, it is common for unanticipated repairs to be made, particularly under the waterline - adding more hours and days to the job than originally planned.

At different times throughout the haul, the crew managed to take a few days off exploring some of the country's spectacular coastal and inland wilderness, its myriad of cultural sights and surprisingly large number of ancient ruins - all while enjoying the unique Turkish cuisine.

The narrow straits of the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus River divide Turkey into two sections. The European side (Eastern Thrace) makes up only 3% of the country, while the Asian side (Anatolia) constitutes 97%. Anatolia, the Turkish mainland, has a long, colorful and complex human history that spans several centuries and dates as far back as the Paleolithic era around 7,500 BC. Following the Bronze Age of 2,500 BC, countless empires and kingdoms flourished and declined. The Hattis, Phrygians, Lycians, Ionians, Lydians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans all made rich cultural contributions that through the centuries have made a lasting impression on what we see and experience in modern day Turkey. Being the benefactor of many centuries of cultures makes Turkey a paradise of historic wealth. Surprisingly, many of the most famous sights from classical Greek culture are actually found in Turkey, including Troy, Ephesus, Perge, Aspendos and Miletus. Most modern Turkish cities, including Anatalya and Istanbul, boast a Roman past with several being referenced in the Bible.

The theatre at Aspendos is the finest and best-preserved Roman theatre anywhere in Turkey. After Ataturk had it restored and declared a museum in the 1929, it is once again being used for performances. Today it plays host to an annual international opera and ballet festival.
Photo : Chris Johnson

The recent history of Turkey is equally fascinating. With the decline of the Ottoman Empire, a young soldier and ultimately a great visionary, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, took the defeat of World War I and turned it into a shining victory. Liberating Turkey from all occupying forces, Ataturk founded the Republic of Turkey in 1923 leading his country toward peace while encouraging strong economic growth and increasing modernization. Today airports, streets, museums and parks are named after him, while his statue graces the main square in every town and village across the country.

The Odyssey and her crew are spending a brief amount of time in Turkey, with our sole purpose being to prepare the ship for research in the Mediterranean Sea and the final year of the expedition crossing the Atlantic. We experienced only a glimpse of Turkey's multitude of natural wonders ranging from the gleaming white calcium terraces of Pamukkale to the otherworldly moonscapes of Cappadocia (a maze of underground cities and pointed rock cone dwellings dating back to the Byzantine period) and the wildly beautiful and rugged coastline of Olympos. Geographically diverse, Turkey boasts 8,000 kilometers of coastline, snowcapped mountains, vast valleys, gorges, inland lakes and broad rivers. Unfortunately, much of the country lies on active fault lines - twin earthquakes leveled the towns of Izmit and Adapazari in northwestern Anatolia in 1999 - much of the country has to live with the unpredictable threat of earthquakes.

The abundant cultural spectacles of Turkey are almost endless. The streets of every village, town and city are laden with kebap stalls and Turkish delights while local bazaars offer an array of exotic spices, mosaic tiles, porcelain and fezzes, and the item for which Turkey is perhaps best known - the Turkish rug. It is impossible to visit anywhere in Turkey without being bombarded by a cornucopia of designs, colors and textures. There is no end to the variety or the invitations by proprietors for you to enter their shop and haggle over the price of a rug. The architecture encompasses everything from stonework and grand Greaco-Roman temples to modern concrete tower blocks. Arguably the most distinguished spectacles are the magnificent mosques. Some of the crew visited Sultanahmet, in 'Old Istanbul', a designated UNESCO world heritage site containing two of Turkey's most imposing icons - the Red Mosque (Aya Sofya) and the Blue Mosque. Centuries old, these supremely elegant structures are adorned with intricate and elaborate mosaic tiles, while the cascading domes and slender minarets dominate the skyline.

Beginning next week, our first research leg will take us offshore into international water and then into Greece. Throughout the summer we hope to search for sperm whales in the territorial waters of Greece, Italy, France and Spain, while stopping in various ports along the way.

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Odyssey in Marmaris, Turkey.

With a total of 65 streets and 4,000 shops, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a maze of activity, bargaining and rich color.
Photo : Chris Johnson


Log written by Genevieve Johnson.

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