Thousands of year of history on display in Turkey
by Ron Swift | Patterson Irrigator
Nov 01, 2012 | 901 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From the historical standpoint, Turkey is an amazing country to visit.

The Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods, all 2,000 years of them, are there for all to see up close. Walking down marble streets laid down by the Romans, strolling around the huge grounds of a mental hospital operative two millennia ago, taking in the more recent World War I Gallipoli battlegrounds and sightseeing at the magnificent sixth-century Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace in Istanbul were but a few of the highlights of our recent 14-day tour of Turkey.

The amazing ruins of Ephesus, with its Celsus Library dating to 117 AD that held 12,000 scrolls; visiting Konya, the land of the whirling dervishes; and continuing on to the Cappadocia area and the Turkish capital of Ankara were all enthralling stops on our bus journey.

But to me, two stops proved to be intriguing.

One was the underground city of Saratli. In the third and fourth centuries, Christians in the Cappadocia area were forced to hide en masse from the Romans. To do so, they went underground, gouging down deep into the soil to build long tunnels and rooms that provided living space.

We were taken into Saratli, where lighting has been installed for the tourists, and it was explained how the tunnels could be blocked to keep out the Romans who might locate the entrance and how deep pits were dug to discourage their meandering into the darkness.

One such city went down 18 stories underground. Another accommodated 5000 inhabitants.

To date, archeologists have found 38 such underground cities, and they believe they will find more. Two of the cities were connected by a seven-mile underground tunnel.

Another site had a much later history. In the 13th century, the government built a series of accommodations called caravanserai to serve the caravan trade using the Silk Road from faraway China. These were large stone buildings inside fort-like walls, constructed every 30 miles — a daylong camel trek. The government provided the food, lodging and care of the camels in an effort to promote long-distance trade.

The caravanserai we visited was a very good repair. Others, nearly 800 years old, reportedly have not been renovated.

And so it is with Turkey — a unique mix of the old and the new, and a great place to visit.

Turkey response

One Patterson reader has responded about our recent trip to Turkey.

That would be Deniz Olcan, who says her family, which includes two young boys, is probably the only Turkish family residing in our community.

She, too, points out that Turkish people love Americans.

Remember to vote

As they say in Chicago about Election Day: “Vote early — and often.”

For the sports fan

Bay Area sports fans, and those in Northern California, too, are getting spoiled.

First, we have the world-champion Giants with their superlative pitching corps and crafty, laidback manager, and also the rejuvenated 49ers with their stellar defense and demanding head coach who knows what he wants and how to get it.

Just how good can it get?

And finally…

I previously mentioned receiving 299 e-mails during our recent trip to Turkey, and some of them were choice. Here’s one worth passing along. It came in a list titled “Adult truths.”

“I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my 10-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.”


Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at

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