Bilgehan Güzel, the artist for our Turkey box (part of our Countries box subscription), is a watercolor painter and graphic designer from Ankara, Turkey. She is a passionate advocate for the beauty of her country’s landscape and traditions. Her work takes inspiration from every day buildings and objects, from towering monuments to delicate desserts. Bilgehan paints a veritable tour of Turkey, capturing not only the sights but the spirit of her home country. We’ve curated a selection of her work to give you a glimpse of Turkey through her eyes.
Galata Tower (Turkish: Galata Kulesi) is one of the most striking aspects of the Istanbul cityscape. Located in the Galata/Karaköy quarter, the medieval stone tower offers a panoramic view of the city from a terrace 52 meters (170 ft) from the ground. When it was built in 1348, it was the tallest building in Istanbul. In 1967, it was opened to the public, and now houses a small cafeteria, as well as a nightclub that was closed for renovations in 2013.
The Ayasofya, or Hagia Sophia, was built in 537AD, and originally served as a Greek Orthodox basilica before becoming an imperial mosque, and finally a museum. It was constructed three times in the same location, in different architectural styles – the first two constructions were destroyed in two different riots. Located in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia is an excellent example of Byzantine art and architecture. One’s of it’s most interesting features is the “weeping column” which is made of bronze with a hole in the middle, and is damp to the touch. Many rub the column in search of divine healing.
Library of Celsus
The Library of Celsus was built during the Roman Empire to house 12,000 scrolls, as well as to serve as a mausoleum for Celsus (Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus), who was a Roman senator, consul, and governor of Asia. Celsus paid for the library out of his personal funds. It was completed around ~114-117AD, but the interior destroyed (historians disagree whether this was by an earthquake or a fire) in 262AD and the facade in the tenth or eleventh century AD. The building lay in ruins for decades, until it the facade was restored by archeologists between 1970 and 1978. It is such a striking monument that it was featured on Turkish banknotes from 2001-2009. The Library of Celsus is located in modern-day Selçuk, Turkey.
Pamukkale is a natural wonder in Turkey’s Denizli Province. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it features hot springs and massive terraces of travertine, a form of limestone. It’s name in Turkish means “cotton castle,” a reference to the shimmering white travertine. On top of the mesmerizing terraces, an ancient Greco-Roman city, Hierapolis (Holy City), still stands in ruins. Tourists flock to the site for the thermal springs, but the ruins and accompanying museum are also worth a visit.
Balat is a neighborhood in the European side of Istanbul. It was traditionally the Jewish quarter of Istanbul, and there are still many synagogues in the area. It’s a popular respite from bustling city life due to the old-world, calmer feel. The colorful houses and the wafting smells of fresh bread from old-school bakeries make a stroll around Balat and neighboring Fener a wonderful excursion.
Izmir Clock Tower
Locating in the Konak district of İzmir, Turkey, the Izmir Clock Tower was built in 1901 and commemorates Abdülhamid II’s accession to the throne. The clock was a gift from German Emperor Wilhelm II. The clock tower is considered a symbol of the city, and is its most famous sight. It was featured on Turkish banknotes from 1983-1989. The historical landmark is now somewhat overshadowed by the modern buildings surrounding it, but is still a lovely place to stop for a photo and to take in the sea view.
The Mevlana Museum is located in Konya, Turkey. It is the mausoleum of a Persian Sufi mystic which became a museum in 1926. It was also a dervish lodge of the Mevlivi order. A dervish is more or less the Muslim equivalent of a monk; dervishes have chosen to live lives of extreme poverty and austerity. Dervishes practice dhikr – devotional acts in Islam where short prayers or phrases are repeated aloud or silently – in remembrance of Allah and in order to gain spiritual enlightenment. For Sufis, dhikr is often more physical, including singing, dancing, trances, and meditation. Costumes are also used, but are only common to the Mevlivi order. The Mevlivi order is often known as the “whirling dervishes” as they practice whirling – spinning in repetitive circles – as dhikr.
These are just of a few of the many interesting historic, architectural, and cultural sights that Turkey has to offer. There are many more amazing monuments, colorful streets, and delicious food to discover. If you’re not yet ready to book a ticket, check out our Turkey box to get a taste of this brilliant country.