– Roman and Byzantine mosaics and frescoes
– Ottoman architecture and tile work
– Historical and contemporary ceramics
ISTANBUL Located on two continents and surrounded by the waters of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul is one of the world’s most historically rich and breathtakingly beautiful and vibrant cities. Founded by the colonist Byzas in 657 BC, this city was first called Byzantium and later declared the “New Rome” by Emperor Constantine in 324 AD. Constantinople, as this new empire’s capital was later named, was embellished by the following emperors with beautiful buildings, including the famous Haghia Sophia. The stunning interior of this church features a magnificent domed ceiling soaring heavenward as well as brilliant 9th century mosaic portraits. We will also visit thenearby Mosaics Museum, housing early Byzantine mosaics with wonderful hunting and mythological scenes, the extraordinary Underground Cistern (AD 532), the roof of which is supported by 336 columns and capitals, and the Chora Church with its mosaics and frescoes dating from 1312.
In 1453, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople, having his boats transported overland on rollers in order to bypass the heavy chain used by the Byzantines to close the mouth of the Golden Horn. Mehmet and his successors added many splendid buildings to the city: The Blue Mosque, completed in 1616, features tens of thousands blue Iznik tiles in the interior. Admire also this mosque’s exterior with its voluptuous curves and six minarets overlooking the Bosphorus, while having breakfast on the terrace of our beautiful hotel in the heart of Sultanahmet, the old part of Istanbul.
Islam’s greatest architect Sinan was responsible for the construction of several amazing mosques during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent: The Süleymaniye Mosque dominating the Golden Horn and featuring wonderful stained-glass windows, as well as the tiny Rüstem Paşa Mosque, a showpiece of the most precious Iznik tile work, signalling the Paşa’s wealth and influence to the world.
Join a lovely boat excursion on the Bosphorus and watch the waterside wooden summer residences, built by the Ottoman aristocracy and foreign ambassadors between the 17th and the 19th centuries. After a delicious fish lunch by the water in Sarıyer, we will visit the exquisite collection of Anatolian antiques and Ottoman heirlooms in the Sadberk Hanım Museum. Other highlights of our visit include the Topkapı Palace ceramics collections, the Çinili Tile Museum, the Museum of Anthropology, the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum featuring wonderful carpets and beautifully illuminated Korans, and the Istanbul Archaeological Museum housing ancient sarcophagi from modern-day Lebanon, unearthed by Ottoman archaeologists.
This ceramics excursion includes a hands-on workshop with leading Turkish contemporary ceramic artist Mehmet Kutlu. Learn Mehmet’s special handbuilding techniques integrating coloured porcelain, glass, and photo decals. See examples of Mehmet’s ceramics at www.mehmetkutlu.com. and the article “Discovery in Turkey” about Mehmet’s work, written by our local assistant and translator Ann Hazinedar and published in Ceramics Monthly. Mehmet’s studio is located not far away from Beyoğlu, the “European” quarter of town known as “Pera” in the 19th century, with one of the first electric tramways of the world. Beyoğlu is once again the heart of modern Istanbul with its galleries, cafes and restaurants, providing plenty of choice for a tasty dinner. On our tour to modern Istanbul we will also visit contemporary artist studios and galleries on the Asian and European sides as well as museums exhibiting modern art, such as the Istanbul Modern and Santral Istanbul, the latter being a power plant nearby the Golden Horn which has been transformed recently into a venue for exhibitions of contemporary art.
After returning to Istanbul from Cappadocia, there will be free time to explore more sights in the surroundings of our hotel, such as the labyrinthine Grand Bazaar with its over 4000 shops, the Spice Bazaar, being famous in the past for selling spices shipped from Egypt. You will also have the opportunity to experience the Turkish bath in one of the old hamams, constructed in the Ottoman period. Other attractions are the Topkapı palace Harem and a boat trip on the Golden Horn with a visit to the old cemetery with the tomb of Eyüp, the standard-bearer to the Prophet Mohammed.
ANKARA After a night’s train ride in a private sleeper room starting at Haydarpaşa, the old train station in Istanbul, we arrive in Turkey’s capital, located on the plateau of central Anatolia. Hittite remains dating back to before 1200 BC have been found here, later this town was inhabited by the Phrygians, taken by Alexander the Great and annexed to Rome by Augustus Caesar in 25 BC. Byzantines held the town for centuries; the Seljuk Turks came to Anatolia after 1071, and later, the Ottomans had to fight raids by the Persians, Arabs and the Mongolians. Finally, Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, chose Ankara as his base of operations in the struggle for independence after the end of WWI and declared this city the new Turkish capital in 1923.
We will stay in the wonderfully restored Angora House Hotel inside the citadel up the hill, in the heart of the city. Being constructed by the Byzantine emperor Michael II in the 9th century AD, the citadel is a well-reserved quarter of thick walls and intriguing winding streets. Inside the citadel local people still live as in a traditional village and there is a little market overlooking the city and the surrounding plateau. We will dine in a wonderful restaurant inside the citadel, done out in traditional Ottoman style.
The highlight of our visit to Ankara is our special guided tour of the incredible ceramics collections at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. The 10-domed 15th century market houses reliefs and statuary, while the surrounding hall displays exhibits from the earlier Anatolian civilisations, starting with Palaeolithic finds and continuing with finds of the Neolithic era, when people started to settle in villages and making bull-head icons of clay. The Chalcolithic age saw the refinement of pottery, statuary and painted decoration, while the Bronze Age artefacts show the proficiency in metalwork and jewellery. Baked-clay tablets, found at an Assyrian site are on display here, and we will also see the incredible relief work made by the Hittites.
CAPPADOCIA Our journey leads us to a region of fantastical landscapes created by the action of wind and water on tuff thrown for miles around by volcanic eruptions in prehistory. Rose-tinted gorges and cones (“fairy chimneys”) are spread over a wide area, inviting us to great hikes with spectacular views. During the Roman and Byzantine periods, Cappadocia became a refuge for early Christians and, from the 4th to the 11th century, Christianity flourished here, leaving a incredible legacy of churches, chapels and monasteries cut in the soft tuff and decorated with stunning frescoes. Many of the villages were inhabited by Ottoman Greeks until 1923 and their typical honey-coloured stone buildings can still be seen. The abundant sunshine and fertile volcanic soil of Cappadocia produce delicious sweet grapes, and several small local wineries carry on the Ottoman-Greek wine-making tradition.
We will admire the most spectacular churches, featuring well-preserved frescoes portraying the life of Christ as well as decorations of the iconoclastic period (725-842) in the Göreme Open-Air Museum, one of Turkey’s World Heritage sites. A day-excursion will lead us to the nearby Ihlara Valley, once being a favourite retreat by Byzantine monks. Dozens of churches carved from the rock have survived and hikers can follow the course of the stream, admiring the sea of greenery, alive with birds. In Belisırma, we will enjoy an idyllic meal by the river, visit the monastery and on our way back, we will visit the remains of a caravanserai, built around 1235.
Another highlight is a visit to Kaymaklı, one of the underground cities in Cappadocia which some historians estimate were built at Hittite times, but were certainly occupied by the 7th century BC. This is a maze of tunnels and rooms carved eight levels deep in the earth. In former times, the people of this region lived and farmed above ground, but when invaders threatened they took to their troglodyte dwellings where they could live safely for up to six months at a time.
We will stay in the little town of Avanos, located on the river banks of the Red River. The red clay found here is used to make the pottery that still forms the backbone of the local economy. Local artefacts decorate our wonderful Sofa Hotel, featuring a courtyard for relaxation and a delicious daily buffet breakfast. Join the hands-on experience with the local clay and work with Turkish ceramist Erdoğan Güleç and Denys James in Avanos. We will be welcomed royally by this talented and gracious local artist. His studio is wonderful Greek building with working spaces, terrace, kitchen and relaxation areas. Enjoy the local artists, musicians and friends who stop by for tea and conversation. Erdoğan has learned the local earthenware tradition and now chooses to interpret the landscape,history and life of this region in his large wall reliefs We will follow him along with his process of creation and develop our own pieces. Denys James will be working also and demonstrate his unique methods and share his inspiration with the group. There will be a wonderful home cooked local style dinner served in Ali Fuat’s carpet shop. Many years of good will and friendship have created a truly unique opportunity for participants.
Turkey’s most interesting sights of the Greek and Roman periods can be visited on optional, custom-made tours, as well as beaches on the Mediterranean and the Greek Islands. Here are some suggestions:
6. Rhodos and more Greek Islands
See Participants' Photos NEW! or Denys's Photos from past excursions to Turkey.
September 19, evening: Istanbul. (Sept 18, departure from Vancouver)
October 9: departure from Istanbul. (Oct 9, arrival in Vancouver)
Please note that the package does not include airfare (see options below).
• Accommodation and breakfast in Istanbul (Double Occupancy)
• Accommodation with breakfast in Ankara (Double Occupancy)
• Accommodation and breakfast in Avanos (Double Occupancy)
• Tuition in a special one week clay program with Mehmet Kutlu in Istanbul
• Tuition in Cappadocia studio
• Train with private sleeping room from Istanbul to Ankara
• First class bus from Ankara to Cappadocia
• Airfare from Cappadocia to Istanbul
• Arts and special site tours in Istanbul an Cappadocia
• Special tour of the ceramic collections at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara
►Flights from Vancouver to Istanbul can be arranged on request.
►Variable return dates. Extend your vacation and travel to other sites in Turkey or Greece.
►The days 4-8 (Mehmet Kutlu Workshop & sights in Istanbul) can be booked separately. Included are: Tuition & materials, 6 nights accommodation & breakfast, transportation, museums, artist studio visits, Bosphorus boat trip.
Prices to be determined.
If you must cancel ,the following cancellation fees will apply:
- June 1 - June 30
- July 1 - July 31
- August 1 - August 29
- August 29 - September 19
- Deposit of $150
- Deposit plus 20% of the invoice total
- Deposit plus 50% of the invoice total
- No refund
There is no refund for arriving late or leaving the trip early.
Discovery Art Travel reserves the right to cancel the trip due to low enrolment, or if we feel that the quality of the trip or the safety of travelers would be compromised. In such a case, we will refund all payments received to date, which constitutes full settlement.
Day 1 - Arrive at hotel Nena in charming historic Sultanahmet, Istanbul. Dinner.
Day 2 - Guided historical walking tour of Sultanahmet. Visit of Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque.
Day 3 - Bosphorus boat trip. Seafood lunch at famous fish restaurant. Sadberk Hanım Museum.
Days 4-8 - Hands-on workshop with Mehmet Kutlu – Mixing, forming, decoration, glass and decal demonstrations. Visit of Galata Tower, Cinili Tile Museum, Museum of Anthropology, Asian side artist studios & galleries, galleries & artist studios visits in the Tünel and Taksim areas, Pera Gallery.
Day 8 - Private sleeper room on night train to Ankara.
Day 9 - Arrival at Angora House Ottoman historic hotel. Walking tour around the castle and the market. Special guided tour of Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. Dinner at historic Ottoman restaurant.
Day 10 - Free time in Ankara. Coach trip to Avanos, Cappadocia. Arrival at Sofa Hotel. Welcoming dinner.
Day 11-16 - Clay studio. Hands-on with Denys James and Erdoğan Güleç: Forming, decoration. Visits to special pottery studios in Avanos. Excursion to Göreme and Open Air (Unesco World Heritage) Museum: underground churches and frescoes. Excursion to Ihlara river valley, moderate hiking, fish lunch, Selime monastery and cave frescoes. Visit of an old Caravanserai and the underground city of Kaymaklı. Horse & cart trip and walking in Rose valley: Cave chapels and frescoes. Special dinner at restaurant.
Day 17 - Free day in Cappadocia region.
Day 18 - Return flight to Istanbul.
Day 19 - Mehmet Kutlu, final studio activities. Free time.
Day 20 - Free time, shopping, visits to more Istanbul sites. Suggestions: Spice Bazaar, Rüstem Paşa Mosque, Grand Bazaar, Topkapı Palace.
Day 21 - Depart Istanbul or optional add-ons.
See pictures of our beautiful accommodations in Turkey.
Read a past participant's Rave Review
Travel Diary: JOURNEYS THROUGH TURKEY
A Discovery Art Travel diary written by our local assistant and translator Ann Hazinedar
Map of Turkey to follow.
Text and photos by Denise Okan and Denys James