This extraordinary journey begins in Istanbul, golden gateway to the Orient and a city that was once the centre of the Old World, as reflected by its long history. The Turkish metropolis once had sonorous names such as Constantinople and Byzanz. This gateway between Europe and Asia is not only the biggest city in Turkey, but also a melting pot of various cultures.
In 1453, the Hagia Sofia, one of the world’s most extraordinary churches, was transformed into a mosque by Sultan Mehmet and is now an impressive museum.
The Grand Basare is a city within a city and through a large gate there is a labyrinth of corridors that were built over many centuries. On the magnificent banks of the Bosporus the Dolmabahce Palace shines out, the city’s third largest sultan’s palace. Istanbul’s regal buildings are the most beautiful legacy of Osmanic architecture.
Next, a train journey from Istanbul to Damascus. The train slowly leaves Istanbul and travels into the night, our destination being the capital of Syria that is around three thousand kilometres away.
Cappadocia in Anatolia is known for some of the largest and most beautiful fairy chimneys – a name given to its strange rock formations in Cappadocia the sight of which was surely much appreciated by the first religious hermits who settled here inside the actual tuff cones.
We eventually arrive in Damascus, capital of Syria and symbol of culture in the Near East, a veritable ‘paradise on earth’ situated a hundred kilometres from the Mediterranean coast.
The train journey from Istanbul to Damascus has been tantamount to being a journey through the centuries. Slow, tranquil and intriguingly informative!