The Silk Road,
or Long Road (Uzun Yol),
is the historic system of caravan
trails through Turkey,
Persia (Iran), India and China
that allowed trade
to prosper and cultures to come in
contact over the centuries.
The journeys and conquests of Alexander
the Great probably
created the Silk Road. Where armies
march, merchants quickly follow.
After their Parthian campaigns, the Romans developed
a liking for silk, and fostered trade
along the route.
The Byzantines loved
the luxuries of the orient, and did
what they could to keep them coming.
Turks did even better,
improving roads and building hundreds
of beautiful caravanserais to
encourage trade with the east.
The Mongol Empire unified
the lands of the Silk Road and made
movement easier. The government developed
a sophisticated "pony
express" (ulak) system
which allowed important messages and
persons to travel between Europe and
China quickly and safely.
Marco Polo took advantage
of the caravans and the Pax
Mongolicus to go from Venice to Mongolia and China
in 1271, repeating the journey several
times in following years.
With the rise of the Ottoman
Empire, trade flourished
as soon as Ottoman power secured
all of Anatolia and
its surrounding waters. Much of
the commerce moved to the sea.
What's left of the Silk Road? The
most prominent part is that which runs
between Konya and Cappadocia.
The caravan path has been covered by
the modern macadam highway, but many
of the Seljuk
The Karatay Han, for example,
is among the most beautiful Seljuk
Turkish caravanserais and a major
stopping-point along the Silk
The Sultan Han, on the
road between Aksaray and Konya, is
the largest Seljuk
Most caravanserais are ruined, a few
have been restored, and all are worth
seeing as reminders of when the world
was much larger, and travel much more
difficult and adventurous, than it