The role of silk in history
It is a know fact the silk industry has played a significant part in the lives of many a nation since the times of Antiquity. This industry has acquired more importance as it reached our day. Silk and spices deriving from the Far East always enjoyed a remarkable role in international relations. Silk has also enabled the west to get acquainted with the East. This was initiated primarily by merchants traveling in both directions.
The Egyptians followed by the Romans, purchased silk from the Chinese and it began to be used by Westerners as early as 753 B.C.
Studies reveal that it was the monks who first brought cocoons to Byzantium from China in the year 555 A.D.; the cocoon trade spread from Byzantium to Greece and from there to Italy, Spain and France from the 7th Century onward.
The historical silk road
This ancient trade route linking China to the West originated in Xi'an; it was actually a caravan route and played an important part in the exchange of both goods and thought between the two great civilizations of the time, China and Rome. The most important point of convergence of this 6.400 km long road was Kashgar.
The caravans of merchants either followed the road leading to the Caspian Sea by passing through the Afghan valleys, or climbed the Karakorum Mountains and arrived in Anatolia via Iran. From Anatolia, the caravans proceeded to Europe either by sea or by the Silk Road that passed through the Thrace Region. In the Time of the Mongolians in the 13th and 14th centuries. Marco Polo took the Silk Road to reach China. Even Today, the Silk Road offers an extraordinary variety of historic and cultural riches It still bears the marks of cultures, religions and races of 2000 years standing. This majestic trade route spans two continents. Its vastness, harsh geographical structure and mysteries still bear traces of man's struggle with nature during his long and strenuous journeys.
The Anatolian silk road itinerary
The caravan routes transporting silk, china, paper, spices and precious stones from one continent to the other followed several itineraries in Asia before arriving in Anatolia, which served as a bridge linking it to Europe via the Thrace region. These caravan routes later acquired the name of silk roads and Anatolia constituted the crossroad of these routes. The major cities lying on the Silk Road Anatolia were, in the north: Trabzon, Gümüshane, Erzurum, Sivas, Tokat, Amasya, Kastamonu, Adapazari, Izmit, Istanbul and Edirne; and in the south: Mardin, Diyarbakir, Adiyaman, Malatya, Kahramanmaras, Kayseri, Nevsehir, Konya, Isparta, Antalya and Denizli. Another frequently used itinerary is know to be the one between Erzurum, Malatya, Kayseri, Kirsehir, Ankara, Bilecik, Bursa, Iznik, Izmit and Istanbul.
Apart from this land connection, sea routes were also used. In the Black Sea: The road from the north passed over Batum to Trabzon, Sinop, Istanbul, Bursa, Gallipoli and reached Venice; and in the Mediterranean, it extended from Syria to Antakya, Antalya, Izmir, Foca and from there to Europe.
The Seljuks, assuring the flow of goods from the East via Anatolia, added to the wealth of their nation by taking certain precautions that kept trade lively. They signed trade agreements with foreign states and guaranteed their trade partners against any possible theft or other losses suffered during these journeys. It was again the Seljuks who first established the State insurance System to safeguard commercial life and to stimulate trade by cuts in customs taxes.
Inns and Caravanserais built along the Silk Road shouldered Important tasks within this active medium. Appearing as fortresses on remote roads, these edifices with their elaborate stone ornaments and accurate space designs also bore great importance from the architectural aspect. Apart from meeting all requirements of travelers as a foundation, they also assured travel and trade safety, provided social solidarity for lodgers' a market for merchants to sell their merchandise, as well as bases facilitating the supply of food and ammunition for the army during its campaigns. These Caravanserais were built at a distance of 30-40 kilometers from one another, to be covered in 8-10 hours on foot. Regardless of their religion, language or race, travelers were accommodated and catered to for three days in these caravanserais, their animals were taken care of and fed, and the sick were cured, all at the expense of the foundation.
The silk road project
After the Turkic Republics in Central Asia acquired their independence, the idea was raised to revive the Silk Road both as a trade route and as a cultural and historical heirloom with the aim of restoring the inns and caravanserais to meet present day requirements. The Ministry of Tourism is planning to reactivate the Silk Road on which these unique examples of our cultural heritage still stand. This project aims at creating a contemporary tourism movement by transforming the Silk Road, extending from the Adriatic to the Pacific, into a route of love, peace and brotherhood.
In 1997 a group of explorers walked on the Silk Road trying to imitate ancient caravans with their camels, it took them around 14 months to travel from China to Turkey.