Several months ago, as I was indulging in a favorite pastime (planning purely theoretical, budgetless vacations in the pages of Condé Nast Traveler), I came upon a photograph of a beach in southwestern Turkey. It was a beautiful sandy gorge flanked by steep walls of golden rock, but it was the water—the impossibly azure Mediterranean Sea—that kept me from turning the page.
It’s a landscape you would expect to find on Mars. A high Anatolian plateau, guarded at its reaches by a series of extinct volcanoes. A collection of rose-colored valleys and pinnacles of stone, carved by water and wind over millions of years. And entire cities built directly into—and underneath—soft deposits of volcanic rock.
Each year, travel enthusiasts and amateur photographers come together to compete in the mother of all photography competitions—Condé Nast Traveler’s Dream Trip Contest. On the line? A $25,000 dream trip to the destination of your choice. So imagine my thrill and surprise this morning when I woke up to discover that my photograph—taken this summer in Göreme, Turkey—is one of 25 finalists out of more than 17,000 entries.
In 324 A.D., mere months after becoming the sole ruler of the eastern and western Roman Empire, Constantine I began making plans for a new imperial residence on the Bosphorus Strait. Within six years, Constantine’s New Rome—or Constantinople—would become the capital of the eastern Roman Empire. And this flourishing epicenter of culture and Christianity would serve as one of the emperor’s most lasting accomplishments.