Turkey

Bodrum Turkey by CC user pictureclara on Flickr

Introduction

Standing at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East, Turkey is a melting pot that has simmered and baked over the eons, producing a nation that has become one of the world’s greatest experiences for those seeking historical landmarks, excellent cuisine, and rich displays of culture.

From the ancient Hittite empire, to the mighty Greeks and Romans, the Byzantines and the Ottomans, this nation’s strategic location between West and East has made it a prized territory over centuries and millennia.

The empires that have ruled over it during their allotted periods of time have left behind spectacular remnants of their presence, from cathedrals to ruins and even houses carved out of the rocky landscape of the interior, making touring around this spacious nation a pure joy.

These days, Turkey is a Muslim majority nation, but one that is moderate in its application of its faith to the laws of the land, unlike many of its neighbours in the Middle East.  As such, this country is a favoured sun destination for much of the year, and parties in tourist centres can veer towards the legendary.

With its close association with Europe, but its Asiatic influence, Turkey is an ideal introduction to the Asian continent, as it blends a well-developed tourist infrastructure with the intoxicating exoticism of Middle Eastern and Arabic architecture and cultural mores.  Whatever your reason for venturing here for the first time, it likely won’t be your last visit to this fascinating country.

Currency: Turkish Lira

Languages: Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic

Balloons in Cappadocia by CC user atbaker on Flickr

What To Do

Unless you are travelling overland from other Middle Eastern countries, you will likely begin your Turkic explorations in Istanbul.  Known as Constantinople in the heyday of the Byzantine Empire, this city has stood the test of time for countless generations, as it has served as a central travel hub for traditional land and water trade routes over that time.

One of the greatest monuments that the Byzantines built during their rule was the Hagia Sophia, an Eastern Orthodox cathedral that served as a mosque during the rule of the Ottoman Turks.  Today, it serves as a museum, with the architectural features of the building (chandeliers, mosaics, stone columns, marble edifices, etc) largely speaking for themselves.

In the arid central plains of Turkey, the Anatolia region hosts some of the more ancient artifacts of human settlement in the world.  This is borne out in what is known as the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, which are houses that locals carved out of spire-like rock formations thousands of years ago. Be sure to arrange a hot air balloon ride before leaving this area.  Despite the expense, cold air, and the super early wake time, it will be an image that will be etched in your mind forever!

As mentioned earlier, many civilizations has risen here, or seized and possessed this intensely desired nation, conveniently laid across one of the most utilized overland trade routes in the world at that time.  The earliest rulers of this region were the Hittites, and aspects of their empire can still be found at Hattuşaş, which was their capital until about 1000 B.C., when they were overrun by the Phrygians.

More impressive are the ruins of Troy and Ephesus, established by the Greeks and taken over later by the Romans.  These cities were destroyed and rebuilt upwards of nine times, but the rise of Constantinople is what eventually doomed them both, causing these places to slip into obsolescence due to the shift in commercial and political importance to this eventual megacity.

Pamukkale, Turkey by CC user 47096398@N08 on Flickr

One of the most beguiling sights in the world in contained within Turkey, but it is a relaxing one. Pamukkale Hot Springs, a geothermal curiosity made famous for its series of terraces formed by calcium carbonate rich water flowing out of the ground.  Most of the pools are closed to the public due to overuse eroding many of the terraces, but a few remain open for your bathing pleasure.

For those looking to get active on their Turkish vacation, this nation’s location on the Eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has granted some of the most incredible looking beaches in the region.  Those looking for non-stop action should head straight to Antalya or Oludeniz, while those seeking peace and quiet will enjoy Cirali better.

If you arrive during winter, Turkey has some amazing skiing that flies under the radar, due to its Middle Eastern location.  Head to the steep slopes of the eastern sectors of the country, where Erzurum boasts soaring mountain views, and long days of shredding where the only tracks you’ll cross on some runs may be your own!

Adana Kebap at Öz Urfa by CC user bulle_de on Flickr

What To Eat

Turkish cuisine tends to be simple, but it is that simplicity that makes many of its meals so brilliant.  Start with breakfast, where Menemen, a favourite offering in this country, combines scrambled eggs with tomatoes, onions, and green peppers.

There are many types of kebap that one can have in Turkey, but a well-liked variant tends to be Adana Kebap, where one takes meat and minces it, grills it on a skewer over a flame while seasoning it with chili powder, and then served it underneath pide bread.

After such a filling meal, still, one cannot walk away from a meal in Turkey without some Turkish Delight, a delightful sweet that is the pride of the nation.  It is made by binding rosewater and sugar with dates, pistachios and/or hazelnuts in a gelatinous bind.  One bite, and you’ll surely be hooked!

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