Turkey is truly a melting pot of Eastern and Western cultures. Positioned between the Middle East and Southeastern Europe and bordering the Mediterranean Sea, the region was conquered down through the years by various empires including the Greeks, Romans, and Ottomans. Modern-day Turkey was established in 1923 from the wreckage of the fallen Ottoman Empire, and joined the United Nations at its founding in 1945. Today Turkey’s warm and inviting people welcome visitors to its beaches, mountains, historical sites, and all of the other attractions the country has to offer.
Climate and Landscapes
Bordering the Mediterranean, Turkey is naturally warmer than other European and Asian countries further north. The summers are hot and the winters mild, making it the perfect country for snow birds looking to escape harsh ice-filled winters. Some areas of Turkey receive more rainfall than others, specifically the coastal areas bordering the Black Sea.
Turkey is three times the size of the United Kingdom, yet with the varying landscapes and fauna of an entire continent. Not only is it larger than the UK, it also has more plant species, totaling over 10,000; these plants grow in peat bogs, coastal plains, steppes, and heathlands. A quarter of the landmass in Turkey is covered by forest, and half of the country is still comprised of undeveloped landscapes untouched by man.
Turkey’s position as the former center of multiple ancient empires has, understandably, made the locals proud of their country and heritage. The country is predominantly Islamic, although you’ll find varying degrees of interpretation throughout Turkey with some regions being more conservative, and others more liberal. Although the vast majority of the population practices the Islamic faith, Turkey has never declared a state religion and remains a firmly secular country.
Turkey is a blend of Western Asian and Southern European traditions and peoples. During the reign of the Ottoman Empire, there was a strict separation of classes and ethnicities, but the new Republic that emerged after the fall of the empire during WWI insisted on blending the masses together, creating a homogenized culture that nonetheless retained much of its provincial identity. Eschewing the colonial mindset that had dominated the country for over six hundred years, modern Turkey today is as diverse as the United States; some areas feel more like Mediterranean Europe, while others are almost identical to Turkey’s Middle Eastern neighbors.
Turkish cuisine is similar to Turkish culture in that it’s a diverse mixture of various elements that ultimately creates in a rich dish. The cuisine has been influence by Central Asian, Mediterranean, Caucasian, and Arabic flavors, resulting in many blended national and regional dishes. Beef is the primary meat of the country, although lamb is also popular, and common ingredients in Turkish dishes include lentils, beans, eggplant, rice, and bulgur wheat. If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll have better luck in bigger cities and in the northern part of the country; a meal isn’t considered a real meal in southern Turkey unless it includes meat.
Turkey is one of the best countries for lovers of history: the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottoman Turks all left behind remnants of their time as rulers of the country and surrounding areas. One of the best places to witness that history is in the Old City quarter of Istanbul, which is the commercial capital of Turkey today. The Old City, and Istanbul in general, was once known as Constantinople, former home of Charlemagne, King of the Franks. Here you will find not only beautiful antiquated architecture, such as the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, but also a thriving modern shopping scene in the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar has over 4,400 stalls lining the walkways of the marketplace, with local craftsmen and artisans selling their wares.
Outside of Istanbul there are, of course, the warm and delightful Mediterranean beaches along the coast. The beaches are warm and the waters a deep, clear turquoise that beckons visitors to play in their depths. If you prefer cooler weather, Turkey can also be your winter playground: skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports are popular in the mountain regions, with plenty of luxurious winter resorts where ski bunnies can find world-class accommodation and facilities. The many choices that Turkey offers a visitor is most evident in the town of Saklıkent, where occasionally it’s possible to ski in the morning and then descend a snow-covered mountain to the beach below to sunbathe and enjoy the ocean. Either way, snow or sun, Turkey has it all waiting for you!
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