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Quick Facts at a Glance
Capital: Ankara
Languages Spoken: Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Armenian, Greek
Major Religion: Islam
Currency: Turkish Lira
Population: 76,667,864 (2013 census)
The nation of Turkey bridges the continents of Asia and Europe. Although just a small part of Turkey is considered European, its biggest city, Istanbul is located right here. The country has been a deserving candidate for the title of 'the world's melting pot'―you'll see shards of Greece in their cuisine, a hint of India in their language, a touch of Persia in their designs, all of which amalgamate into a gorgeous fusion that is Turkish culture.
Listing facts about a nation as historically significant as Turkey can indeed go on forever. Therefore, we're giving you a basic insight into the most interesting aspects pertaining to their history, culture, and lifestyle.
Geography and History
The nation of Turkey resembles a transcontinental bridge; the one that connects Asia and Europe. 97% of the landmass made up mostly of Anatolia is Asian, with the Bosphorus River separating it from the European Balkans.
The country is roughly rectangular in shape, bordered by eight nations―Greece to the west; Iran, Azerbaijan, and Armenia to the east; Iraq and Syria to the south; Georgia to the northeast; and Bulgaria to the northwest.
The Mediterranean Sea lies in the south, with the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea towards the west and the north, respectively.
Map of Turkey
Map of the Republic of Turkey
Human inhabitation in Turkey goes back to the Paleolithic age, which included the Ionian Greeks, Thracians, and the Anatolians.
Alexander the Great's conquest left a distinct Greek impression on the country's culture. This was followed by centuries of Roman rule, and finally, the transformation into the Byzantine Empire.
The Ottomans rulers created a massive empire in the region since the 13th century. The Ottomans sided the Central Powers during WWI―a time which also witnessed major atrocities being committed by the Turks against Armenians (the infamous Armenian Genocide), Assyrians, and Greeks.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk rose to prominence during the decade following WWI. He led the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1922) which resulted in the establishment of the modern Republic of Turkey in 1923.
Atatürk became the first president of the Republic of Turkey―his name, bestowed by the citizens translates to "Father of the Turks". His leadership brought about a sea change in the political, economic, and cultural landscape of the nation.
Portrait of Ataturk on Turkish Lira
Portrait of Atatürk on Turkish Lira
He is commemorated by several memorials throughout Turkey, including the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul, the Atatürk Bridge over the Golden Horn (Haliç), and the Atatürk Dam. His portrait can be seen in all public buildings, educational institutions, on the local currency, and even in the homes of many Turkish families.
Historical Landmarks
The site of the Trojan Wars―the ancient city of Troy is located in West Turkey. It is regarded as the most famous archaeological site in the world, being associated with literary works of Homer (The Iliad) and Virgil (The Aeneid).
Several scientists and scholars harbor the belief that the landing place of Noah's ark is situated in present-day Turkey. It is determined that the specific location of the ark's landing is in the Mountains of Ararat.
St Peters church in Antakya
St. Peter's Church in Antakya
It is believed that the first Christian church was built in Turkey. The structure is located in Antakya, and is known as Saint Peter's Church.
The Virgin Mary was known to have spent her last days in Ephesus, western Turkey. Ephesus is also home to the Basilica of St. John, understood to be the burial site of John the Apostle.
Mount Nemrut
Mount Nemrut
Mount Nemrut, located in southwestern Turkey is another oft-visited archaeological site, home to the mausoleum of Antiochus I (69-34 B.C.). It is considered to be a landmark construction of the Hellenistic period. Found here is a rather unique pantheon, depicting the assimilation of Zeus with Oromasdes (the Iranian god Ahuramazda), and Heracles with Artagnes (the Iranian god Verathragna)―a fine confluence of Greek, Persian, and Anatolian aesthetics.
Urban Turkey
Many mistakenly assume Istanbul to be the capital of the Republic of Turkey. The actual honor goes to Ankara, which has been the seat of the Turkish government ever since the Turkish War of Independence (1923). The Anatolian city is a bustling metropolis with historical sites, shopping arenas, along with some rather colorful nightlife.
Ankara skyline
Ankara's skyline
With all the talk revolving around urban Turkey, Istanbul can't remain out of the picture for too long. Constantinople, as it was once known as, was named after the Roman emperor, Constantine. As Rome began to fall, he chose to shift the base of power to Istanbul.
A trip to the Republic of Turkey is never complete without a visit to Istanbul. This is one of the oldest cities in the world, and its inherent charm is sure to leave you mesmerized long after you've left.
Blue Mosque in Istanbul
Blue Mosque in Istanbul
Istanbul's highlights include the Galata Bridge, Maiden's Tower, the museums at Topkapi Palace and Aya Sofya, and the beautiful Blue Mosque known for its six minarets.
The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar
Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is an experience of a lifetime. Hailed as one of the oldest markets in the world, this massive shopping complex is estimated to have approximately 64 streets and 4000 shops, with 25,000 people working here.
Turkish Nom Noms
The 'melting pot' aspect we mentioned before is clearly evident in Turkish cuisine. The universally-loved baklava (layered filo dough filled with chopped walnuts or pistachios, cinnamon, and sugar, covered in honey syrup) is a decadent indulgence, but you've got to try the lokum, also known as Turkish Delight. This delightful dessert comes in the form of a flavored gelatinous cubes dusted with powdered sugar or desiccated coconut.
Lokum or Turkish Delight
Lokum or Turkish Delight
Turkish main course dishes mostly center around meat, cooked in an infusion of local spices. Popular grub includes doner kebabs, hünkar beğendi (lamb stew with eggplant curry), and yes, lots of yogurt-based soups and gravies.
Turkish tea
Turkish tea served in a tulip-shaped glass
The Turkish may have single-handedly popularized coffee in Europe, but they are also a nation of dedicated tea drinkers. Turkish tea is locally produced (unlike coffee), and is consumed without milk. It is served in those delightful tulip-shaped glasses, accompanied with lots of sugar cubes.
Random Facts About Turkey
Aesop, Homer, and St. Paul the Apostle were born in Turkey, along with St. Nicholas, known to many as Santa Claus.
Think tulips, and what springs to mind is the Keukenhof Garden in Holland. However, Turkish traders introduced these beautiful flowers to Europe in the 16th century.
Turkish Van
Turkish Van cat
All Turkish cities and towns are awash in cats. Turkey's love affair with felines is in line with Islamic lore which mentions the Prophet's affinity towards cats. The Turkish Angora and Turkish Van are cat breeds which originated in the region.
The famed Orient Express was a luxury passenger train on the Paris-Istanbul route. The express was instrumental in pioneering rail travel, coupled with unmatched opulence. Agatha Christie even based a Hercule Poirot novel on the journey―Murder on the Orient Express.
The Republic of Turkey has a little something for every kind of traveler―be it history, food, adventure sports, archeology, shopping, and even the nightlife. So what are you waiting for? Plan a trip, and plan it NOW.