About Turkey

Coming in gallop from far Asia stretched forward like a mare‘s head into Mediterranean Sea – this is our country
This is the way Nazim Hikmet described Turkey and a look on the map shows you immediately that the country is surrounded on three sides by the sea: The Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the west coast, the Eastern Mediterranean Sea in the south and the Black Sea in the north. There is only one small physical connection to Europe: the two impressive brigdes across the Bosphorus, connecting european and asian parts of Istanbul. It is hardly surprising that sea side resorts like Antalya, Bodrum or Kusadasiare very popular with tourists from Europe. This may lead you to believe Turkey is very much oriented on the sea. You couldn’t be more wrong: “Anadolu”, the anatolian high central plateau is where turkish culture is rooted. The soul of the country is to be found in the green pastures of the hinterland, where shepards still move their herds with the seasons.
This is why you shouldn’t be surprised that the Turkish Republic chose Ankara as the capital. The city is located centrally in Anatolia. For travellers, the city offers some interesting sights and attractions, the most imporant ones being the Museum of Anatolian Culture and the Mausoleum of Ataturk.
Istanbul is Turkey’s prime attraction, however; it has the most beautiful mosques and palaces of the country, it has Byzantine churches and Roman temples. Without fear of exageration one can say that Istanbul’s claim to the title of Eternal city is as justified as Rome’s
Cappadocia is another great sight: it is both a natural wonder and the result of human inventiveness. Soft volcanic rock formed a landscape of bizarre beauty, but it was man who made their homes, churches, shops and courtrooms in them. All of these are decorated in a highly original style.
In the East of Anatolia you find the strange rock statues at Nemrut Dagiwhich could remind you of the Easter Island, as well as ancient cities like Van, located on lake Van, and Dogubayazit.
Which such a diversity of sights, Turkey is a wonderful destination for any traveler.

istanbul

I have been travelling around a bit and have seen quite a few big cities with a long history in and around old Canada: Berlin, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon, Cairo and so many others. But there is one city that makes me coming back again and again – for more than 10 years now: Istanbul, the city on the straits, the city connecting two continents.
No matter how and from which side you approach the city, from Yesilköy by airport bus or taxi, by train to the European train station Sirkeci or by ship through the Dardanelles: the moment will come when on the horizon the scenery of the peninsula will raise, the skyline of the mighty mosques. Believe me when I say, this is a moment you will never ever forget! Or as the poet says: Istanbulu dinliyorum, gözlerim kapali – I am listening to Istanbul, while having my eyes closed.

The Bosphorus
It is really worth to make a daytrip along the Bosphorus, the straits that separates Europe from Asia. Traditionally the shores on both sides of the channel are exclusive residential areas, with old ottoman style villas and 19th century palaces with beautiful gardens.
As soon as you walk along the shores some men will offer “special bosphorus trips” with small boats or yachts. These tours aren’t bad offers at all, they show you fantastic views and stops, but normally they are quite expensive. What you should do with a smaller wallet is to take for some 5$ a regular ferry boat of the commuter traffic and you will see as much as you would see with the far mor expensive touristic ships!
On both sides of the Bosphorus, Sultan Mehmet Fatih, the conqueror, has built two fortresses in the middle of 15th century: Rumeli Hisar, the “Roman Castle”, and Anadolu Hisar, the “Anatolian Castle”. With the help of those he was able to control the traffic through the Bosphorus and stop the supply for the besiegeed Constantinopel.
Today you can go there by bus or by boat. It`s a popular place to go for a walk. Sometimes there are also concerts and party-events.

Asian Part
There is a local idiom which states that Istanbul is spread out upon two continents. Even the slogan of the advertising campaign for Istanbul in the competition to host the 2000 Olympics read, “Meet where the continents meet.” I believe there is some truth in the phrase “Istanbul is spread out on two continents” in real terms – Istanbul accommodates two very different cities on the European and Asian sides, and the difference is not limited to the area codes of the telephones.
When you board a boat at Eminönü or Karaköy and cross over to Kadiköy you will be surprised by the transformation not only in geographical, physical and architectural terms, but also in cultural terms. The cultural level of Kadiköy residents appears to be above that of the average of the population of Istanbul in general. Kadiköy also accommodates higher numbers of university graduates than any other district of Istanbul. It seems that more writers, artists and intellectuals (real or pseudo) prefer living in Kadiköy, such as the renowned pop singer and television presenter Baris Manco who recently died, who lived in Moda, Kadiköy.

Kadiköy is a large district and accommodates different life styles. You can observe the nouveau rich as you move east from the harbour to Bagdat Caddesi, which is a place to see as well as to be seen. It is almost a comical pleasure to watch the foreign brand fanatics displaying proudly their brand clothes and shoes, or people showing off their recently acquired cars. Equally interesting is to see the abundance of cell phones that almost everybody – from the thirteen year old school girl to the seventy year old grandmother – seems to need even for a short walk to the corner store.
If you are a newcomer to Istanbul or if this is your first trip to Kadiköy, after you alight the boat, I suggest you to stay in the vicinity. Walk to the traffic lights and cross the road, keep walking alongside the old council building and then walk across another road where the main post office is on the corner and you will see the fine intersecting streets, which are normally closed to cars. This area is known as Kadiköy Çarsisi. It is a really cool place with its old buildings and some beautiful churches, shops, greengrocers, bakers, open fish markets, pubs that offer inexpensive beer and mussels, bookshops, restaurants and internet cafes. In this area there are also a number of shopping arcades. Akmar Pasaji, which is the most popular among these, is frequented by heavy metal followers such as Metallica and Iron Maiden fans. Here, you will also find second-hand record and book shops, which sell not only the second-hand originals, but also bootleg copies.
If you feel tired or hungry, there are a number of inviting cafes and restaurants with terraces or gardens, which offer tasty home-style meals, run by friendly middle class Turkish women. These women have not only broken the traditionally male dominated eating-out sector, but also have started to recapture our eating culture from the hands of the hairy, moustached eastern entrepreneurs.

European Part
The European side of Istanbul again is divided into two parts by an estuary with a width about 500 metres; so the southern part – that some call Stamboul – is a penisular and the very oldest part of the European side. This is the old Byzantium, or in Roman times Constantinople (the city of Emperor Constantin). Here you can find the seven hills with the most spectacular sights:
– palaces , since Mehmet the Conqueror this is the palace of the ottoman Sultans.
– churches , the 1500 years old church, a dome-shaped building that became a model for countless mosques all over the world.
– the great mosques (Sultan Ahmet Cami), with its wonderful tiled inside and the huge pilars, called elephant’s feet.
– In between the Blue Mosque and Haghia Sophia the roman Hippodrome, place of chariot-races in ancient times.
– 100 metres from there you can enter the roman time with hundreds of columns. With music and artificial fog an eerie athmosphere!
For all that you should not forget to have enough time! Haghia Sophia or Topkapi Palace can take hours if one is really interested in it!
The northern part of the European side is the old Italian, in newer times the European city. Nevertheless it has today a great Turkish athmosphere. The pedestrian precinct on the Istiklal Caddesi (the Boulevard of Independence) is one of the most powerfull areas in the hole city: day and night!
While this part was called in earlier times Pera, it is known today as Beyoglu. It is really charming to have a ride on the historical “tramvay” but – as always in Istanbul – it is rewarding to stroll around.

Antalya
Although many people come to Antalya just for the beaches and the fun associated with them, the city has lots more to offer. Like many other Turkish cities, it dates back to Greek and Roman times and has a few sights to prove it. The Kale, the Ottoman citadel, is the nicest part of town. Narrow alleys, old timbered houses, stone archways, and private gardens. The old harbour (Yat Limani) is now a marina with modern yachts and very nice to spend a evening outside, having a meal or a drink next to the sea.
Due to the fact that Antalya is a real tourist center, there is a great infrastructue, many restaurants, shops, disco’s etc. There is no need to get bored here. The old harbour is also the place for many open air events and concerts during the summer.
Their are many excellent daytrips to be made from Antalya. The ancient sites of Aspendos , Perge , Phaselis , Termessos are all within a distnace of 50 kilometers.

Kusadasi
A foaming sea, good beaches and over 300 days of sunshine a year…. no wonder Kusadasi has grown into one of Turkey’s major sea-resorts. The ancient ruins of the fortress and its gates are a reminder of the impact the Ottomans had on the city at the beginning of the 15th century. These days, you’ll still see old houses in narrow streets altered with more fashionable streets, such as the ‘Barlak Sokak’, the place to go to when you’re looking for restaurants and entertainment when the sun sets over the palm-lined boulevard of this harbour town.
The Pigeon Island (just off the coast) offers the ruins of a Byzantine castle (better known as the Pirate Castle) and some good views of the coastal town itself. Originally, the island was named ‘Bird Island’ but when the Ottomans decided to name the city like that (Kusadasi means Bird Island), the island was renamed Pigeon Island.
From Kusadasi, ferries leave to and fro Italy or one of the Greek islands – there are daily ferries for Samos in summer. But before you rush off, Kusadasi is also an excellent city from which to explore impressive historical sights including Miletos and Ephesus and the rock formations at Pamukale. \

Ankara
Ankara is a very old city; but it does not have a lot to show for that fact. Founded in 2 000 BC the city gained its modern prominence only in 1923 when it became the capital of Turkey.
The most interesting part of Ankara is in Ulus, the old part of town. Ulus is built on two hills, so the streets are winding ans steep, which gives the place a nice character.
The main sight is the Kale, the fortress overlooking Ulus. Around town you will find a few remains of Roman times, esp. the Augustus tempel, which became famous with historians because of the ‘Monumentum Ancyranum’, the legacy of emperor Augustus. Ancyra, by the way, is the name of Ankara in ancient times. Next to the tempel ruin you will find the tomb of Haci Bayram Pasha and probably some pilgrims saying prayers in front of one window – the holy man is still very popular amongst Anatolian population.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is another highlight; it is one of the best museums of the country and should not be missed by anyone with an interest in the history of Turkey.
Izmir
“Beautiful Izmir” — the “Pearl of the Aegean” — is Turkey’s third largest city and second most important port. A city of palm-lined promenades, avenues and green parks set in sweeping curves along a circular bay, Izmir has an exceptionally mild climate and many fine hotels. The city is a busy commercial and industrial center as well as the gateway to the Aegean Region. Turkey’s Aegean shores are among the loveliest landscapes in the country. The magnificent coastline, lapped by the clear water of the Aegean Sea, abounds in vast and pristine beaches surrounded by olive groves, rocky crags and pine woods. Dotted with idyllic fishing harbors, popular holiday villages, and the remains of ancient civilizations, this region offers an exceptionally attractive venue for meetings, incentives and conferences.
Izmir is also a good starting point to explore the many sights in the region. The city itself is of course absolutely worth a visit.
Konak Square and Konak street are the best points to start your visit. The famous clocktower, symbol of the city, is on Konak as is the Asansor – the elevator used to transport goods from the harbour to the Halil Rifat quarter.
Bodrum
Bodrum is a mainly known for its nightlife on the Aegean Coast. One of Turkey’s best known and longest established resorts, the town is known for its lively port, good beaches, and colorful nightlife. During the day, yachting, boating, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving are the main diversions. Bodrum is a good place to arrange for a boat trip to neighboring islands and secluded beaches for sunning and snorkeling. At night, bars, pubs, clubs and discos rock late into the night.
One of Bodrum’s great attractions is shopping. The main bazaar area lies in the pedestrian precinct at the foot of the castle and the narrow streets are packed with little shops selling a huge variety of local goods and specialties. For gold at excellent prices, try Burak Jewellery, which has two branches in town.
Few of the tourists who flock in realize when they book that Bodrum used to house one of the seven wonders of the world. Now you may still find beaches and nightlife more important, but this area has a lot of history adn it would be a waste to leave Bodrum without having seen some of it. Bodrum is a great place to explore the cultural richness of the region.

Canakkale
Canakkale is situated on the part of the Dardanelles known as ‘the Narrows’ as it is the narrowest part of Dardanelles being just over a kilometre across. The Dardanelles is the stretch of water that separates Europe from Asia and links the Aegean Sea to the south with the Sea of Marmara to the north.
Somewhere here Alexander the Great has crossed the straits on his campaign against the Persian Emperor. It’s handed down that he gave order to beat the waves to show them their master is coming to cross the sea.
Nowadays many travellers (also from New Zealand) come to Canakkale to visit the World War One Gallipoli battlefields where in 1915 the German Liman von Sanders and Mustafa Kemal Pasha, later better known as Atatürk, defended the coast against the allies. During this campaign more than 250.000 soldiers lost their life. Many of them are burried at the cemeteries of the vicinity.
Another hotspot nearby is the ancient city of Troy. Here is the place to see and feel that people have been living in this land continously since 3000 B.C.!

Fethiye
Fethiye is a pretty town at the hillsides of the Mount Mendos, the part of the Tourus Mountain chains, and surrounds the bay that it has given its name to.
The high mountain range formed by rises and falls of the crust during the Tertiary Geological Period, and hundreds of bays lying at the mountainside seem to embrace each other along the Fethiye shore line. This mountain range (it was called the Kragos and Antikragos in the antique period) with an altitude of more than 6560 feet (2000m.) forms the southwest end of the Toros (Taurus) chain and lies parallel to the shore without a single passage to the inner regions.
On a warm and sunny winter day, peculiar to the Mediterranean climate while you are sipping at your Turkish tea or Turkish coffee, at one of the local tea gardens, along the coast, these mountains with pine trees at their skirts, white snow and mist on their summits will once more welcome you to heaven.
Dry, long, hot summers and short, warm, rainy winters are climatic characteristics of Fethiye . The temperature which is around 86-105 F (30-40 C) during the summer, is usually above 50 F (10 C) in the winter. Considering the fact that in these turquoise-colored seas that in no season falls below 60 F (16 C) swimming is possible for nine months of the year, we might as well conclude that there are only two seasons in Fethiye : Spring and Summer!
Due to the prevailing climatic conditions in the region, pine forests consisting of silver fir, Scotch fir, and Norway spruce cover the place. Olive, laurel, myrtle, acacia, plane tree, and popular trees are some other types that you can find in this rich flora. The frankincense tree (Liquidamber Orientalis) which is the source of myrrh widely used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, is among the rare species in the world.
You could have a comfortable journey to Fethiye by the three highways through the pine forests, with connections to Mugla, Antalya and Burdur. Scheduled bus trips in all three directions provide the link between Fethiye and other cities. The nearest center for air travel is the Dalaman Airport 31 miles (50 kms.) to Fethiye. In addition to the year round Istanbul – Izmir – Ankara and Antalya connected flights of Turkish Airlines, there are direct flights to all major cities in Europe, Asia and America. During the touristic season, Fethiye’s having the fourth largest seaport after Iskenderun, Mersin and Antalya provides great ease of marine travel. The naturally protected harbour is a drop-by place for all yacht crews.

Side
Side (pronounced ‘see day’)
is situated on the Mediterranean coast approximately 75 kilometers from one of Turkey’s largest cities’ Antalya. This unique seaside resort lies on a small, flat peninsula which is 300 meters wide and 800 meters long and is just packed to the brim with archaeological wonders and surrounded on both sides by the deep, blue water of the Med. At certain points along the main street that runs through the centre and down to the quaint fishing harbour, you can look between the buildings and streets and see the sea on either sides.
Side was once an important commercial town. With its large merchant fleet it traded with the countries of the eastern and western Mediterranean and served as a port for many parts of inner Turkey. Side was a slave market from which African slaves were sold and also a center for piracy. After this period, Side turned to legitimate commerce and still prospered.
Whilst Side has become extremely popular with European and Turkish holidaymakers alike, it has managed to retain its ‘quaintness’ and authenticity. Due to its abundance of archaeological treasures, all the architecture in the old part of Side is of a certain style – pretty, two – storey stone buildings with varnished, wooden balconies all along the labyrinth of narrow, winding alleyways.
Side has just everything you could want. For the culture – vulture there is obviously a treasure chest of ancient history all around which includes: The Amphitheatre dating back to Hellenistic period and is one of the largest in Turkey seating approximately 15,000 people; The Roman Temples of Apollo and Artemis; The City Gates; Aqua ducts and Museum. One of the most enjoyable experiences is walking through these ruins at night when all are illuminated.

Pamukale
spectacular – a must see. Pamuk means cotton in Turkish and Kale fortress, so the name means Cotton Fortress. The white waterfall is indeed a lot like a huge cotton castle.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.