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“Turkey for Connoisseurs”


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Basic facts about Turkey


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THE LAND NOW occupied by the Turks and known as the Republic of Turkey has always been at the crossroads of civilization. It straddles two continents—Europe and Asia—and is bordered by three seas, the Black, Aegean, and Mediterranean. Its land mass consists of a high plateau supported by two mountain ranges, the Pontus and the Taurus.


Turkey’s neighbors are Bulgaria, Greece, Armenia, Georgia, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. According the National Geographic its population is 72,907,000 and it occupies 300,948 square miles (somewhat smaller than Texas and Louisiana combined). Its currency is the Turkish lira and its religion Muslim (about 60% Sunni). The largest cities in Turkey are Istanbul, more than 9 million; its capitol Ankara, 3+ million; Izmir, 2.4 million; Bursa, 1.2 million; and Adana 1.2 million.


This young democracy, founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) prides itself on its secular government and struggles to maintain its equilibrium in the face of enormous pressures from its neighbors. But such struggles are nothing new for ancient Anatolia, which as been occupied from at least the seventh millennium B.C. The Hittites, Phrygians, Lydians, Assyrians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Armenians and Kurds—to name just a few—have all left their mark on Anatolia.


THIS HISTORY MAKES it a remarkable place to visit, for there are ruins everywhere, many of them still in remote and barely examined sites. Here the Trojan war was fought and the golden fleece was sought. Early Christians found refuge among the caves of Cappadocia and medieval crusaders crossed its mountains on their way to the holy land. Santa Claus was born on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, and a church dedicated to him still stands.


It is a country where a fast-driven Mercedes can be slowed by a lumbering camel or overloaded motorbike, and where millions of tourists descend each year for a few brief weeks of sunbathing on the beaches or exploring the coastline in the gulets and charter boats that ply the turquoise seas. We never hesitate to recommend Turkey as a destination—preferably for a stay long enough to allow exploration of not just the beaches, but the interior.


The people are friendly, the transportation more than adequate, the history and ruins glorious and extensive. And the food is delicious.

Gocek, Turkey