EVERY landscape of Turkey forms the backdrop and context for people and events, with perhaps the most thrilling aspect of travelling the ability to become an active participant in this landscape. As in all human interactions the basis is one of equality in the roles of host and guest. This defining mutual respect and a shared sense of responsibility as the guiding principle in an adventure where the parties involved are, by definition, different in their outlook and way of life. When Turks entered the tourism arena- that was not so long ago-, they were armed with a tradition of hospitality rather than sophisticated facilities or a mentality for providing service.
Although Turkey now has an excellent tourism infrastructure, the motivation of most Turks remains one of sincerity and courtesy. The desire of Turks to feel understood and valued, to communicate and learn about people from other lands is a much more important motivation. Interpret their enthusiasm to interact with you from this perspective. They prefer to make long-term acquaintances by spending time together, exchanging cards, letters and gifts rather than receive payment or large tips for any help granted. This attitude may change as the tourism industry develops further in the coming decades, and much still depends on the visitors, but for now the sweetness of the Turkish people is unspoiled.
Here are some tips about social graces and conduct which may be useful in interpreting the goings-on around you, helping you to enjoy your participation in this social landscape even more.
A dinner invitation to someone’s home is a special honour. At the dinner table it is customary for the hostess to offer additional servings many times and with great insistence. The guest is expected to accept the offer after several such offers. Dinners are leisurely affairs, to be savoured slowly along with the delicious home-cooked food. Sometimes, guests bring flowers or sweets to such occasions. During a typical after-dinner coffee, tea, candy, cookies, pastries and fruit are served.
AS a bridge between Europe and Asia, Turkey has so much to offer visitors: breathtaking natural beauty, unique historical and archaeological sites, steadily improving hotel and touristic infrastructure and a tradition of hospitality and competitive prices. Therefore, it is not surprising that Turkey has become one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations.
Due to Turkey’s diverse geography, one can experience four different climates in any one day. This rectangular-shaped country is bordered on three sides by three different seas. Its shores are laced with beaches, bays, coves, ports, islands and peninsulas. Turkey is also blessed with majestic mountains and valleys, lakes, rivers, waterfalls and caves perfect for winter and summer tourism as well as sports of all kinds. Fans of skiing, mountain climbers, trekkers, hikers and hunters can all enjoy new and unforgettable experiences in Turkey. The country is rich in hot springs, healing waters and mud baths, which are highly recommended by the medical authorities as a remedy for many diseases. But Turkey is above all a huge open-air museum, a repository of all the civilizations nurtured by the soils of Anatolia.
For example, Besides its great sights and monuments, Turkey offers unlimited opportunities for leisure and pleasure. Majestic mountains are ideal for climbers, hikers, skiers and paragliders. There are over 8000km of coastline laced with picturesque bays and coves offering not only unique spots for summer holidays but also exciting opportunities for scuba diving, sailing, parasailing and cruising.
Year-round sunshine destinations are accessible in Turkey, while there is plenty of snow in others. There is a solid and expanding tourism infrastructure, one of the world’s healthiest cuisines and an extremely hospitable people. Seniors, history-lovers, yachtsmen, mountaineers, young parents with toddlers and business people who look for new adventures can all find something special in Turkey.
TURKEY is a vast peninsula, covering an area of 780,000 sq km and linking Asia to Europe through the Sea of Marmara and the Straits of İstanbul and Çanakkale. It is characterized by a central plateau surrounded by chains of mountains to the north, west and south and a rugged mountainous region in the east with an average elevation of 1050 metres. The Northern Anatolia mountain range and the Taurus range in the south stretch like arcs, becoming ever denser in the east. In the west, however, the mountains descend gently towards the sea.
Turkey is like a mosaic made up of many different reliefs and formations: parallel mountain ranges, extinct volcanoes, plateaux fissured by valleys and plains.
Turkey is home to a number of ornamental flowers, the most notable being the tulip. Bulbs of these plants were brought to Vienna from İstanbul in the 1500s, beginning the craze for tulips in England and the Netherlands. By 1634 the interest in tulips had grown so intense that in Holland ‘tulipomania’ emerged, with individuals investing money in tulips as they do in high-tech stocks now. This period of elegance and amusement in 17th-century Turkey was also symbolized by this flower, giving the era the name ‘the Tulip Age’.
Surrounded by seas on three sides, it is placed in the temperate climate zone. The climate varies considerably from region to region, however: a temperate climate in the Black Sea region, a Mediterranean climate on the southern coast and the Aegean, a continental and arid climate on the central plateau, and a harsh mountain climate in eastern Turkey. Because of these variations in climate, the fauna and flora are some of the richest in the world. There are more than 10,000 species of plants in Turkey, 20% of which are endemic.
Turkey has a great variety of wild animals, with around 160 species of mammals. The forest belt to the north is home to grey bears, while the south is home to wild goats. Sea turtles and seals play in the waters of the Mediterranean and the Aegean. Just as in other parts of the world, some species have become extinct or are on the verge of extinction. There are 418 species of indigenous or migratory birds, some of which are extinct in Europe, such as the black vulture. The most important species for environmentalists is the ‘bald Ibis’, a peculiar bird with a bald pink head and drooping feathers.
If you take a cross-section along the east-west axis, you will encounter the rugged, snow-capped mountains where winters are long and cold; the highlands where the spring season with its rich wildflowers and rushing creeks extends into long, cool summers; the dry steppe with rolling hills, endless stretches of wheat fields and barren bedrock that take on the most incredible shades of gold, violet and cool and warm greys as the sun traverses the sky; the magical land of fairy chimneys and cavernous hillsides; and eventually the warm, fertile valleys between cultivated mountainsides of the lace-like shores of the Aegean where nature is friendly and life has always been easy.
Turkey’s landscape has the combined characteristics of the three oldest continents of the world: Europe, Africa and Asia. It has an ecological diversity surpassing any other place along the 40th north latitude. This diversity is reflected in the intermingling of all species of animals just as they were found before the geological separation of the land masses occurred, but whose habitats are now dispersed among these continents.
Now it is possible to observe the yearly ebb and flow of nature as birds continue on their migratory routes twice a year. The flocks of storks and birds of prey convey a magnificent spectacle that you can watch from the hills of Çamlıca in İstanbul every fall. The flamingos nest in the river valleys of the Aegean and the Mediterranean and spend the winter in the saltwater lakes of the inlands. If you happen to be visiting Dalyan (or some other beaches along the Mediterranean) on a warm spring night in May, you will be sharing the sand dunes with one of the most delightfully shy creatures in the world, the sea turtle, which lays its eggs in the sand at this time of year.
Many such familiar fruits as cherries, apricots, almonds and figs also originate in Turkey. Humankind’s common ancestors are imagined to have evolved in different parts of the world – nevertheless, the depiction of Adam and Eve wearing fig leaves confirms a long-standing view of Turkey, with its abundance of figs, as an unspoiled Eden. The bucolic, rural scenery radiates with sincerity and health, enhancing the traveller’s experience. In this, the motherland of wheat, the taste of ordinary Turkish bread surpasses any other when eaten freshly baked. The orchards, vineyards, and vegetable fields grow delicate and vibrant crops. As well as grains, staple crops include rice, cotton, sugar beets, tobacco and potatoes. This diversity and abundance of food products have contributed to the richness of the Turkish cuisine.
TURKEY has an extremely rich cultural heritage. Perhaps no other land has witnessed so many diverse civilizations over the last 11,500 years. After the great Mesopotamians, the Hittite and Urartian kingdoms flourished in Anatolia. The Ionian and Roman civilizations predominated the western Anatolia. İstanbul has the honour of having served as the capital of three successive empires – the Roman, the Byzantine, and the Ottoman. Anatolia itself became a crossroads of peoples, cultures and religions. Christianity, for example, thrived in these lands and Islam was glorified by the Seljuks and Ottomans. Occupying a highly strategic position on the world map, Turkey combines the wealth of the East and the West, offering a synthesis of the traditional and the modern, the old and the new.
People of various origins came in waves and mingled with those already settled, each wave resulting in a new synthesis. Between 2000BC and 1500AD, this landscape was the centre of world civilization. Interpretation of the world scene today is based upon our understanding of what took place on this landscape, and which is now manifested in the ruins and monuments which adorn the landscape.
In Anatolia, the settlement pattern is more or less as it was during the time of the ancient civilizations. There is a good chance that the road you are travelling on is the same one that great warriors of East and West trod, colourful caravans passed along, and couriers with mail or secret treaties galloped. Perhaps it is the same road travelled by St Paul and his companions, or by Sufis spreading their divine knowledge. Graceful aqueducts built by the Romans made urban concentrations possible. Bridges built by famous royal architect Sinan dot the countryside and are still used for the safe passage of goods and services. Caravanserais dating back to the Seljuk Empire of the 11th century offered sanctuary and relief to weary travellers. You can even stay in a caravanserai today, as several have been restored as hotels.
In addition to the historic edifices proudly displayed at such main archaeological sites as Troy, Pergamum, Ephesus, Miletus, Priene, Didyma, Aphrodisias, Heraclia, Caunos, Perge, and Aspendos, many coastal villages and towns are blessed with their very own Anatolian ruins on the outskirts. This is usually an ancient theatre commanding a spectacular view of the beach where villagers will tell you Cleopatra often swam. You don’t have to look far for the agora either. It is probably what it has always been – the local market place! Several villages are also privileged to have ‘sunken cities’ or ruins under the sea, which you can see if you look down into the crystal clear, turquoise waters as you swim.
The Anatolian hinterland will show you glimpses of ancient civilizations: the Hattians, the Assyrians, the Hittites, the Phrygians, the Urartians and the Lydians. From these civilizations come many familiar legends: the wealth of the Lydian King Croesus, King Midas with the golden touch and the Knot of Gordion that young Alexander was able to undo only with a blow of his sword.
Then there are the smaller sites, both sacred and ordinary, but with profound meaning: monasteries, tombs of saints, heroes, artists or poets, mosques, churches, walls, fortresses, palaces, fountains and cemeteries.
The hillsides are covered with broken pieces of ancient pottery and even in more modern settlements you can see incorporated stones which may date back to antiquity. Until very recently the cave refuges in Cappadocia were used by villagers as cold storage or wine cellars.
ANY visitor to Turkey will be struck by the plethora and variety of religious buildings and ancient shrines. There are temples dedicated to ancient gods, churches of many denominations, synagogues and, of course, mosques. As civilizations succeeded each other over a period of 11,500 years, they each left their religious legacy and, after the monotheistic domination of Anatolia, Islam, Christianity and Judaism co-existed in harmony.
The Hattians, Hittites, Hurrians, Urartians, Ionians, Lydians and Phrygians had rich mythologies. Greek mythology began with the Iliad, the epic poem of Homer who was himself a child of Anatolia. Homer was deeply influenced by the cultural environment of his motherland, in particular, by the legacy of the Mesopotamian civilizations.
Turkey is the land where the first Christian state, the Byzantine Empire, was founded – a state that lasted for 1000 years. This land was also a cradle of a great Islamic Empire that involved Turks and all Arabs. Anatolia was also the first home of Christianity and it is here that Christianity was no longer considered a Jewish religion. The Virgin Mary and the Apostle John are believed to have died in Ephesus. And it is in Antakya (Antioch) that the Disciples of Christ were called Christians for the first time.
This is also the land of the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse and was the venue for the first seven councils. Christianity took root and thrived in Anatolia, where it found a historically intense religious and spiritual lifestyle. The population easily adopted the new religion preached by St Paul, St Barnabas, St Silas and St Timothy. The Church of Ephesus was founded in 54AD. By the second century, two dioceses had already come into existence, one in Kayseri and the other in Malatya. Cappadocia was Christianised long before Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity as a legal religion. When monasticism started to expand rapidly, all those who longed for solitude or were escaping persecution found solace in the fantastic landscape of this region where they could settle in natural caves.
Later, Anatolia became the centre of religious schisms which characterized the early centuries of Christianity, in particular the great theological debate on the relation between the components of the Trinity and on incarnation. Before adopting Islam Turks living in Central Asia, where they find their origins, followed Shamanism. They encountered Islam on the frontiers of Central Asia and adopted the religion in the tenth century. This religious shift was practised willingly. That’s another indicator that Turks bow down to nothing. Once the Ottoman Empire consolidated its power, it dedicated itself to the enhancement of the Islamic faith and values, though for centuries people of different religions or from different ethnic groups coexisted peacefully and harmoniously in Anatolia.
Religious freedom is accepted throughout the Republic of Turkey, just as it was during the Ottoman period. Although the majority of Turkish people continue to be deeply attached to the Islamic faith and traditions, they live side by side in harmony with their fellow citizens of different faiths, mainly the Christians and Jews – the legacy of Turkey’s centuries old diversity.
As a natural outcome of centuries-long peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious identities, today Christian and Jewish shrines are preserved and respected in line with the Islamic tradition of tolerance. Today, there are more than 5000 sacred Muslim, Christian and Jewish sites in Turkey. As this is a country that has embraced peoples of diverse culture and faith during its long history, many of these religious places have been restored.
DWELLINGS on the Mediterranean coast are built from a stone that takes on the colour of the sky when the sun is low on the horizon, with timber starting to be integrated at higher altitudes. Wooden frame and log construction in the temperate zone gives way to wattle and daub and eventually sun-dried brick in the southeast of the country. You may notice interesting structures such as earthen ovens, round outhouses or domeshaped cisterns.
Village houses in the mountains close to the Black Sea tend to be scattered widely with villagers communicating by sing-song yells and yodels which echo in the valleys. The Toros (Taurus) Mountains in the south were the traditional habitat of nomadic Turks who, in search of moderate temperatures, spent the summer in the mountains, the spring on the plateau and the winter down on the delta plain.
A real treat for the history buff is a visit to one of the villages just outside Bursa such as Cumalıkızık, which is just as would have been in the 13th century. Here one can see the origins of the typical Turkish house with its overhanging windows, functional spaces in the courtyard and the arrangement of rooms on the second floor, as well as the settlement’s layout with its intricate pattern of narrow streets.
Typical villages are built around a central square with the mosque, the school, the general store, and, of course, the coffee house, the centre of male life. The coffee house is the men’s domain where such important issues as politics and prices of crops are discussed, and local gossip is exchanged.
The village fountain, inner courtyards and doorways are the women’s domains where information about goods and topics related to health, child rearing and daily sustenance is shared.
You will also see villagers on their way to and from the fields or orchards on donkeys and tractors.
Villages preserve traditional dances, customs, weaving techniques, puppet shows and plays in their original forms.
The folk dramas and dances, which are still being performed, occupy an important life in village life.
THE traditional Turkish city is typically situated along historical trade routes, notably the silk and spice routes. Built on lands unfavourable for cultivation, these cities display unique vernacular architectural styles reflecting regional conditions with an urbane and sophisticated building tradition. Although each has a distinctive character of its own, all have a citadel; one or more grand mosque complexes containing religious colleges and welfare establishments; a traditional square corresponding to the western plaza; a number of old bath houses; traditional guild alleys jutting away from the bazaar area; and distinct neighbourhoods where you are likely to find fine examples of traditional Turkish houses, often arranged around a courtyard.
In shaded squares, the tables of coffee houses are occupied by townsmen, sipping coffee or tea, playing backgammon and discussing the issues of the day with their friends and neighbours. It is said that both coffee and coffee houses are among the many contributions made by Turks to the good life. The sacks of coffee abandoned by the retreating Ottoman army at the gates of Vienna in the 16th century introduced the addictive brew to the West and made the cafes of Vienna world famous.
It is in these cities that both high style and vernacular culture evolved side by side, giving us the best examples of Turkish architecture as well as the best of folklore, traditional arts and crafts, customs and food. These cities were home to folk heroes such as Köroğlu and the poet Yunus Emre, whose simple verses offer profound ideas for humanity, along with the well-known Nasrettin Hodja, another famous folk hero whose personification of folk wisdom in his humorous anecdotes is still widely quoted and enjoyed.
The popular theatre tradition, with its comedians, storytellers, marionettes and shadow puppets evolved in the provincial cities. Performances were given in public squares during national and religious festivals, at weddings and fairs as well as at inns, coffee houses and private residences. All the shows were accompanied by music, even wrestling matches, with artists performing to the sound of the tambourine
Performances were often interspersed with songs and dances or both. The dramatic instinct of the Turkish people and the role it played in daily life can be found in the Turkish commedia dell’arte and in the shadow puppet theatre of Karagöz, which dates from the 15th century. Players performed humorous impromptu productions, impersonating watchmen, tax collectors, treasure hunters, the intellectual elite encountering the common folk and the idiosyncrasies of ethnic groups, and so contributed, in their own way, to the continuation of an amicable coexistence.
FOLLOWING the foundation of the Turkish Republic after World War I, İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir became the focus of social and business life. Industry and business clustered in the established commercial centres of İstanbul and İzmir while the government built itself a new capital inland in Ankara. These cities contain the country’s most respected universities, conservatories, theatres and concert halls. Jewish and Christian communities, as well as immigrants from different parts of the old Ottoman Empire, add diversity to these cities, contributing to the human mosaic so characteristic of Anatolia.
For visitors, the big city offers an abundance of museums and famous historical sites, along with nightclubs, taverns and bazaars filled with silver and copper objects, carpets and gold jewellery. İstanbul, of course, is in a category of its own. A separate introduction to its own unique landscape is necessary.
The big cities also allow ample opportunity to sample Turkish cuisine at excellent, well-established restaurants. Eating is not taken lightly in Turkey and dinner in a good restaurant may take four or five hours in the company of friends and family, sipping drinks and savouring the endless procession of hot and cold dishes while engaging in conversation that begins with lighthearted humour and often turns into poetic reminiscences of the past. Turkish cuisine ranks with French and Chinese in its variety, nutrition and finesse.
Most visitors want to explore the old part of a Turkish city. According to tradition, each alley or courtyard of a bazaar specialized in a craft or trade corresponding to the old guilds. The cities of the Ottoman Empire were organized into communities formed along religious lines.
These were integrated with the rest of the city and larger society via networks of such locally-controlled services as fire protection, security and schools.
The old city centre, with its places of worship, government, trade and entertainment, was where the citizens mingled,
enjoying the benefits of the security and bounty of the state while maintaining their culture and way of life.
TURKEY is home to the Blue Voyage, the idyllic cruise which equates with ‘sailing with the winds, into coves and over the seas, thus becoming one with nature’. For lovers of an active life, sailing in clear waters provides great opportunities for swimming, fishing, water skiing, surfing and diving.
The special design of Turkey’s indigenous sea-going vessel, the gulet, is synonymous with the Blue Voyage with its harmonious combination of practicality and tradition.
Constructed mostly in the shipyards of Bodrum, Bozburun, Marmaris and İstanbul, and along the Black Sea coast, these broadbeam and wide-decked boats are equipped with motors as well as fully functional rigging.
A good selection of charter gulets, motor yachts and sailboats are available for week tours, while smaller boats can be rented for day trips.
THE ancient Romans were the first to discover that Turkey’s many thermal springs offer unique therapeutic powers; they built the ancient city of Hierapolis close to the waters of Pamukkale. The Byzantine Emperor Justinian built baths at the natural hot springs of Çekirge at the foot of Mount Uludağ in Bursa to make best use of the healing properties of these springs. Many thermal baths were also built by the Ottoman sultans across the lands of the empire.
Today Turkey is one of the seven countries which enjoys rich geothermal resources and it is one the leading countries in Europe for geothermal therapy. Western Anatolia in particular abounds in thermal springs, or kaplıcas in Turkish, where people seek remedies for a wide variety of health problems and disorders. Some thermal waters are suitable simply for relaxation, while others are believed to offer specific health benefits. In either case, spas in Turkey are under the supervision of the Ministry of Health for strict compliance with high standards of hygiene. Most of Turkey’s top hotels also have their own spas and health clubs offering the latest in health and beauty treatments.
MOUNTAINS, rising on all four sides, encircle the Anatolian peninsula and form a part of the Alpine-Himalayan Mountain range. Two of Turkey’s most famous peaks are volcanoes, both inactive: Mt Erciyes in Kayseri in Central Anatolia (3917m) and Mt Ağrı (Mt Ararat 5137m) in the east. Other well-known mountain ranges are the Rize-Kaçkar (3932m) in the eastern Black Sea region, Niğde-Aladağ (3756m) in the Central Taurus range, and the Cilo and Sat mountains (4136m) near Hakkari in the eastern Taurus.
For those interested in trekking, Turkey offers many opportunities. The Lycian Way and St Paul Trail are the two official long distance footpaths of Turkey. Both paths are 500km and trekking is possible almost all year round. The Lycian Way stretches along the coast from Fethiye to Antalya, with many ascents and descents.
The St Paul Trail is a newer footpath leading from Perge, 10km east of Antalya, to Yalvaç, northeast of Lake Eğirdir. Treks on these paths range from a difficulty level of medium to hard, depending on the section and the season.
AMONG the traditional handicrafts are carpet weaving, ceramics and pottery, embroidery, leather manufacture, musical instrument-making, masonry, copper work, basket-making, saddle-making, felt-making, weaving and woodwork.
Carpet weaving is one of Turkey’s oldest handicrafts. Turkish carpets and kilims are characterized by the use of woollen yarn, bold drawings and bright colours that form a pattern of infinite beauty. Turkish carpet weaving started among the nomadic Turkish Peoples of Central Asia and was introduced to Anatolia by Seljuks in the 11th century. Anatolian women continued this tradition for centuries, using woollen yarn produced by twisting the wool with their fingers and dyes they extracted from wild plant roots.
The Seljuks and Ottomans developed a highly original decorative and pictorial style for ceramics, imitating the technique of tilemosaic. With the emergence of Ottoman might, ceramic art matured and Bursa, İznik, Kütahya and İstanbul became major centres of production. The Ottomans introduced coloured glazes, in particular sapphire blue and golden yellow, and invented a new technique enabling many tiles to be fired on one single modular tile, thereby eliminating the time consuming process of piecing fragments together in the mosaic. Another traditional handicraft is copper and brass work; the inhabitants of Anatolia have used copper kitchen utensils from time immemorial and copper work reached its height during the Ottoman age. The Ottomans exploited the copper mines of Anatolia and the Balkans, and perfected the craftsmanship of copper. Today, traditional pots and pans have been replaced by more convenient utensils, but in cities where copper craftsmanship continues, such as Gaziantep, Diyarbakır, Kahramanmaraş and Muğla, copper and brass objects are still manufactured in the traditional way.
FOR those who travel so as to engage in culinary pursuits, Turkish cuisine is definitely worthy of exploration. The variety of dishes that make up the cuisine, the ways they come together in feast-like meals and the evident intricacy of each dish offer enough material for life-long study and enjoyment.
Turkish cuisine originated in Central Asia, the first home of the Turks, and then evolved with the contributions of the inland and Mediterranean cultures with which Turks interacted after their arrival in Anatolia. It was refined and enriched over the centuries in the palace of the Sultan, but its tendency for simplicity and natural tastes was preserved. In line with the palace cuisine, Anatolia’s regions developed their own gastronomic specialties. Like its Chinese and French counterparts, Turkish cuisine developed according to the availability of ingredients. Original Turkish cuisine in Central Asia was composed mainly of meat dishes and such milk products as cheese.
A number of Turkish culinary specialties have a world-wide reputation, one of which of course is lokum, or Turkish delight as it is better known. Made of sugar syrup which is boiled with starch, hazelnuts, pistachios, mint or rose water are added to it. Other sweet specialties include pastes of almonds, pistachios and coconut. The roasted pistachio is a favourite snack and is also used in several dishes and sweets. Turkish coffee is also world-renowned. Its preparation is quite different from other coffees. The coffee grounds are first stirred into cold water in a pot with a handle and then boiled until it foams. The foam is then poured into the cup and the coffee boiled once again. The coffee grounds left in the bottom of the cup are undrinkable and often used for fortune telling by Turkish women who can be very proficient at scrutinizing the pattern left by the coffee grounds for hidden meaning. Another Turkish specialty is undoubtedly the Turkish simit (bagel). The simit is a sesame seed-covered bread ring, available any time and everywhere from street peddlers to street corners. Turks like to start the day with a freshly baked simit and a cup of Turkish tea which is prepared by using a double-tiered tea pot.
Stosunki dyplomatyczne pomiędzy Osmanami (Imperium Osmańskim) i Królestwem Polskim zostały nawiązane w 1414 roku, ponieważ oba państwa były bezpośrednimi sąsiadami od późnego średniowiecza do końca 18. wieku.
600-lecie nawiązania stosunków dyplomatycznych było obchodzone w 2014 roku.
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