The modem Republic of Turkey is one of the world’s great paradoxes: it is neither Europe, Asia, nor the Middle East, but rather an awe-inspiring amalgam of the three. The empires that carved Asia Minor between them over the past 10,000 years from the Hittites to the Assyrians, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans each left their distinctive mark, layering history upon history: Urartrian fortresses tower over Armenian churches converted into Selçuk mosques. Though resolutely secular by government decree, every facet of Turkish life is graced by the religious traditions of a 99% Muslim population. The terrain ranges from the ribboned, white sand beaches of the Aegean Coast resort towns, across the great Anatolian plains to the harsh, forbidding peaks of Mt. Ararat in the East. Millionaire playboys pull up to the exclusive clubs of Istanbul in private yachts, while shepherds and fanners scratch out an often desperate living in the boiling lands of the southeast. Millions of tourists every year cram the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, the glittering western coasts, and the ever-popular moonscapes of Cappadocia, while the rest of Anatolia remains a purist backpacker’s paradise: pristine alpine meadows, cliff- side monasteries, medieval churches, tiny fishing villages, and countless cups of çay offered by people who take pride in then tradition of hospitality.
Facts And Figures
|CAPITAL Ankara||LANGUAGE Turkish (official), Arabic|
|TYPE OF GOVERNMENT Republican||CURRENCY lira (TL)|
|Parliamentary Democracy||INFLATION RATE 54%|
|POPULATION 66m, and counting||RELIGIONS 99.8% Muslim (Sunni), .02%|
|SUFFRAGE 18 yrs, old, universal||Christian and Jewish|
|ADULT LITERACY 81.6%||PROCLAMATION OF THE REPUBLIC|
|TOTAL HIGHWAYS 10,386km||October 29, 1923|
WHEN TO GO
Turkey’s high tourist season is concentrated in the summer months (especially in July and August), when major cities and coastal resorts are infiltrated by hordes of boisterous backpackers. In the late spring and early fall, however, temperatures are milder, many regions of the country are quieter, and prices in the resort areas can drop by up to 10%; unfortunately, a few facilities and sights may also be closed in the off-season. Dining Ramazan, the Islamic holy month, travel may be trickier for non-Muslims, since public eating, drinking and smoking are generally taboo during daylight hours. For details on all the religious holidays and festivals in Turkey, see Holidays and Festivals,
THINGS TO DO
The sheer diversity of travel options in Turkey makes it attractive to visitors with a wide range of interests. Outdoor enthusiasts, beach bums, gourmets, history buffs, and urban clubhoppers alike will leave Turkey with warm memories of its incomparable local hospitality, deep sense of tradition, and spectacular landscapes. For more specific regional attractions than the ones listed below, see the Highlights of the Region section at the beginning of each chapter.