With its unique mix of the exotic and the familiar, visiting Turkey can be a mesmerizing experience. More than the “bridge between East and West” of tourist-brochure cliché, the country combines influences from the Middle East and the Mediterranean, the Balkans and central Asia.
Invaded and settled from every direction since the start of recorded history, its contradictions and fascinations persist. Mosques coexist with churches, Roman theatres and temples crumble not far from ancient Hittite cities and dervish ceremonies or gypsy festivals are as much a part of the social landscape as classical music concerts or avidly attended football matches.
Turkey is a transcontinental country
Asian Turkey, which includes 97 percent of the country, is separated from European Turkey by the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles.
European Turkey comprises 3 percent of the country. The territory of Turkey is more than 1,600 km long and 800 km wide, with a roughly rectangular shape. It lies between latitudes 35° and 43° N, and longitudes 25° and 45° E.
Turkey’s area, including lakes, occupies 783,562 square km, of which 755,688 square km are in Southwest Asia and 23,764 square km (9,174 sq mi) in Europe. Turkey is the world’s 37th-largest country in terms of area.
The country is encircled by seas on three sides: the Aegean Sea to the west, the Black Sea to the north and the Mediterranean to the south. Turkey also contains the Sea of Marmara in the northwest.
The European section of Turkey, East Thrace (the easternmost region of the Balkan peninsula), forms the borders of Turkey with Greece and Bulgaria.
The Asian part of the country is comprised mostly by the peninsula of Anatolia, which consists of a high central plateau with narrow coastal plains, between the Köroğlu and Pontic mountain ranges to the north and the Taurus Mountains to the south.
Eastern Turkey, located within the western plateau of the Armenian Highlands, has a more mountainous landscape and is home to the sources of rivers such as the Euphrates, Tigris and Aras, and contains Mount Ararat, Turkey’s highest point at 5,137 m, and Lake Van, the largest lake in the country.
Southeastern Turkey is located within the northern plains of Upper Mesopotamia.
Turkey is divided into seven census regions: Marmara, Aegean, Black Sea, Central Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia, Southeastern Anatolia and the Mediterranean. The uneven north Anatolian terrain running along the Black Sea resembles a long, narrow belt. This region comprises approximately one-sixth of Turkey’s total land area. As a general trend, the inland Anatolian plateau becomes increasingly rugged as it progresses eastward.
The oldest known human settlement in the world.
The oldest known human settlement in the world is located in Catalhöyük, dating to 6500 B.C. The world’s first landscape painting was found on the wall of a Catalhöyük house, illustrating the volcanic eruption of nearby Hasandag.
The first coins ever minted were produced at Sardis, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, at the end of the seventh century B.C.
Two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World stood in Turkey — the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Bodrum.
Anatolia, the Asian portion of Turkey, is the birthplace of many historic figures and legends, such as the poet Homer, King Midas, Herodotus (the father of history) and St. Paul the Apostle.
Turkish Culture is unique in the world in that it has influenced and has been influenced in return by cultures and civilizations from China to Vienna and from Russian steps to North Africa for over a millennium.
Turkish culture reflects this unparalleled cultural richness and diversity, and remains mostly shaped by its deep roots in Middle East, Anatolia and Balkans, the cradle of many civilizations for at least twelve thousand years.
In terms of physical attractions, a huge part of Turkey’s appeal lies in its archeological sites, a legacy of the bewildering succession of states – Hittite, Urartian, Phrygian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Armeno- Georgian – that held sway here before the twelfth century. From grand Classical cities to hilltop fortresses and remote churches, some still produce exciting new finds today. There is also, of course, a vast number of graceful Islamic monuments dating from the eleventh century onwards, as well as intriguing city bazaars, still hanging on despite the new wave of chain stores and shopping malls. Modern architecture is less pleasing – an ugliness manifest at most coastal resorts, where it can be hard to find a beach that matches the tourist-board hype. Indeed it’s inland Turkey – Asiatic expanses of mountain, steppe, lake, even cloudforest – that may leave a more vivid memory, especially when accented by some crumbling kervansaray, mosque or castle.