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Home : Holidays : Europe : Turkey : Turkey Overview

Turkey Overview

Knocking at Europe??s door yet on the threshold of Asia, Turkey is truly a land of contrasts. Here you can scale the icy heights of remote Mount Ararat in search of Noah??s Ark, cross the historic Euphrates and Tigris rivers, follow in the footsteps of St Paul or simply relax on the golden Mediterranean sands of Patara beach. Vibrant Istanbul, straddling the blue waters of the Bosphorus separating Europe from Asia, beckons with its skyline pierced by countless minarets, chaotic bazaars and a history redolent with harem intrigue and despotic Sultans.

In Turkey, you can also cruise along more than 1000km (620 miles) of Mediterranean coastline,past secluded coves, rocky headlands and pretty fishing villages, or explore a hinterland rich in the wonderfully preserved remains of Graeco-Roman cities such as Ephesus. For the adventurous, the austere beauty of the Anatolian plateau, the surreal rock-chimney landscape of Cappadocia and the atmospheric ruins of the enigmatic Hittites await discovery. Here, too, is the unique experience of watching the dervishes whirl in pious Konya.



With a code of hospitality nurtured by their Islamic beliefs yet with a remarkable tolerance of other customs, the Turks offer a warm welcome wherever you travel ¨C be it sipping sweet black tea or thick coffee with friendly villagers or sharing a bottle of raki over mezes (hors d??oeuvres) with cosmopolitan Istanbul ??city slickers??

The modern Republic of Turkey was established in the 1920s by nationalist leader Kemal Ataturk. His ambition and achievement was to transform Turkey into a modern, secular state, and his legacy of political secularism was guarded throughout the 20th century by the powerful Turkish military, which has intervened in national politics whenever it has deemed the country??s stability to be at risk. In recent years, however, as Ankara has set its sights firmly on European Union membership, the military has kept a lower profile in public life.

Turkey became an official EU candidate country in 1999, whereupon it initiated a series of important human rights and economic reforms in accordance with EU requirements. The death penalty was done away with, tougher measures against torture were introduced and the penal code was revised. There were also important reforms in the areas of women's rights and Kurdish culture, language education and broadcasting. Membership talks with the EU started in 2005.

Both culturally and politically, Turkey is a fascinating society - a modern, westernised country, with a largely Muslim population, cautiously spanning the divide between religions and cultures.

Turkey is a country with a multiple identity, poised uneasily between East and West. The only NATO member in the Middle East region, the country has recently been accepted as a candidate for membership of the EU. Yet although in many respects Western, Turkey retains its frustrating differences, and its contradictions: mosques coexist with churches, and remnants of the Roman Empire crumble alongside ancient Hittite and Neolithic sites. Politically, modern Turkey was a bold experiment, founded on the remaining Anatolian kernel of the Ottoman Empire and almost entirely the creation of a single man, Mustafa Kemal Atat¨?rk.


An explicitly secular republic, though one in which almost all of the inhabitants are at least nominally Muslim, it's a vast country and incorporates large disparities in levels of development. But it's an immensely rewarding place to travel, not least because of the people, whose reputation for friendliness and hospitality is richly deserved.

Geography


Turkey borders the Black Sea and Georgia and Armenia to the northeast, Iran to the east, Iraq to the southeast, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Mediterranean to the south, the Aegean Sea to the west and Greece and Bulgaria to the northwest. Asia Minor (or Anatolia) accounts for 97 per cent of the country and forms a long, wide peninsula 1650km (1025 miles) from east to west and 650km (400 miles) from north to south. Two east-west mountain ranges, the Black Sea Mountains in the north and the Taurus in the south, enclose the central Anatolian plateau, but converge in a vast mountainous region in the far east of the country. It is here that the ancient Tigris and Euphrates rivers rise.