Turkey

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Turkey is a huge, geographically and culturally diverse country, sharing borders with Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Nakhitchevan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. It has almost 8,400 km of coastline and several mountain ranges, the highest peak being 5165m (Mount Ararat). Due to its size, Turkey enjoys a variety of climates, changing from the temperate climate of the Black Sea Region, to the continental climate of the interior, to the Mediterranean climate of the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions.

With its large range of mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, flora and fauna, Turkey is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. The opportunities for activities such as cycling, trekking, horse-riding, skiing and white water rafting are endless in this uncrowded country covering 814.578 square kilometers, and between the lush greenery of the Black Sea Coast and the hot, dry Mediterranean coast, there are a multitude of landscapes to choose from. With more than 10, 000 years of history, Turkey is also rich in culture and ancient sites, which together with its natural beauty make this country a fascinating place to explore.

A country as old as history, a paradise of sun, sea, mountains and lakes. Turkey has a magnificent past, and is a land full of historic treasures.

Turkey's landmass is 814.578 sq. km. The European and Asian sides are divided by the Istanbul Bogazi (Bosphorus) and the Canakkale Bogazi (Dardanelles).

Anatolia is a high plateau region rising progressively towards the east, broken by the valleys of about 15 rivers, including the Dicle (Tigris) and the Firat (Euphrates). There are numerous lakes and some, such as Lake Van, are as large as inland seas. In the North, the Eastern Black Sea mountain chain runs parallel to the Black Sea; in the South, the Taurus Mountains sweep down almost to the narrow, fertile coastal plain along the Turkish Riviera, following the ancient Lycian and Pamphylian coasts.

Anatolia has been called 'the cradle of civilisation' and by travelling through this historic land, one would discover what exactly is meant by this phrase. The world's first town, a Neolithic city at Catalhoyuk, dates back to 6500 B.C. From the Neolithic days up to the present, Turkey boasts a rich culture that has made an everlasting impression on modern civilisations through the centuries. The heir to many centuries of cultures makes Turkey a paradise of information and cultural wealth. Hattis, Hittites, Phrygians, Urartians, Lycians, Lydians, Ionians, Greeks, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantinians, Seljuks, and Ottomans have all made important contributions to Anatolian and Turkish histories, and ancient sites and ruins scattered throughout the country give proof of each civilisation's unique distinction.

MUSTAFA KEMAL ATATURK
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic and its first President, stands as a towering figure of the 20th Century. Among the great leaders of history, few have achieved so much in so short period, transformed the life of a nation as decisively, and given such profound inspiration to the world at large.

Emerging as a military hero at the Dardanelles in 1915, he became the charismatic leader of the Turkish national liberation struggle in 1919. He blazed across the world scene in the early 1920s as a triumphant commander who crushed the invaders of his country. Following a series of impressive victories against all odds, he led his nation to full independence. He put an end to the antiquated Ottoman dynasty whose tale had lasted more than six centuries - and created the Republic of Turkey in 1923, establishing a new government truly representative of the nation's will.

As President for 15 years, until his death in 1938, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk introduced a broad range of swift and sweeping reforms - in the political, social, legal, economic, and cultural spheres - virtually unparalleled in any other country.

His achievements in Turkey are an enduring monument to Atatürk. Emerging nations admire him as a pioneer of national liberation. The world honors his memory primarily as a peacemaker who upheld the principles of humanism and the vision of a united humanity. Tributes have been offered to him through the decades by such world statesmen as Lloyd George, Churchill, Roosevelt, Nehru, de Gaulle, Adenauer, Bourguiba, Nasser, Kennedy, and countless others. A White House statement, issued on the occasion of "The Atatürk Centennial" in 1981, pays homage to him as "a great leader in times of war and peace". It is fitting that there should be high praise for Atatürk, an extraordinary leader of modern times, who said in 1933: "I look to the world with an open heart full of pure feelings and friendship".
ECONOMY
Tourism : In recent years, Turkey has become a major tourist destination in Europe. With the rapid development of both summer and winter resorts, more and more people are now enjoying the history, culture and beautiful sites of Turkey. Sailing in the Mediterranean, trekking at the Tauruses, pony trekking in the mountain villages, snow skiing at the Uludag, Erciyes and Palandoken as well as jet skiing at the Aegean Coast give the great opportunity of enjoying a new kind of 4 Seasons, not by Vivaldi, but this time by the friendly and hospitable people of this unique country.

Agriculture : Plays a very important role in the Turkish economy. The main crops are wheat, rice, cotton, tea, tobacco, hazelnuts and fruits. Sheep are Turkey's most important livestock and Turkey is one of the major cotton and wool producers of the world.

The Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP): GAP is a multi-purpose, integrated development project comprising of dams, hydroelectric power plants and irrigation facilities, currently being built on the Firat (Euphrates) and Dicle (Tigris) rivers. The Ataturk Dam included in the project is among the first 10 dams of the World.

Natural Resources : The principal minerals extracted are coal, chrome, iron, copper, bauxite, marble and sulphur.

Industry : Industry is developing rapidly, and is directed mainly towards the processing of agricultural products, metallurgy, textiles and the manufacture of automobiles and agricultural machinery.
TEMPERATURES

 

Marmara, Aegean and Mediterranean Coasts : These coasts have a typical Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. The swimming season becomes shorter as one travels north.

Marmara and North Aegean : June to September

South Aegean and Mediterranean : April to October

Black Sea Coast : Temperate climate with warm summers, mild winters and relatively high rainfall.

Central Anatolia : These areas have a steppe climate with hot, dry summers and cold winters.

Eastern Anatolia : Long snowy, cold winters with mild summers.

Southeast Anatolia : This area has a hot summer with mild, rainy winters.

Average Air temperatures for Major Regions
(°C)

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

ANTALYA

10

11

13

16

20

25

28

28

25

20

15

12

IZMIR

9

10

11

16

20

25

28

27

23

18

15

10

ISTANBUL

5

6

7

12

16

21

23

23

20

16

12

8

TRABZON

6

6

7

11

15

20

22

22

19

15

12

9

ANKARA

0

1

5

11

16

20

23

23

18

13

8

2

ERZURUM

-9

-7

-3

5

11

15

19

20

15

9

2

-5

DIYARBAKIR

2

2

8

14

19

26

31

31

25

17

10

4

POLITICAL STRUCTURE
The Turkish Republic is based on a secular democratic, pluralist and parliamentary system, where human rights are protected by law and social justice. The National Assembly is elected by popular vote and the nation is governed by the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.

Turkey was a founding member of the OECD, the Black Sea Economic Co-operation Organisation, and is a member of NATO, the European Council and the European Parliament.
MONETARY SYSTEM
The currency unit of the Republic of Turkey is the Turkish Lira. The hundredth part of the Turkish Lira is the Kurus. One Turkish Lira (TL) is equivalent to a hundred Kurus (Kr).
The coinage is in 5, 10, 25, 50 Kurus and 1 Turkish Lira pieces. Banknotes are of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Turkish Lira.

The exchange rates are published daily. Eurocheques and Traveler's Checks can be cashed immediately; all credit cards such as AMEX, Visa, Euro Card, Master Card, Diner's Club are welcome almost everywhere.
MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION
Local time : GMT +2 hrs. (Summer)

Electricity : 220 Volts AC, all over Turkey.

Tap Water : Unsafe to drink.

Weight and measures : Metric system.
FOLK TRADITIONS
Folk music : The lively Turkish folk music, which originated on the steppes of Asia, is in complete contrast to the refined Turkish classical music of the Ottoman court. Until recently, folk music was not written down, and the traditions have been kept alive by the 'asiklar' (troubadours). Distinct from folk music is Ottoman military music, now performed by the 'mehter takimi' (Janissary Band) in Istanbul, which originated in Central Asia, and is played with kettledrums, clarinets, cymbals, and bells. The mystical music of the Whirling Dervishes (Mevleviler) is dominated by the haunting sound of the reed pipe or 'ney', and can be heard in Konya during the Mevlana Festival in December.

Folk dances : Each region in Turkey has its own special folk dance and costume, and the best known of these are listed below :

Horon : This Black Sea dance is performed by men only, dressed in black with silver trimmings. The dancers link arms and quiver to the vibrations of the 'kemence' (a primitive kind of violin).
Kasik Oyunu : The Spoon Dance is performed from Konya to Silifke and consists of gaily dressed male and female dancers 'clicking' out the dance rhythm with a pair of wooden spoons in each hand.
Kilic Kalkan : The Sword and Shield Dance of Bursa represents the Ottoman conquest of the city. It is performed by men only, dressed in early Ottoman battle dress, who dance to the sound of clashing swords and shields, without music.
Zeybek : In this Aegean dance, colourfully dressed male dancers, called 'efe', symbolise courage and heroism.

Folk Heroes

Nasrettin Hoca : A 13th century humorist and sage from Aksehir. His witticisms are known throughout Turkey and are often used to make a point.
Karagoz : Another jester, said to have lived in Bursa in the 14th century and now immortalised as a shadow puppet. Karagoz is a rough man of the people, who uses his ribald wit to get the better of his pompous friend, Hacivat. The puppets are made from gaily painted, translucent animal skin and are projected onto a white screen.
Yunus Emre : The 13th century philosopher-poet is one of Turkey's national treasures. His basic themes were universal love, friendship, brotherhood and divine justice. His simple and pure writing brings out a deep meaning for his readers and although he lived over 700 years ago, his work is still timely and thought provoking.
Koroglu : A 15th century folk poet, Koroglu was a role model for his contemporaries and a hero of his time. His adventures have been recounted for centuries with prestige and vigour and perhaps now with more interest than ever. Koroglu was one of the first people to pioneer the ideal of unconditional help for the poor and down-trodden. He was also a great champion against the confines of government control and harassment.

Traditional Sports

Yagli Gures : 'Grease Wrestling' is the Turkish national sport and every year, in July, wrestling championships are held in Kirkpinar, Edirne. The contest is made more difficult by the fact that the wrestlers smear themselves with olive oil.
Cirit Oyunu : 'The javelin game' of daredevil horsemanship is a sport where wooden javelins are thrown at horsemen of opposing teams to gain points. The game is played mainly in Eastern Turkey.
Also, in Selcuk (Izmir), camel wrestling and in Artvin Kafkasor a different type of bullfighting can be seen.
POPULAR CUSTOMS
Hospitality : Hospitality is one of the cornerstones of the Turkish way of life. Following Koranic tenets and naturally friendly instincts, the Turk is a most gracious and generous host. Even the poorest peasant feels bound to honour his guest 'misafir' in the best possible manner. Hospitality is taken to such lengths that a foreigner often feels he is suffering from an overdose of it, after being plied with food and drinks for hours and being unable to refuse anything, lest he hurt his host's feelings. In addition to ensuring a guest's material well being, the Turk makes every effort to converse, no matter what linguistic barriers might exist. While most middle-class, urban-dwelling Turks speak at least one European language, even the uneducated, bravely struggle to make themselves understood, with remarkable success.

Turkish Coffee Houses : Even the smallest Turkish village has its coffee-house or 'Kahvehane', where men can talk, sip coffee, and play the national game of backgammon 'Tavla'. In Istanbul, especially men can still be seen smoking their hubble-bubble pipes 'Nargile' in these coffeehouses.

Turkish Baths : Owing to the emphasis placed on cleanliness in Turkish society, there have been public bath-houses 'Hamam' in Turkey since medieval times. There are separate baths for men and women, or, when there is only one bath house in the town, different days or times of day are allocated for men and women. After entering the 'hamam' and leaving one's clothes in a cubicle, one proceeds, wrapped in a towel 'pestemal', to the 'gobek tasi', a large heated stone where one perspires and is rubbed down by a bath attendant. If the heat proves too much, one can retire to a cooler room for a while. This method of bathing is most refreshing and many of the old marble baths are very interesting, architecturally as well.
SHOPPING
Shopping is one of the great pleasures of a trip to Turkey and the rich variety of Turkish crafts makes it impossible to resist buying something. Alongside the most modern objects, traditional handicrafts from villages and provinces can be found. There are many practical things for the home and kitchen as well as many decorative items, often in the traditional Turkish style. Most visitors to Turkey cannot resist buying at least one or two things. The most popular objects for the travellers are, of course, carpets, but the various leather and suede goods, copper and bronze wares, silver, ceramics, handicrafts, embroidery as well as the famous Turkish meerschaum and onyx are on many people's lists as well.

In Turkey, suede and leather are particularly important, made into all kinds of clothes and other goods such as handbags, belts, and shoes at prices which surprise and please the visitor. In the large stores in main cities, dresses, trousers, and coats, made of extremely fine leather and suede can be found. If you are looking for something a little more unusual, there is the 'nargile' or hubble-bubble pipe or why not buy a backgammon set and learn the national Turkish game! Your only difficulty shopping in Turkey will be in deciding what to choose from the many hundreds of tempting bargains.
TURKISH CUISINE, EATING OUT
Would someone come to Turkey just to eat out? Yes, they would. Turkish food is famous throughout the world. The painstaking preparation of simple, but fresh ingredients brings out the richness of their flavours in a way that never fails to delight. The range is enormous, from a number of soups to an astonishing variety of meze (hors d'oeuvre), followed by meat and fish dishes. Then pause a while to contemplate the famous Turkish sweets and pastries before finishing with a Turkish coffee. All Turkish food is prepared from fresh ingredients. The country produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and being surrounded on three sides by sea, the range of fish to be found is also considerable. Among alcoholic drinks are the light Turkish beer, excellent wines, and the national drink 'raki' (ananisette), which clouds when water is added giving it the popular name of 'lion's milk'. The drinking of raki is a rite in itself, and it is traditionally accompanied by a variety of 'meze' (hors d'oeuvre). Wherever you go, the world famous Turkish coffee or tea will be offered to you. Bottled drinking water and mineral water are easily found everywhere. Especially in the metropolitan cities like Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, you can also find restaurants which feature Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Korean, French, Swiss, German and Italian cuisine.