Founded in 1923 out of the remnants of the great Ottoman Empire,modern Turkey is a young country but a very historic land. The legacies of the Greeks, Romans, Christian apostles, Byzantines, Ottoman Turks, and the other peoples that have called this area home have made Turkey into a vast outdoor museum full of beautiful, intriguing religious sites. Highlights of Turkey’s many religious treasures include the spectacular Byzantine churches and beautiful mosques of Istanbul; the ancient city of Antioch where emperors lived and apostles preached; the ruins of the fabled city of Pergamum on its windswept hilltop; the Sufi holy city of Konya; the otherworldly landscape and cave churches of Cappadocia; and the colonnaded streets and great theater of Ephesus. With its unique fusion of Europe and Asia, West and East, exotic and familiar, and ancient and modern, today’s Turkey is a delight to travelers.
Turkey might be the world’s most contested country. Its landscape is dotted with battlegrounds, ruined castles and the palaces of great empires. This is the land where Alexander the Great slashed the Gordion Knot, where Achilles battled the Trojans in Homer’s Iliad, and where the Ottoman Empire fought battles that would shape the world. History buffs can immerse themselves in marvels and mementos stretching back to the dawn of civilisation.
But however deep its past, Turkey is now a thrusting and dynamic society that embraces cultural, economic and political change while consciously seeking to retain the best of its multicultural heritage and time-honoured traditions of hospitality.
Treat Turkey as that most quintessential of Turkish dishes, the meze, a table piled high with scrumptious treats. Throw away the menu, order a plate of everything and feast till you can’t go on. Afiyet olsun!
For meteorologists, Turkey has seven distinct climatic regions, but from the point of view of most casual visitors, the most important distinctions are between the coast with its moderate winter temperatures and hot, humid summers, and the inland areas with their extremely cold winters and excessively hot summers.
Where to Stay
Hotels in Istanbul and throughout Turkey cover the full range of lodgings, from luxury palace hotels through charming, historic inns to simple but clean and cheap pensions and hostels, and even rental villas and flats/ apartments.
Most Turkish hotels offer rooms with private bathrooms, and include breakfast in the rates.
Below are descriptions of the ratings by the national Ministry of Tourism.
Special-Class Hotels & Inns
When to go
Spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October) are the best times to visit, since the climate will be perfect for sightseeing in Istanbul and on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, and it will be cool in central Anatolia, but not unpleasantly so.
Anticipate crowds along all coastal areas from mid-June until early September. Also, try not to visit the Gallipoli Peninsula around Anzac Day (25 April) unless it’s particularly important for you to be there at that time.
What to buy
The color, grain and light passing through this pretty stone is why you like it.
Old stuff is found all over Turkey, but the best antique shops are undoubtedly in Istanbul.
Turkey produces a lot of wool and cotton, and manufactures a lot of clothing from it. Quality varies from poor to excellent. You’ll see many knock-offs (fake goods) bearing famous brands, names and logos.
Books, Maps & Prints (Old)
Istanbul has the best places to shop.
Brass & Copper
They’re attractive, decorative, useful and relatively inexpensive, but don’t use copper items for cooking or serving unless the surfaces that contact food are completely covered in bright, silver-colored tin.
Carpets and kilims were part of Turkish nomadic households a thousand years before the Turks settled in Anatolia and lived in houses instead of tents and yurts. Carpet shops are everywhere in Turkey, but their carpets may not have been made in Turkey (did someone say China?).
Turkey has been famous for excellent faience (colored tilework) since the 16th century, when the kilns of Iznik turned out some of the most beautiful work ever made. The classic Iznik pieces are now classified as antiquities and may not be exported, but the master potters of Kütahya are still making excellent plates, bowls, cups, tiles and other items in the traditional way. They’re sold all over Turkey for prices from a few US dollars to several hundred, depending on the item and its quality.
Turkey is a good place to look for big, bold, old necklaces, brooches, clasps, belts and other items, as well as finer, more delicate modern work. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is good, as is the Egyptian (Spice) Market, but shops and bazaars in other towns will have interesting selections as well. When buying silver or gold, be sure to look for the maker’s hallmark stamped into an inconspicuous part of the piece, certifying that it is genuine. Pewter and nickel-silver are sometimes passed off as sterling silver, though not by reputable dealers.
A kilim is a woven mat. Unlike a carpet, it has no nap. The bold designs and earthy colors so valued in kilims are a Turkish hallmark. A few decades ago kilims were seen as inferior to carpets, and were much cheaper, but today the bold, forthright kilim designs and colors are valued, and priced appropriately. Shop around for what you like, and compare prices.