Turkey, officially the Republic of Turkey, is a vibrant country rich with history, culture and character. As a key destination of the legendary Silk Road in ancient times, Turkey became a place where countries shared their goods, traditions and ideas. The convergence of many cultures transformed Turkey into a unique place where you can find almost anything you can imagine. If Turkey is not already a spot on your travel bucket list, then the 10-interesting facts about this magnificent country below will surely convince you to start making plans.
1. Istanbul is the most famous city in Turkey with a population of over 15 million. It’s the only major metropolis in the world that lies on two continents – Europe and Asia. Its strategic location lends itself to important history, dating all the way back to 550 BCE as Byzantium – the capital of the Byzantine empire.
Later, it was reestablished as Constantinople in 330 CE – the capital of the Roman empire. Istanbul was also the capital for other major empires such as the Latin (1204-1261) and the Ottoman empire (1453-1922). Also, the amazing Grand Bazaar is located in Istanbul, which is one of the world’s largest and oldest markets, housing 4,000 shops over the span of 64 streets.
2. The Hagia Sofia is a giant museum located in Istanbul. This incredible structure was the largest cathedral for almost a thousand years. Originally, it was a Greek Orthodox church, and then was converted to an imperial mosque, and today is preserved as a secular museum. In total, Turkey has 82,693 other mosques, which is more than any other country per capita in the world.
3. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is a list of grandiose constructions with eminent value in history – and two are in modern-day Turkey. The first is the Temple of Artemis which, as the name suggests, was a stunning Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis. The second is the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, a big tomb built for Mausolus, a governor during the Persian Empire, and his sister-wife Artemisia.
4. In addition to ancient historic sites, Turkey also boasts many types of beautiful landscapes, such as beaches, forests, mountains, lakes and natural hot springs. Their plant life is unique, with 6,000 species being found only in Turkey. Beaches in the Mediterranean resort city Antalya has the highest number of “Blue Flag” certifications, meaning that their water quality, cleanliness and environmental standards are first-rate.
© Phil Norton
5. Oil wrestling, also known as grease wrestling, is Turkey’s national sport and the oldest sport in the world. It consists of wrestling – just doused in olive oil. In the past, games could go on for one or two days. But in 1975, officials set a time limit of 45 minutes.
6. Turkish food is more than just kebabs. It features a wide variety of vegetables and flavors because of its outside influences. The most popular ingredients include eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, zucchinis, onions, olive oil and yogurt. Turks also love using herbs and spices from all different countries, such as cumin, cinnamon, pepper, thyme, mint, currant, sumac, fennel, cardamom and coriander.
© Doug Kaye
7. Contrary to popular belief, tulips originated in Turkey, not in the Netherlands. Traders introduced the colorful flowers to Dutch traders in the 17th century, where they gained increasing adoration and fame. The word “tulip” also comes from Turkey – the word “tülbent” meaning turban.
8. The most popular souvenir to buy from Turkey is the evil eye, or the Nazar Boncugu. Originally a talisman in ancient times, this trinket is believed to ward off bad luck. Turks display these little eyes in their homes, cars and offices. The village called Nazarkoy is known for making these delicate protectors.
© Vik Walker
9. With such a strategic location, Turkey can almost literally be considered “the center of the world” – and the Istanbul Atatürk Airport knows it. Turkish Airlines, the national flag carrier, is headquartered here and boasts over 260 destinations worldwide. Truly, this major
airport allows you to fly to just about anywhere. The airline even won Best Airline in Europe for four years straight.
10. Turkish people really love their sweets! In addition to the world-famous Turkish delights that even made it into C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Turks love desserts such as baklava (layers of phyllo dough, nuts and honey), aşure (pudding with fruits and nuts), and lokma (deep-fried syrupy dough balls).
Cultural activities, historic relics, diverse cuisines, gorgeous landscapes – Turkey has it all. As a melting pot of so many different lifestyles, countries and ideas, Turkey is a nation that is agreeably one-of-a-kind. Turkey is the 6th most popular tourist destination in the world, and if you go – you will see why.