From Istanbul to Ankarra, Turkey has so much to offer any traveller. Here is what you can expect when you travel there.
The jingle, “We are Turkish Airlines. We are globally yours.” can drive you crazy if it worms its way into your head.
Nonetheless, it’s considered to be a pretty excellent airline.
Many tourists, international students and retired people head to Turkey which the Turks claim is the centre of the world. It spans two continents and is a secular country with a great mix of modern and the ancient.
Turkey: A History
The Turks go back a little over 4,000 years and were spread across many parts of Central Asia which is today’s Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Afghanistan, parts of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, a little of Russia and some parts of China.
Many an empire was established by them. They finally settled in what we know as Turkey and consolidated themselves when the Ottoman Age began from the 13th to the early part of the 20th century.
This is when they ruled over much of Asia and several parts of Europe until the empire was decimated by the end of WWI.
From the wreckage emerged the Republic of Turkey, people found their voice and began to be governed by a parliamentary democracy. Both men and women have enjoyed equal rights since then, including the right to vote.
As recently as 2019, Turkey scored the highest in what is termed as ‘living’ category as a result of which it is ranked first for “culture, openness, welcoming of communities and the ease of settling in for foreigners.
Many, especially those from the US, draw a comparison between Dubai and Turkey but the two countries are actually worlds apart.
The GDP per capita in Turkey is much lower and this makes the cost of living, tourism and many other things more affordable.
The country is rich in monuments due to its history and is surrounded by the Marmara, Black, Aegean and the Mediterranean seas which gives all a great choice of beaches many of which are quite splendid.
Things to do and not do while in Turkey
English is spoken by many of the young people in the larger cities. For the rest you’ll need a translator. The country has about 17% English speakers, which is less than most of the neighbouring countries.
Most acquaintances and even business associates will kiss you on both cheeks. You will do the same in return. The close ones will even hug you and you hug them back. If a lady hugs you, you hug her back but don’t be the one to hug first.
Tea and fruits are offered often as a sign of hospitality. Welcome it. If you’re going to be visiting a few offices in a day be prepared to get plenty of fibre and hydrating tea.
A gift of artefacts, food or flowers is necessary while visiting someone’s home.
While you spend most of your time on the beaches, remember to take time off to see the Mesolithic temple if times turn more peaceful, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and many of the other monuments. Plenty of them are on UNESCO’s heritage sites list. The temple itself is close to the border with Syria. Dress modestly while visiting a mosque.
Turkish food is delicious. Order it. It’s not just the usual Doner kebab we see in many parts of the world.
If you have a taste for a meaty dessert, order Avuk Gogsu. It’s a sweet dish made of chicken, milk, cinnamon and sugar.
Keep at least a full day for Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Not only does it take you back in time, it will be an experience you’ll remember.
Remember to haggle while visiting the bazaars.
Cross the Bosphorus bridge in Istanbul from one continent to another.
Many potential visitors to Turkey don’t think of the mountains. You might want to plan a few days at one of the ski resorts if visiting in winter.
Oil wrestling is the national sport. Heavy men covered in oil, wrestle. Worth a watch.
In addition to your shopping at the Grand Bazar, remember to pick up a Turkish Eye as a souvenir on your way back. The Turks believe it protects you from the evil eye which is generally jealousy and envy of neighbours and others.
Missed our last guide? Here is when we checked out the wonders of New Zealand.
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