Turkey Travel Guide
Turkey as we know it today was only established in 1923, when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk lead the Turkish National Movement and the War of Independence in the aftermath of World War 1. This great man grew the Republic of Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire and modernized the nation. Even though the country is relatively new it does not mean it is the beginning of its history by any stretch of the imagination.
Being situated as a figurative and literal gateway between Europe and Asia, every Mediterranean empire in history has strived to control the area and it is one of the oldest permanently settled areas of the world. The first major empire in the area was the Hittites (18th-13th centuries BC) and were followed by the Phrygians (12th-7th centuries BC), Cimmerians, Urartu, and Medes (all in the 7th & 6th centuries BC). During this time, important Greek settlements were established on the Aegean (western) coast, but in the 6th century BC the Persians conquered the entire area and would hold it until Alexander the Great came rolling though in 334 BC on the way to establishing one of the largest empires in history.
The Greek Empire would give way to the Roman Empire and the area would Christianize toward the later part of their rule. In 324 AD Emperor Constantine chose Byzantium to be the new capital of the Empire and the city was renamed Constantinople (later to become Istanbul). By 395 AD the Roman Empire split in two and Turkey was ruled by the eastern half, known as the Byzantine Empire which would last until 1453.
Starting in the 11th century AD a group of people, known as Turks, migrated from their origins in central Asia. As they moved westward they replaced the Greek language and Christianity with the Turkish language and Islam. Eventually they would form the Ottoman Empire, which would capture Constantinople and extinguish the Byzantine Empire in 1453. The Ottoman Empire would last until World War 1, where they fought with the Central Powers and were defeated by the Allied Powers and this set up the War of Independence by Ataturk that I mention first.
In 2016, I visited Turkey twice. The first time I spent a week exploring Istanbul concentrated within the ancient Constantinople area (Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Roman Cistern), but also checked out the area around Galata Tower, Taksim Square, Kadikoy on the Anatolian (Asian) side, and the Princess Islands. The second time I visited in 2016 I flew to Cappadocia to spend several days exploring the wonders of this World Heritage Site.
Turkey is becoming a second home for me and I returned in 2017 to do a road trip along the Aegean Coast from the ruins of Troy down to Fethiye.
Likes, Dislikes, and Recommendations
Being the gateway between Europe and Asia, Turkey has a lot going for it. From abundant agriculture to geographical location to a wealth of historic sites, Turkey is a regional power and could easily achieve world power statues……if the government did not get in its own way.
From a tourist point of view though, there is so much to see in Turkey. With 14 or so World Heritage Sites and at least six different major empires ruling the land over the eons, you will not be able to see everything at one time. I recommend you start with Istanbul and then move on to Cappadocia. After that you can choose where to visit based on region, empire, geography, or several other factors.
One thing that is universal in Turkey is their love for food. Breakfast is a huge ordeal with many, many things to choose from. If you ask for a kabab be prepared to pick from at least a dozen different types. Over half the restaurants in Turkey serve meze, which is like tapas and a good way to try many things. Of everything I have had my two favorite dishes are kumpir and manti. Also note that you should never get in the way of a Turk and their coffee or tea. 😊
Soon you can get even more helpful hints by watching the travel videos I am making for Turkey. In the meantime, you can read what all I did there in my blog posts below.