Light between East and West: The title may sound like a flight of poetic fancy, but in the case of Turkey, the words fit as precisely as any mathematical equation. ‘Light,’ for the beautiful sunsets that grace this country. And ‘between East and West’ because Turkey, spanning two continents and more than 2,000 years of history and culture (12,000, if you count the apparent discovery of the world’s oldest temple), is rich in contrasts thanks to its geographic location.
This bicontinental nation covers the entire peninsula of Anatolia in Asia and the southeastern portion of Thrace in Europe, separated by the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. Its grandest city, the lovely Istanbul, is among the best witnesses to the passage of time in world history: Here you can appreciate the influence of Greek conquests and the Byzantine Empire, which calls the city its birthplace. During that time, it was renamed Constantinople by Emperor Constantine the Great.
According to legend, though, the country reached the height of its splendor much earlier, during the reign of King Midas of Phrygia, part of what is today Turkey. Little by little, his territory spread eastward to the border of Urartu (today Armenia), Iran and Turkey, much like the nation’s current dimensions. Such was the wealth this king attained by maintaining trade relations with Assyria and Urartu, that the Greeks eventually adopted him into their mythology, so that today everyone knows this king for turning everything he touched to gold.
Istanbul Sightseeing Tips
If you travel to this grand European city, don’t miss the opportunity to wander its streets, visit its countless monuments and archeological ruins… and above all, don’t miss the famous dervishes and belly dancing. Who, after all, hasn’t dreamt of being able to move like those dancers?
Nor should you miss having a spot of tea in either the Üsküdar neighborhood, one of the oldest on the Asian side, in an outdoor café or on a small boat on the Bosphorus, overlooking the Galata Bridge which unites Europe and Asia, while contemplating one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. If you like to eat, in Turkey you will savor a cuisine that blends classic Mediterranean influences such as olive oil and vegetables with exotic Arab- and Indian-accented spices. The variety of Turkish cuisine is almost endless, so plan on sampling new delights every day.
Beaches in Turkey Not to Miss
Turkey’s beaches, unknown to most, offer fine white sand and crystal-clear emerald waters. The beach at Antalya in southwest Turkey is especially appealing thanks to the surrounding cliffs and mountains (don’t worry, there are good roads to get there!). After a day of sightseeing, Antalya’s crystal-clear waters and great variety of bars and restaurants will be all you’ll need to cool down and recharge.
For another must-see beach, head to the island of Kekova in the Aegean Sea. This island is also called the ‘sunken city,’ where you can explore the partially submerged marble columns and stone steps of the ancient city of Apollonia, which sank after a series of devastating earthquakes. In order to preserve this unique site, snorkeling and diving are currently prohibited, but you can see the spectacular ruins from a kayak or ferry.
Photo | Tare