For sheer diversity, it’s hard to beat Turkey. The country seems to exist in multitudes – of people, of natural landscapes, of cultures. It is a land of vast open spaces, massive mountain ranges, fertile valleys and rugged coastline, fast-growing cities and sleepy villages, bustling neon-lit seaside resorts and unfrequented beaches. Countless waves of invasions, rebellions and ongoing immigration have created a country that may surprise visitors with the breadth and depth of the cultural melting-pot, not just in the major cities but across the country, with Kurds, Greeks, Arabs and many more groups to be found.
A rich history has continually shaped Turkey, whilst leaving indelible marks - the country overflows with historic sites and archaeological wonders set in a varied and beautiful landscape. The Mediterranean coastline is punctuated with well-preserved Greco-Roman cities such as Pergamom and Ephesus, while the austere and rugged Anatolian plateau has cave churches hidden away in the improbable fairytale landscape of Cappadocia.
Aside from the historical relics, there’s much to be admired about modern-day Turkey. First time visitors to Istanbul, which is not the capital but still very much the pulse of the nation, will be overwhelmed with choices. There are Roman aqueducts, Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques and palaces to see. But there are also cafes to frequent, Grand Bazaars to thrill at, hammams to visit and clubs to dance the night away in. The city thrums with constant hustle and bustle but for those who want to step out of the clamour, there are plenty of places to seek solitude and rest.
Still, the country is vast, and Istanbul is just one piece of Turkey’s puzzle. Beach-lovers can while away sunny days in the ever-popular resorts of Bodrum, Marmaris and Izmir along Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Ankara, the unlikely capital city, may be less of an attraction, but located in central Anatolia, it’s worthy of a few days’ investigation if only to see the contrast between the new modern city and the old citadel which still remains. Here, visitors can glean an insight into another aspect of traditional Turkish culture away from the more European sensibilities of Istanbul.
However deep its past, Turkey is now a thrusting and dynamic society that is navigating cultural, economic and political change while consciously seeking to retain the best of its multicultural heritage and time-honoured traditions of hospitality.