There are many things one can say about Turkey. The tourist literature I dug up before our trip went from proud factual to suspiciously boastful... but don't take my word for it. Turkey claims the following:
- a total area of 780,580 sq km (land+water) - slightly larger than Texas
- 67.8 million population (as of census in year 2000), living in its 81 provinces
- Istanbul is the world's only city located on 2 continents and is a former capital of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires
- the word "turquoise" comes from "Turk", revering the waters of Southern Turkey's Mediterranean coast
- 2 of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World stood in Turkey in Ephesus and Bodrum
- many scholars believe that Noah's Arc landed on Agri Dagi (Mt. Ararat) in Eastern Turkey
- Turks introduced coffee to Europe
- Turks introduced tulips to the Dutch, starting the craze called "tulipmania"
- St. Nicholas, known today as Santa Claus, was born and lived in Demre (today's Myra) on the southern coast
- the first coins ever minted were done so at Sardis, capital of ancient Lydia
- the first man ever to fly was a Turk, using two wings and leaping off the Galata tower
- the oldest known human settlement in the world is located at Catalhoyuk, dating back to 6500 BC
- Turkey is known as "the cradle of civilization" and was home to a succession of ancient cultures incluing: the Hittites, Assyrians, Phrygians, Urartians, Lycians, Lydians, Ionians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans.
Whew... and those are just the highlights. Exaggerated or not, the Turks have much to be proud of and I kinda like that bright red flag flying above every village, tunnel and corner store. (pictured at right with an equally ubiquitous evil eye to ward off malicious intent)
Our lasting impressions, after the striking old architecture and breathtaking scenery have formed a glittering backdrop of Turkey's sights and delights, are the people's kindnesses, outrageous hospitality and their willingness to help, always with a twinkling eye and a face creased into a big smile. I've lost count of the number of times we were offered tea, escorted to our destination when we simply asked which way to go, invited out and were treated like royalty simply because we accepted that offer of being a guest...
Artistry, colour, good humour and great food everywhere. I'm humbly grateful to have learned about hosting from the heart in such a thorough and completely enjoyable way!
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