Turkey is a parliamentary republic in Eurasia, largely located in Western Asia, with the smaller portion of Eastern Thrace in Southeast Europe. Turkey is bordered by eight countries: Syria and Iraq to the south; Iran, Armenia, and the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan to the east; Georgia to the northeast; Bulgaria to the northwest; and Greece to the west. The Black Sea is to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Aegean Sea to the west.
The earliest recorded inhabitants of Anatolia were the Hattians and Hurrians, non-Indo-European peoples who inhabited central and eastern Anatolia, respectively, as early as ca. 2300 BC. Indo-European Hittites came to Anatolia and gradually absorbed the Hattians and Hurrians ca. 2000–1700 BC. The first major empire in the area was founded by the Hittites, from the 18th through the 13th century BC. The Assyrians conquered and settled parts of southeastern Turkey as early as 1950 BC until the year 612 BC.
Starting around 1200 BC, the coast of Anatolia was heavily settled by Aeolian and Ionian Greeks. Numerous important cities were founded by these colonists, such as Miletus, Ephesus, Smyrna (now İzmir) and Byzantium (now Istanbul), the latter founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 657 BC. The first state that was called Armenia by neighbouring peoples was the state of the ArmenianOrontid dynasty, which included parts of eastern Turkey beginning in the 6th century BC. In Northwest Turkey, the most significant tribal group in Thrace was the Odyrisians, founded by Teres
Starting from the late 13th century, the Ottomans united Anatolia and created an empire encompassing much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, becoming a major power in Eurasia and Africa during the early modern period. The empire reached the peak of its power between the 15th and 17th centuries, especially during the 1520–66 reign of Suleiman the Magnificent.
The history of modern Turkey from its formation in the aftermath of the Ottoman defeat in World War I (1914–18) until the 21st century. For a discussion of the earlier history of the area, see Anatolia; Ottoman Empire.
Although the legal Ottoman government in Istanbul under the 36th and last Ottoman sultan, Mehmed VI (Vahideddin; ruled 1918–22), had decided that resistance to Allied demands was impossible, pockets of resistance remained in Anatolia—the rump of the Ottoman state that later was to form the bulk of modern Turkey—after the Armistice of Mudros, the agreement that ended Ottoman involvement in World War I. These included bands of irregulars and deserters, a number of intact Ottoman units, and various societies for the “defence of rights.” Resistance was stimulated by the Greek occupation of İzmir (May 15, 1919). At this time Mustafa Kemal—one of the empire’s most successful officers during the war—was sent on an official mission to eastern Anatolia, landing at Samsun on May 19. He immediately began to organize resistance, despite official Ottoman opposition. Through the Association for the Defense of the Rights of Eastern Anatolia (founded March 3, 1919), Congress was summoned at Erzurum (July–August), followed by a second congress at Sivas (September) with delegates representing the whole country. The new Association for the Defense of the Rights of Anatolia and Rumelia was established, and an executive-committee with Mustafa Kemal as chairman was created to conduct resistance.
The official government yielded to Kemalist pressure. The unpopular grand vizier, Damad Ferid Pasha, resigned and was replaced by the more sympathetic Ali Riza Pasha. Negotiations with the Kemalists were followed by the election of a new parliament, which met in Istanbul in January 1920. A large majority in parliament was opposed to the official government policy and passed the National Pact, formulated at Erzurum and Sivas, which embodied the political aims of independence roughly within the October 1918 armistice lines. The Allies countered by extending the occupied area of Istanbul (March 16, 1920) and by arresting and deporting many deputies. Damad Ferid became grand vizier again on April 5 and, with religious support, set out to crush the Kemalists.
While it may sound like a tourism brochure cliché, Turkey really is a curious mix of the west and the east—you may swear you were in a Balkan country or in Greece when in northwestern and western parts of the country (except that Byzantine-influenced churches are substituted with Byzantine-influenced mosques), which are indeed partly inhabited by people from Balkan countries, who immigrated during the turmoil before, during, and after WWI, while southeastern reaches of the country exhibit little if any cultural differences from Turkey’s southern and eastern neighbors.
The savvy traveller should remember that when travelling into, in or around Turkey there are several holidays to keep in mind as they can cause delays in travel, traffic congestion, booked up accommodations and crowded venues. Banks, offices and businesses are closed during official holidays and traffic intensify during all of the following holidays so do your research before you visit. Do not be put off by these holidays, it is not that difficult and often quite interesting to travel during Turkish holidays, simply plan ahead as much as possible.
- Ankara (Ancyra) — the capital of Turkey and its second largest city
- Antalya (Attalia) — the fastest growing city, hub to an array of beach resorts
- Bodrum (Halicarnassus) — a trendy coastal town in the Southern Aegean which turns into a crowded city in season when it serves as a playground for Turkish and international holidaymakers alike, featuring a citadel, Roman ruins, trendy clubs and a number of villages surrounding the peninsula each with a different character from classy to rustic
- Bursa — the first capital of the Ottoman Empire
- Edirne (Adrianople) — the second capital of the Ottoman Empire
- Istanbul (Constantinople) — Turkey’s largest city, the former capital of both the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires, and the only major city in the world to straddle two continents
- Izmir (Smyrna) — Turkey’s third largest city
- Konya (Iconium) — a quite large city that is the heartland of mystic Sufi order, the site of Rumi’s tomb, and with some elegant Seljuq architecture, all surrounded by vast steppes
- Trabzon — the wonderful Sümela Monastery is just outside the city and it is a great gateway to exploring the Turkish Northeast
- Urfa (Edessa) — magical city with beautiful architecture and extremely friendly locals at the gates of Eastern World; where Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic and Persian cultures mingle
Turkey has a complicated visa policy – more so than that of the Schengen Area.
Turkey’s primary international gateway by air is Istanbul‘s Atatürk International Airport. Ankara‘s Esenboğa Airport handles a comparatively limited selection of international flights, and there are also direct charters to Mediterranean resort hot spots like Antalya in the peak summer and winter seasons.
You can still travel from Europe to Turkey by train, although these days this is more of historical or perhaps even romantic interest than fast or practical. The famed Orient Express from London now travels no further than Vienna, but you can take the daily TransBalkan from Budapest (Hungary) via Bucharest (Romania), a two-night journey with a scheduled 3-hour stop in Bucharest.
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