Turkey is the only country in the world that is divided over two continents. Thracia is the European part. It covers only 3% of the total surface of Turkey. The larger part is Anatolia which lies on the Asian continent. The total surface of the country is 780.000 km². Those who want to cross the country have to cover a distance of about 1.900 km. Most of the country’s frontiers are formed by the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. The two main cities are Istanbul (European Part) and Ankara (Asian part).
The second feature of Turkey’s geography is the enormous diversity of its landscapes : fertile valleys, dense pine woods, subtropical beaches, deserts, prairies and rough mountains. Based on the climate, relief and farm grounds the following areas can be discerned :
- Thracia, with its rolling hills, pine forests and broad-leaved forests.
- Marmara, which is more hilly. The highest mountain here is the Uludap (2.554 m) near Bursa. This region is also known as the garden of Istanbul.
- The Aegean area and the shores of the Mediterranean are also hilly with numerous pines forests.
- The heart of Turkey is formed by the Central Anatolian upland plains with an average altitude between 800 en 1.500 m. The Eastern and South-Eastern part of Anatolia displays a wild and rough beauty. The highest mountain in Turkey can be seen here : the Ararat, an extinguished volcano. The largest interior lake of Turkey is the Van-Gölü.
- The coast of the Black Sea, with the Pontian mountains.
Turkey City Lists:
1. Ankara City
Ankara is the official capital of Turkey. In 1920 it was a rather sleepy provincial town with about 30,000 inhabitants. Nowadays, it’s Turkey proud capital with a total of three million people. Ankara is the administrative center of the country. Here are all the government buildings surrounded by the offices and embassies of foreign powers. There are different Colleges and a university. Most of the important companies in the world have a branch here. Therefore, Ankara is a city of business men and diplomats. Of course, cities with a European appeal like Ankara attract the pour country people, who come here in search of happiness and good fortune. The result of this evolution can be seen in the many slum areas that stretch around Ankara.
The urban developers have left the old fortification hill untouched. Around the hill lies the old Osman town where the chickens still scatter about and where elderly ladies still sweep de sidewalk in front of their little wooden houses. A few hundred meters away from here, modern hotel towers point skywards, a view that would befit soaps such as Dynasty or Dallas. This strange combination of two different worlds is very illustrative for the identity crisis that strikes the Turkish nation. The modern and progressive Ankara embodies the Turkish dream, whereas the old city around the fortification shows the country’s traditional roots, from which it doesn’t want and cannot detach itself.
As a modern metropolis, Ankara has not that much to offer to today’s visitors. Nevertheless, the city can be an ideal starting point for a trip to Cappadocia and beyond. Also, the city’s splendid museum of Anatolian civilizations serves as a perfect introduction to what lies beyond Ankara. The Atatürk Mausoleum bears testimony to the spirit of the Turkish nation. Nobody needs to feel he’s loosing his time in Ankara.
2. Istanbul City
Istanbul is the largest city in the Turkish Republic. It used to be the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and before that is was the capital of the Eastern Roman and Byzantine Empires under the name of Constantinople. Istanbul lies at the strait of the Bosphorus, which links the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean. In the Bosphorus ends the so-called “Golden Horn”. This is a 7 km long estuary of several rivers that lie more inland. The estuary received this name because of the mirroring golden sunlight on its waters. It is considered one of the most beautiful bays in the world. It also separates the old part of the city (Stanbul) south of the bay from the newer part “Beyoglu”, north of the bay. Two bridges, the Galata bridge and the Atatürk bridge, link both parts of the city.
The city is spread out over two continents, Europe and Asia, because the urban area on both sides of the Bosphorus has developed considerably. The total surface of Istanbul is now more than 400 km². In 1973 the city had a population of about 3 million people. Since then, the number of inhabitants has doubled, especially because of the ongoing immigration of country people looking for a better life. A Turkish saying goes “In Istanbul even the dust and the stones are golden !”. Because of this spectacular rise in population, the city meets with a lot of problems. The infrastructure has difficulties keeping up with the pace. Certain parts of the city are virtual slums. Istanbul is not only an historic city but also the economic heart of the modern Turkish Republic. Every day a sheer unending trail of tankers and cargo ships pass through the Bosphorus.
The Topkapi Palace.The wealth of the city is perhaps most visible on the cultural level. There is an almost unending number of churches, mosques, palaces, bazaars and beautiful idyllic sites. When one looks during sunset from across the river of the Bosphorus to the reflecting red evening glow, it becomes easy to understand why so many centuries ago colonists settled here and why everybody has always wanted to lay his hands on this glorious city. Istanbul is filled to the rim with monuments. It was, after all, the capital of three successive empires (Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans). History is still very much visible in the city. Here are some of the monumental highlights of Istanbul : The Ayasofya : this mosk is probably the most known symbol of Istanbul and the former Byzantium. Emperor Justinian had this immense church built in the 6th century on the sport where a former church had been destroyed by fire. In 1463, after Constantinople had been taken by the Ottomans, it became the main mosk of the city. Four minaret’s were added. During the course of time, the Ayasofya-mosk was regularly rebuild and refurbished. The interior decoration is a mixture of Byzantine and Islamic art. It is now a museum.
There are also numerous splendid palaces : the Topkapi Palace (center of the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and the 19th century), with the dwellings of the harem, the pavilion with the relics of the prophet Mohammed, etc. Atatürk died in the Dolmabahce Palace on November 10, 1938. Others worth visiting are the Beylerbeyi Palace (19th century) in white marble, and the very luxurious Yilditz Palace from the 19th century. Among the important mosks are : the Sultanahmet mosk (1609-1616), also known as the “blue mosk”, the Syleymaniye mosk (1550-1557), considered to be the most beautiful of all, the Rustempasa mosk (1561) with its beautiful Iznik tiles, the Fatih mosk (1463-1470), which harbours the mausoleum of Fatih Sultan Mehmet, the conqueror of Constantinople.
The museums bear witness to the incredible historic wealth : in the inner courtyard of the Topkapi Palace are the Archeological Museums. In the Cinili Kösk the Museum of Turkish Ceramics a beautiful collection of Iznik ceramics from the 16th century is on display. What used to be the residence of the Sultan Süleyman the Great is now the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art. In front of the Ibrahim Pasa Palace stands the Museum of Turkish Tapestry. Further on, in the important Mosaics Museum, a splendid collection of mosaics from the palaces of the Byzantine emperors is preserved.
The most impressive monuments are the city walls of Istanbul, that stretch for 7 km alongside the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn. Built in the 5th century, they are now considered universal cultural heritage by the UNESCO. The Galata Tower, a Genoese construction from 1348 and 62 m high offers a splendid view over the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. At the entrance to the harbor a medieval tower from the 12th century can be seen : the Leander Tower. At the entrance of the Topkapi Palace is another major monument built in the style of the end of the Ottoman Empire : the Ahmet III fountain.
Turkey start in Istanbul, the gateway to the Orient. The city is also known under its former name of Constantinople, the Rome of the East, and later the capital of the Ottoman Empire, the mightiest Islamic empire of all times.
The trip then continues alongside the sunny Mediterranean beaches, where Homers Troy lies, but also Ephesus, the New York of the Greek-Roman world. There are more ancient ruins here than in continental Greece and their beauty matches everything else that can be found in the ancient world. Furthermore, most of these ruins are scarcely visited so that it is still possible to enjoy and admire them without having to share them with herds of tourists. There are more tourists on the western coast, but deserted and idyllic beaches and bays abound everywhere. In the virtually unspoiled mountain areas there are no tourists at all. During the springtime it is even possible to ski in the mountains during the morning and to swim in the warm water of the Mediterranean in the afternoon.
Those who decide to go inland will discover a landscape of vast plains and salt deserts that can be found nowhere else in Europe. Perhaps one of the greatest wonders of nature in Turkey is the very surrealistic turf stone landscape of Cappadocia with its thousands of cave dwellings and hundreds of churches in the rocks. And of course, no one should miss the beautiful (but very busy with tourists) calcium terraces of Pamukkale.
There is the adventurous Eastern Turkey. No lack in nomads tents here ! Everywhere in the wilderness are scattered the remains of lost civilizations. A beautiful example is the Nemrut mountain (2.150 m) with its mysterious idols or the ghost city of Ani close to the border with the former Soviet Union. The blue-green waters of the Van lake, surrounded by snowcapped mountains and grazing herds of cattle, are reminiscent of Central Asia, the true land of birth of the Turks. When crossing the Kars-Erzurum line, one arrives in the area of the little Caucasus or the Pontic Alps, a region which is almost never visited and which is never mentioned in tour guides. The mountains are covered with dense forest and with Balkan-like little villages and long forgotten basilicas. A visit to Turkey can then be closed off by a beautiful boat trip on the Black Sea.