Turkey united the East and the West, Asia and Europe, in the history of civilization. This ancient land welcomes the visitor with its long profile of hills descending to the sea, among steep slopes luxuriant with vegetation and blossoming gardens.

Population and Customs

For many centuries the name Turkey did not actually refer to the present day nation as we know it, but rather a wide empire of different nations conquered in Asia, Africa and Europe by the Ottoman Empire. When after the First World War this empire was dismembered, the modern Turkish republic rose, thanks to the movement led by Mustafa Kemal Pasha in 1923. The territory of Turkey comprises the Anatolian peninsula, part of Armenia and part of Kurdistan, and the Turkish population includes a number of ethnic minorities as Kurds, Arabs, Roma, Greeks, Armenians, Circassians, Georgians and Jews. The main religion is Islam, with small minorities of other faiths.

In short

Area: 780.580 km² -- Population: about 68 million inhabitants -- Government: parliamentary republic -- Capital: Ankara -- Language: Turkish -- Religion: 98% muslim -- Currency: Turkish lira -- Phone Area Code: +90 -- Car Plate: TR -- Provinces: 81 (in Turkish called "il" singular, "iller" plural), organized in 7 regions (bölge, plural bölgeler) which have however no administrative function. Each province is further subdivided into districts (in Turkish, sing. ilçe, plural ilçeler), for a total of 923. The regions are: Aegean Region (Ege Bölgesi), Black Sea Region (Karadeniz Bölgesi), Central Anatolia Region (I.ç Anadolu Bölgesi), Eastern Anatolia Region (Dog(u Anadolu Bölgesi), Marmara Region (Marmara Bölgesi), Mediterranean Region (Akdeniz Bölgesi), Southeastern Anatolia Region (Güneydog(u Anadolu Bölgesi) -- Member of: UNO, NATO

The Territory

Turkey is a transcontinental country, including also a territory that geographically is part of the European continent, Eastern Thrace in the northwest. It is mainly mountainous with the East-Black Sea range to the north and the Taurus to the south, while the central part, Anatolia or Asia Minor, is mostly a high plateau, arid and occupied by steppes, which to the west ends with the Lycaonia desert, once an inner sea, where today still traces of salty lakes are found. The highest summit is Mount Ararat (5,165 metres or 16,854 ft) near the Iranian border, the mythical mountain where Noah's Ark landed after the flood. The climate varies with the altitude and the vicinity to the sea. Along the coasts there is a rich vegetation of chestnut, pine, fir trees, and cultivations of citrus fruit, cereals, tobacco, sugar-beet, mulberry used for silk worm breeding.

Places of interest

The capital is Ankara, Ancyra in antiquity, and the walls of the ancient fortress that once protected against invasions are still visible. A true jewel is the city of Istanbul, formerly Constantinople and Byzanthium, a large cosmopolitan metropolis and major commercial center.

Other important centers are Yzmir (Smyrne) on the Gulf of the same name and one of the major Turkist ports, Trabzon on the Black Sea, the natural outlet of Armenia and Kurdistan to the sea, then Bodrum, that rises on the site of the ancient Halicarnassus, and the beautiful Antalya.

Among the main tourist destinations are also the ruins of ancient civilizations, as Elea, Epheses, Miletus, Knidos, Sardis and Pergamon, as well as the most famous of all, the site of the ancient Troy (Ilyon) sung by Homer in its eternal poems, whose ruins were first brought to light on 4 August 1872 by Heinrich Schliemann on the Hissarlik hill.

How to Travel

Turkish Airlines connects Istanbul, Ankara and Yzmir to the main airports in the world (almost all European capitals, New York, Karachi, Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo and most Arab capitals). Once in Turkey, there are bus and train connections to all parts of the country. Renting a car is also a possibility, though it is advisable to avoid city traffic; a good option is to use the ferries or waterfoil that connect Istanbul to Bursa, Izmir and Trabzon (on the Black Sea).

From Munich, Germany, there is an Istanbul Express train that passes through Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, and from Athens and other Greek cities there are buses and ferries, and buses to Turkey also leave from Vienna and Frankfurt. Venice, Italy, is connected from May throughout October by ferries of the Turkish Maritime Lines to Antalya, Marmaris and Izmir.

The Economy

The traditional sheep and goat raising is still practised, with a remarkable production of renowned Angora wool, and the weaving craft is another important activity, with production of cotton, silk and woollen cloth; the Yzmir carpets were always highly renowned all over the world for their typical patterns and quality. The main mining resources are lead, copper and sulphur. In the last decades the tourist industry is acquiring more and more importance.