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All About Turkey

turkey

Turkey is a land of whirling dervishes and Roman ruins, hammam baths and coastal cruises, Christian holy sites and mosque minarets spiking the skies. It also just may be the most culturally diverse country in Europe. Stretched along the Black Sea from the Caucasus to the Aegean, Turkey is where the Mediterranean meets Central Asia and the Middle East mingles with the Balkans.

It is also one of the friendliest places on earth, where an invitation to tea is not just a polite formality but a sincere offering to begin a new friendship (or sometimes just to close the deal on a rug sale—but still, a friendly one). Istanbul, straddling the wide Bosphorus and two continents, was capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium, and the Ottoman Empire. Such rich history has left this bustling city strewn with magnificent sights, from glorious mosques to the sprawling Topkapi Palace of the Ottoman sultans, the labyrinthian 4,000-stall Grand Bazaar to leisurely boat rides on the Bosphorus Strait separating Europe from Asia.

Turkey is vast, and you could spend a lifetime exploring it, but among the don’t-miss destinations are poppy-strewn ruins of Ephesus, where the Apostle Paul once preached, one of the world’s best-preserved ancient Roman cities. Staying in a cave home tunneled into the tufa followed by a sunrise balloon ride over the stunning rock pinnacles of Cappadocia is a classic Turkish experience, as is a soak in the dramatic hot springs of Pamukkale, a series of azure travertine pools stair-stepping down a hillside. Turkey is incredible from the beaches of the Turquoise Coast to the cliffside monasteries of Northern Anatolia, the islands of the Aegean to the Kurdish villages in the eastern Tigres and Euphrates Valley, the cradle of modern humanity

When to Go to Turkey: The shoulder seasons of spring and fall are best for Turkey, with mild but generally warm weather and fewer crowds than at the height of the often sweltering summer. Istanbul is a year-round kind of town, but smaller centers and the coast tend to shut down during winter.

Events and Holdiays in Turkey:

Camel Wrestling Festival

Third Sunday in January

The desert beasts of burden, draped in colorful padded saddles, tussle, head-butt, and wrestle each other to the ground in this odd, 2,400-year-old tradition in Selçuk timed to coincide with mating season (when male camels would be acting this way naturally).

Tulip Festival

Late March - early April

Istanbul plants some 13 million tulips across its parks and other public spaces to create long swathes and kaleidoscopes of color when they bloom in early spring.

Istanbul International Film Festival

April 7 - 17

The oldest international film festival in Turkey showcases movies and documentaries from international directors as well as encouraging the development of cinema in Turkey.

Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Tournament

Late June

Each June, village Pehlivan (wrestlers) from all over Turkey arrive in the town of Edirne to grease themselves up and engage in this Anatolian sport straight out of antiquity.

International Izmir Festival

Late May - early July

A month of classical concerts (along with ballet, jazz, and traditional music and dance) by top world performers and orchestras at evocative venues around ancient Ephesus, including the theater, the Library of Celsus, and the Agora.

Istanbul Jazz Festival

July 11 - 24

The Istanbul Jazz Festival features 35 concerts by some 250 musicians—Turkish and international—in jazz, pop, rock and world music at venues across Istanbul.

Festival of Whirling Dervishes

December 10 - 17

This week-long festival takes place in Konya, the spiritual home of the Mevlevi, or Mewlewiyya, Sufi sect founded by medieval Persian poet Rumi, famed for their mesmerizing, head-tilted spinning observance of religious duty. The final night is the best.

Known for its exotic mix of religions, culture, and food, Turkey is a must-see destination, its far-flung sights easily linked by the government-owned Turkish State Railways, known as the TCDD. The TCDD was formed in…

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