GENERAL INFO ABOUT TURKEY
There’re millions of reasons to visit Turkey. Our country is a real travel heaven. To begin with, this wonderful land is blessed by a lovely nature. Surrounded on three sides by the sea, it is covered by mountains, forests, steppes and all sorts of scenic beauties. The service-friendliness and traditional warm hospitality of Turkish people for visitors is already well-known worldwide.
The history of the lands of Turkey - Anatolia- is incredibly rich and one of the oldest on the world. Turkey has hosted more than 36 civilizations over the past 5000 years. The whole country is a reflection of this richness in terms of culture, traditions, archeology and anthropology and still embodies many ethnic and religious minorities such as Armenians, Jewish, Christians, and old Levantines together in peace.
Its borders with Armenia, Iran, Syria, Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia have had a great influence on the culture as well. Turkey has a uniqueness of being the cradle of many civilizations with a wealthy heritage of numerous cultural, historical and archaeological sites.
MUSTAFA KEMAL ATATÜRK
Turkey has been a democratic and secular republic since The Proclamation of the Republic in 1923 after the collapse of The Ottoman Empire. The founder of “Modern Turkey” is the Great Leader M. Kemal Atatürk who took the lead of Turkish public in the 1919-1922 War of Independence. He went on to reform the education system and language by replacing the Koranic law with European codes and initialized the process of building a modern, industrial society.
In 1949, Turkey became a member of The Council of Europe, in 1952 joined NATO and played a vital role in the Cold War. Finally, joined The Customs Union with Europe and applied for full membership of The European Union. If the formal process results positively, Turkey will be soon a member of The European Union.
The new Civil Code adopted in 1926 abolished polygamy and recognized the equality of women in divorce, custody, and inheritance. The entire educational system from the primary school to the university became coeducational. The Great Leader Atatürk admired the national liberation struggle of women and praised them. In Turkish society, women have not lagged behind men in science, education, and culture. Perhaps, they have even gone further ahead." Women have gained the same rights and opportunities as men including political rights. In the mid-1930's, 18 women, among them a villager, were elected to the National Parliament. And Turkey had: "The world's first women supreme court justice."
About four-fifths of the people in Turkey are Turks. Kurds, who form the majority in southeastern provinces bordering Syria, Iran, and Iraq, constitute the largest national minority. The remainder of the population is composed of a variety of smaller groups, including ethnic Greeks, Armenians, and Sephardic Jews. Urban residents represent 76 percent (2010 estimate) of the population. Ankara is the capital. Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, was once called Constantinople and was the center of the Byzantine Empire; it is still the industrial, commercial, and intellectual center of the country.
As visitors notice when they travel there, The Turkish Republic is a unitary state and totally different from all Islamic countries in the Middle-East. Turkey is a modern, democratic and secular country where everyone can belong to any religion and political opinion by free will. This is guaranteed by the Turkish Constitution itself. Although the great majority of the population is Muslim, there is a full respect and tolerance towards other convictions, cultures and descent as an old tradition of The Ottoman Empire.
The most difficult change in any society is probably a language reform. Most nations never attempted it; those who do, usually prefer a gradual approach. During Atatürk’s Leadership, Turkey undertook the modern world's swiftest and most extensive language reform. In 1928, he decided to remove the Arabic Script, which had been used for a thousand year and replaced it with the Latin alphabet. He asked the experts: "How long would it take?" Most of them replied: "At least five years.” We shall do it," Atatürk said, "Within five months".
Today, Turkey has major universities all over the country. Except for Europe and North America, it has one of the world's highest ratios of university graduates to population. English and German are widely spoken in the cities. In small villages, it can be difficult to find people who speak foreign languages but the traditional friendliness of Turkish people overcomes barriers. If you learn even a few basic Turkish words, you will be welcomed with an enthusiasm.
HOLIDAYS AND CELEBRATIONS
Muslim holidays are reckoned by the lunar calendar and vary from year to year. A major Muslim festival is the three-day holiday called Şeker Bayramı (sugar holiday), which comes at the end of the month-long fast of Ramazan (Ramadan). A favorite treat at this time is rahat lokum—colorful cubes of gelatin candy covered with powdered sugar—which is known in the West as “Turkish delight.” A four-day Muslim holiday called Kurban Bayramı (sacrifice holiday) honors Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, at Allah’s command. It also marks the season of pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah). An animal is usually sacrificed on this day to symbolize Allah’s allowing Abraham to sacrifice a ram instead of his son as a reward for his show of faith. Secular holidays in Turkey are reckoned according to the Gregorian (Western) calendar. Other official holidays include New Year’s Day (1 January), National Sovereignty Day (23 April, also Children’s Day), Atatürk’s Memorial Day and Youth Day (19 May), Victory Day (30 August), and Republic Day (29 October). The day before Republic Day is also a holiday in some areas.
August is when most people take their vacation. National Sovereignty Day commemorates the Grand National Assembly’s inauguration on 23 April 1923. In honor of Children’s Day, 400 students are given the chance to take seats in the national government in the nation’s capital for a day.
Atatürk’s Memorial Day and Youth Day commemorates the beginning of the national movement for independence in 1919, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. On Victory Day, military parades are held, the world’s oldest military band—the Mehtar band—plays, and fireworks are set off. Republic Day celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the republic in 1923.
TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATION
Around major urban areas, the roads are paved and in good condition. In rural areas, the infrastructure is generally adequate but not always well maintained. Taxis, buses, streetcars, dolmus (shared taxis), and ferries (in Istanbul) provide public transportation. Rail and air services connect major cities. The principal airports for international scheduled flights are located in Istanbul and Ankara. The communication system is fairly good, although telecommunication services (both domestic and international) are best in urban areas. There are several national television and radio stations. There is a wide selection of daily newspapers, representing a broad spectrum of political opinions, but government reaction to criticism can be harsh.
Soccer is the most popular sport for both spectators and participants, but Turks also enjoy a variety of other sports, including volleyball, basketball, wrestling, and swimming. Other principal recreational activities include watching television, going to the cinema, and socializing in the home or in cafés and restaurants, although women are less likely to socialize among themselves in cafés and restaurants, especially in rural areas.
Breakfast is usually light, consisting of tea, white cheese, bread, butter, marmalade or honey, and olives. The main meal of the day is eaten in the evening and may consist of several courses. Traditional Turkish cuisine includes meze, a tray or table of hors d’oeuvres, including stuffed grape leaves, salads, shrimp, and a variety of other items; and shish kebablar (chunks of lamb on a skewer). Meat is often grilled. Fish is fairly plentiful along the Bosporus and the coast, but tends to be expensive. Vegetables are usually prepared in olive oil, and rice pilav is common. Soups are an important part of the diet. Turkish desserts include baklava (syrup-dipped pastry) and muhallebi (milk pudding). Turkish coffee (kahve), a thick brew served in small cups, is served with nearly every meal. Despite being overwhelmingly Muslim, Turkish people enjoy locally made beer, wine, and spirits. The national drink is Rakı, an aniseed-flavored clear grape brandy, similar to Greek ouzo or French pastis, that clouds when water is added. Breakfast is usually eaten around 7 AM, or earlier in rural areas. Lunch is at midday, and dinner, the main meal, is around 7 PM, when the family generally expects to sit down together. Eating habits vary according to the region and the food being eaten. Traditionally, many foods are eaten with the fingers, but utensils are now widely used. To begin or end a meal, one might say Afiyet olsun (“May what you eat bring you well-being”). One may compliment the cook on the meal by saying Elinize saglık (roughly, “Bless your hand”).
WHAT TO PACK
Turkey has a diverse range of climates. The coast is generally mild in winter and hot in summer. The interior is warm in summer and cold in winter so you will need to bring clothes according to the season. Turkish people are generally informal in their choice of clothing and so there is little need to bring formal wear.
Turkey is also an available country for walking, enjoying the scenery or visiting the rights.
Good footwear, hat, and sun protection we recommend it.
Turkey uses a 220 volt electricity, 50 cycles, 2 pin European plug system, so you will need to bring an adapter with you if your electricity system is different.