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Peter Sommer explains why he fell in love with this historic land.
I first travelled to Turkey in 1994, when I walked 2,000 miles there retracing the route of Alexander the Great. From the very first moment I set foot on its soil, I was hooked.
Three Great Things –
For me, three great things embody this country. Just four hours flight away from the UK, it has a culture which is profoundly different, distinctly unfamiliar. A land on the very cusp of Europe and Asia, with two heads simultaneously facing both east and west, it embodies the magic and mysticism of the orient. Once nomads from Central Asia, the Turks were for centuries the middlemen of the world, famed merchants uniting three continents – Europe, Africa, and Asia, as far east as China. Today, its people are famed for their warmth and hospitality, a gift of their nomadic ancestry and Islam’s code of respect for strangers in a strange land.
History and Archaeology
The second great thing about Turkey is its age. The place is steeped in history. It’s the site of some of the very earliest cities, like Çatalhöyϋk, stretching back 10,000 years. Ever after it was a veritable crossroads of civilisations. When archaeologists dig in Turkey they are confronted by layers upon layers of peoples and cultures, from Hittite fortifications to Byzantine churches. Before I’d even set foot there, Turkey conjured up images of all the things that I longed to see, great sun-burnt plains on which ancient battles were fought, theatres where Greek philosophers declaimed, and the marble clad ruins of Rome’s imperial ambitions.
Ephesus Library in Turkey
It’s widely said that Turkey has more and better preserved Greek and Roman archaeological sites than Greece and Italy combined. The landscape is simply riddled with ruins, many of which are virtually untouched. You can literally stroll through an olive grove and stumble upon a Greek temple still standing proud, and have the place all to yourself. Many people say part of Turkey’s charm is that it is like Greece was thirty years ago.
The third fantastic thing about Turkey is the landscape. About three and a half times the size of Britain, it has almost the same population, leaving vast areas wide, empty, and free of the urban sprawl we see at home. Add to that soaring mountain ranges, brilliant white sunlight, and a vast coastline stretching along three seas, the Black Sea, the Aegean, and the Mediterranean, and you have a truly marvellous holiday destination.