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Impressions of Turkey

HOMEeurasi to HOMEtur

It is not only geographically that Turkey straddles two continents, Europe and Asia. Yes, as the Bosporus flows past Istanbul’s magnificent skyline, dominated by Topkapı, the dome of the Aghia Sophia and the six tall minarets of the Blue Mosque, its magic meander separates Europe from Asia, ‘Rumeli’ Turkey from ‘Anadolu’ Turkey. But, there is more! For decades Istanbul’s population has been growing at a spectacular speed, particularly on the ‘Asian side’, a development which substantially altered the social texture of the city. Today’s Istanbul is no longer the city which is unequivocally centred around the landmarks of its splendid history of Byzantine Constantinople and the Sublime Porte who ruled over a multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire from the Balkans to the Middle East. Today, these landmarks are still there, of course, and they are inexhaustible and magnificent, but at the same time it is captivating how genuine Anatolian root culture has found its way West, to the Bosporus.


A genuine Turkish root culture of which the heart has indeed always beaten deep inside Anatolia. For many centuries, the coastal regions along the Black and Aegean Seas and the Mediterranean were impregnated with Hellenism, Roman presence and the lasting influence of their cultural heritage. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Byzantines also penetrated deep into the Anatolian peninsula and left behind brilliant vestiges. But in 1071 Byzantium’s Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes lost a decisive battle at Manzikert against an army of Seljuks who had advanced from Central Asia through Persia and Khorasan: a game changer in Anatolia, for from then on a Turkic identity largely supplanted the inheritance of the West, as well as of old Nations with a history of old kingdoms in the East, on the frontier with the Persian world, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, etc. The mosaic of history and culture of Anatolia which we are about to discover.


And along with that, there is the absolute beauty of this country, which literally has it all: from idyllic inlets and coves near Çeşme or Antalya to incredible rock formations in Cappadocia, snow-capped summits in the Taurus mountains, grand lakes by the city of Van and gentle green hills near Rize, covered with tea shrubs as far as the eye reaches.


Living for five years in Turkey has implied for me the absolute privilege of getting around much of all this, and it is my greatest pleasure to share the experience and the fascination in the face of so much diversity in all meanings of the word.

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