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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Turkey


Turkey proudly sits astride two continents: a position that has given rise to a culture that reflects both East and West. It is a country where European aspirations sit comfortably alongside Asian traditions and the volatile atmosphere of the Middle East morphs seamlessly into the relaxed outlook of the Mediterranean world.Turks have only lived here since medieval times when they arrived as land-hungry nomads from Central Asia. Before that it was Byzantine territory and Istanbul - then Constantinople - was the political centre of a vast Christian empire. Romans, Persians, Lycians and Phrygians were former occupants of the same territory, and earlier still, Hittite tribes had built an Anatolian empire before collapsing around the time of the Trojan Wars.Such a rich history has left an indelible mark and Turkey abounds with historic sites and archaeological wonders set in a varied and beautiful landscape. The Mediterranean coastline is punctuated with well-preserved Greco-Roman cities such as Pergamom and Ephesus, while the austere and rugged Anatolian plateau has cave churches hidden away in the improbable fairytale landscape of Cappadocia. Istanbul, still very much the pulse of the nation, has even more to offer, with Roman aqueducts, Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques and palaces.With history at every turn, it is tempting to portray Turkey as a quaint, time-locked country that adheres to tradition but this is far from the truth. The modern republic's first leader, Kemal Atatürk, saw to it that Turkey was reinvented as a modern secular state following the demise of the Ottoman Empire. What you see today, thanks to Atatürk's comprehensive modernisation, is a healthy combination of ancient tradition and contemporary outlook. This outlook sees little contradiction in having modern European ways tempered by Islam and time-honoured traditions of hospitality

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