Traveling to Izmir and Turkey is a unique experience. Homer defined Izmir as the most beautiful city under the dome of the World and we concur with his words. Izmir has long been a tourist attraction due to its beautiful climate, lovely and kind people, Mediterranean cosine, beautiful beaches and rich historical and cultural opportunities.

The city is a layer-by-layer partially discovered historical site dating back 7,000 years. Izmir is the third largest city of Turkey with a population of 4.2 Million people. We call her the pearl of the Aegean.

Most of our guests will arrive at the modern international airport renovated in 205 for the university summer games. Transportation from the airport to the city center is easy and fast. We recommend you to referee to the Travel Guide for detailed information. Guidebooks and most web sites provide update information on Izmir but the spirit is hidden in its narrow streets perpendicular to the waterline. Shortly after arriving you will feel the pace of the city. With this pace you may easily miss the little details that make a trip special. The ezan that invites Muslims to pray may wake you up at sunrise and the horns of ships crossing the bay may not let you sleep. But you needn’t worry, as the city will definitely make up for the sounds.

So you don’t miss them, we’d like to describe many of these small things about Izmir and Turkey, and cordially invite you to explore some fascinating facts.

Facts About Turkey

  • Turkey is located in both Europe and Asia. Istanbul, the biggest city and trade center of Turkey, is located in both Europe and Asia at the crossroads of East to West and North to South. Routes of trade, which were once named as the “Silk Road” are still active today except that ships, trains, planes and trucks have replaced the camel caravans and caravanserais (http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/turkey-guide/).
  • Turkey has four seasons. Turkey has 4 distinct seasons; winter, spring, summer and autumn. Autumn is always pleasant with warm days and cool nights.
  • Turkey is surrounded with seas. The Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea establish the North and the South borders of the country, respectively. The Aegean Sea is on the west coast separating Greece and Turkey. The Sea of Marmara is an inland sea that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea by two straits; the Bosporus in Istanbul and the Dardanelle in Çanakkale. High mountains and plateaus connect the country to Asia in the East.
  • Turkey is almost half as big as Europe. The land is 814.578 km2 and 3% of its territory, named Trakya, is in Europe.
  • The population of Turkey is estimated to be 80 Million. It is estimated that 80 million people live in Turkey today. 16 million of Turkey’s population lives in Istanbul.
  • Istanbul International Airport is always crowded. Istanbul International Airport is very crowded as it is one of the largest in the region. The airport is in the top 20 list of highest international traffic. Last year more than 32 million passengers passed through the airport. Istanbul receives hundreds of flights from 4 continents daily and personal proximity in the airport can be tighter than what you expect. Turkish people (men and women) commonly kiss one another on each cheek so don’t be surprised if you see people hugging and kissing each other while saying goodbye or welcoming someone.
  • Traffic in Turkey is complex and complicated. Traffic is very complex in Turkey. The roads in cities are almost always crowded. While walking around, carefully check the road before you go down the street and it is common that cars may not stop for you. Never ask a taxi to take you somewhere fast. The word for slow is “Yavaş” (the s with a dot below is a “sch” in Turkish). Cars drive on the right side of the road and the driver sits to the left of the car. We do still recommend you watch all sides of the road as irregularities are frequent.
  • Turkish people communicate by body language when they don’t speak English. Turks are talented in understanding and speaking body language. Try to explain what you want by playing the game “silent movie”. The miracle word is “Tamam” which means, “yes”, “no”, and “maybe.” If you want to stop someone say “tamam, tamam” as you say “no” in English and make a stop sign with your hand. For OK, say it softly and nod your head in an upward-downward direction. When you say taaamam (the second “a” should be long) this means I am not sure but I think I agree with the proposal. “Hayır” is a definite no and “Teşekkür” is thanks.
  • The oldest human settlement is Çatalhöyük. The oldest known human settlement that belongs to Hatti civilization is located in central Anadolu. Dating back to 6500 B.C., the earliest landscape painting in history illustrating the volcanic eruption was found on the walls of a Çatalhöyük house. Entrances of these houses were from their roofs and the dead were buried to the ground or walls of the houses (http://www.catalhoyuk.com/).
  • The Turks originate from central Asia. The first Turkish scripts, written by Bilge Khan and dating back to AD 720 and 725, were found in Northern Mongolia at the South part of Lake Baykal. These scripts reveal that Turks were living in the Northeastern steps of Asia. Due to lack of natural sources and extreme weather conditions, they first migrated south and had relations with China. However, the Great Wall was later built to prevent the entry of Turks into China and they subsequently moved west towards Europe.
  • Turks live in Anadolu today. Today, ethnic Turks live in a broad area from Central Asia to Europe under various nations and their assumed population is about 200 million. Turkey – Anadolu or Anatolia – has been the motherland of the Turks since 1072. Neighbors of Turkey include Syria, Iraq, Iran (our borders with Iran has not changed in 375 years), Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria and Greece.
  • The Seljuk and Ottoman Turks established powerful dynasties in Anadolu. The Seljuk Turks established a powerful dynasty in Central Asia in the 11th century. They moved to Anadolu and formed their land lordships all around the country. Genghis Khan and his Mongolia army defeated the Seljuk’s leaving small Turkic autonomic states behind. One of these states was the Ottomans. Ottomans ruled the area for more than 6 centuries in peace and justice.
  • Istanbul is former Constantinople. Greeks established the colony of Byzantium in the 7th C. BC, and it became the capital (“Roma Nova” and later “Constantinople) of the Roman Empire under the emperor Constantine in 330 AD. After the defeat of the Byzantine Empire by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, it became known as Kostantiniyye as well as Istanbul, and then officially the sole name became Istanbul in 1930.
  • The tulip is the symbol of the Ottomans. The elegant tulip that never bends is the symbol of the Ottoman dynasty. Ottomans first gave the Dutch their famous tulips that started the craze for the flower in England and the Netherlands. Bulbs brought to Vienna from Istanbul in the 1500s were so intensely popular that by 1634 in Holland it was called “tulipmania”. People invested money in tulips as they do in stocks today. This period of elegance and entertainment in 17th century Ottoman is referred to as “The Tulip Age.”
  • Turks established more than 16 states in history. Turks are believed to have established more than 16 former states in history. Today there are 6 independent Turkish states in the world including Turkey. The total number of Turkish republics in Russia and autonomous Turkish regions in the world is 14.
  • Sinan is the most famous Ottoman architect who designed and built hundreds of beautiful constructs. Sinan (1489-1588) was the chief Ottoman architect and civil engineer for sultans Süleyman I, Selim II, and Murad III. He was, during a period of fifty years, responsible for the construction or the supervision of every major building in the Ottoman Empire. More than three hundred structures are credited to his name. Süleymaniye Mosque, which he called his apprenticeship work, is in Istanbul. Selimiye Mosque in Edirne is a UNESCO World Heritage that surpassed all his former works. When you take off your shoes, enter these mosques and sit on the carpet, and close your eyes and relax for about 2 minutes, he will reach your soul and you will feel him.
  • Sinan did not build the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. Sultanahmet mosque, which is also known as the blue mosque, is a masterpiece of Sedefkar Mehmet Ağa who was the student of the great architect Sinan. The mosque is one of the largest structure complexes neighboring the Hagia Sophia museum. Thousands of Iznik blue tiles were used for its interior design. Pope Benedict XVI visited this mosque in 2006.
  • Piri Reis was a commander of the Ottoman Navy. Piri Reis was one of the commanders of the Ottoman navy. His world famous map drawn in 1513 is the oldest extant map showing the shores of North America and contains notations from Christopher Columbus. This map is now among the holdings of Topkapı Palace Museum (https://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/pseudosc/piriries.htm).
  • Pierre Loti was a French Novelist. Pierre Loti was a French novelist, a naval officer and a lover of Istanbul. The Pierre Loti Café in the Eyüp district is a nice spot to see the Golden Horn (an inlet of the Bosporus), which once was the base of the Byzantine navy. Aziyadé is the autobiography of Pierre Loti that tells his illicit love affair with an 18-year-old harem girl. The legend is that she was his greatest love; proof of which the golden ring engraved with her name that he wore for the rest of his life.
  • Agatha Christie wrote her book Murder in the Orient Express in Istanbul. Christie’s 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express was written in the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, the southern terminus of the railway. The hotel maintains Christie’s room as a memorial to the author.
  • Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) established the new republic. Born Mustafa Rezi and an Army officer of the Ottoman Empire, he became a revolutionary after WW I and founded the modern Turkish republic in 1923. His added name, “Atatürk” meaning “father of Turkey” was granted by parliament in 1932. He is arguably the most important person in modern Turkey and his name is still revered. He wrote 9 books on philosophy, history, military and science. We consider him not only a leader but also a respected social scientist. How many military and political leaders could have written a book on Algebra to teach the children of their nation?
  • Turks won their independence 90 years ago. After WW I, the Ottoman Empire was defeated and occupied by the allied forces. Mustafa Kemal established a new army and with the help of the citizens the war against England, France, Italy and Greece for independence was won in 1923.
  • The Dardanelle Strait was very important during WW I. The Battle of Gallipoli at World War I took place near the site of the Trojan War. The allied forces of England, France, Italy, Australia and New Zealand wanted to occupy Istanbul to control the water line to Russia. Two hundred thousand soldiers of the Ottoman army and 200,000 soldiers of the allied forces lost their lives in about 200 days of fighting. This was the first and only major battle that Mr. Churchill lost during his governance, and the three empires the Ottoman, British and Russian that were parts of this war either lost their empire ship or global power after this war.

In 1934 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk wrote “Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.” With such experience, the motto of Turkish people is today “Peace at home, peace in the world.

All the members of the 57th Regiment lost their lives during the war in Gallipoli. It was such a time at the war that ties were going into the hands of the enemy. The order was simple. It was the time to sacrifice. Without a second of hesitation the 57th Regiment ran into fire and stopped the allied forces. Not a single man of the Regiment survived. At the end of that bloody clash their flag was still standing. Every year in March, the Australian and New Zealand visitors together with their Turkish friends stand still in front of the graves of their ancestors in Gallipoli as they salute the martyrs who are finally at peace.

  • Turkey is an independent secular republic. Turkey has been an independent secular republic since 1921. Sorry, no Sultans, Kings, Queens or Caliphs exist in today’s constitution of Turkey.
  • Turkish women received their rights to elect and to be elected in 1934. In 1934 earlier than most other European countries, Turkish women received their rights to elect and to be elected. Mrs. Tansu Çiller was Turkey’s first and only female prime minister between 1993 and 1996.
  • Turkish is the official language. Turkish is the official language of the country. One of its many dozens of dialects is spoken by over 200 million people and is the world’s one of the most widely spoken language. Modern Turkish is a member of the Ural-Altaic family of languages, evolved from dialects since the 11th century, and is related to Finnish, Korean and Japanese. Although it is the same language family, it is a distinct language.
  • Istanbul is not the capital of the country. She was the capital of the Ottoman Empire but with the establishment of the republic in 1923, Ankara (a city with an ancient history dating back to 2000 BC), located 440 km southeast of Istanbul, became the capital. Still, Istanbul can be called the touristic and economic capital of the country (http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/city-guides/istanbul-turkey/).
  • There is no official religion in the constitution of Turkey. There is no official religion listed in the constitution of Turkey however the population is predominantly Muslim. Christianity (Oriental Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic) and Judaism are other practiced religions.
  • The Turkish flag is the white crescent moon and the star on a red background. The Turkish flag is the white crescent moon and star on a red background. You will frequently see it flying throughout the country and on top of the hills of Izmir.
  • Jewish citizens of Turkey mostly live in Izmir, Edirne and Istanbul. Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled from Spain were welcomed to the Ottoman Empire in the late 15th century. Today they still live in peace and practice their religion freely in Turkey.
  • Orhan Pamuk is the first Turkish Nobel Prize winner. Orhan Pamuk is the first and only Nobel price-winning novelist of Turkey. His book “My Name is Red.” is a masterpiece that takes you back to the narrow streets of old Istanbul. If you do not know his Nobel Award ceremony talk we suggest you read “My Father’s Suitcase.” (http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2006/pamuk-lecture_en.html)
  • Fazıl Say is a well-known Turkish composer and pianist. Born in Ankara in 1970, Fazıl Say is a world famous Turkish composer. His first symphony, the Istanbul Symphony, premiered in 2010 was a great success. His Black Earth composition (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFSm5_4afro) is based on lyrics of Aşık Veysel, an Ozan (folk singer) originating from the city of Sivas.
  • Aşık Veysel was a folk singer with reputation. He was an aşık, a poet, songwriter, and a bağlama virtuoso. He was blind for most of his lifetime. His songs are usually sad tunes that give insight into the folk of this land. Lyrics of his Black Earth song is as follows;

I expected for many people to be real friends,
My faithful beloved is black soil.
I wandered around with no end, I got tired for nothing,
My faithfull beloved is black soil.

  • “Ebru” painting is a traditional art. Ebru (Paper marbling) is an art form based on aqueous surface designs that can produce patterns similar to marble or other stone. The patterns are the result of color floated on either plain water or a viscous solution known as size, and then carefully transferred to a sheet of paper. It is often employed as a writing surface for calligraphy, and especially book covers and endpapers in bookbinding and stationery. Part of its appeal is that each print is a unique monotype. (http://www.nkfu.com/foto/ebru-sanati-1.jpg)
  • The last stop of the Orient Express is Sirkeci Station. The Orient Express was running between London, Paris and Istanbul in the past. Passengers used to stay at Pera Palace Hotel, which is in Istiklal Street after their exotic journey. Among them were Agatha Christie and you may still visit her room in the hotel.
  • Turkish rugs and carpets are works of art. As with Iranian carpets, Turkish carpets are excellent works of art. You need to know your needs and trust your taste as there are a variety of rugs and carpets to buy. The most prestigious ones are of silk produced in Hereke, a small town near Istanbul. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul has several carpet shops but if you are going to Selçuk town near Izmir, Konya or Kayseri you can wait until you get there. The most valuable silk carpet in the world is in the Mevlana Museum in Konya. (The Museum is the mausoleum of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a Sufi mystic also known as Mevlâna or Rumi). Marco Polo’s journeys in the thirteenth century took him there, and he remarked that the “best and handsomest of rugs” were to be found in Turkey.
  • The sarcophagus of Alexander the Great is displayed in Istanbul Archaeological Museum. The Alexander Sarcophagus is considered the most important item displayed in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. It was found in the Royal Necropolis in Sidon in 1887. Though it is called the Alexander Sarcophagus, in fact, it does not belong to Alexander the Great. It is thought to be the sarcophagus of Abdalonymus, the king of Sidon. Still the artwork on this historical tomb is marvelous.
  • Robert College was the first American College established outside USA. In 1863, Robert College, which is the Boğaziçi University of Istanbul today, became the first American college outside the United States.
  • The tiles of the Blue Mosque were produced in Iznik. Ceramics from the city of Iznik were highly decorated pieces produced in the late sixteenth century. These may be seen in quantity in the imperial and religious buildings of Istanbul. The brilliant blue and red colors of Iznik tiles last for centuries.
  • A nazar stone protects against an evil eye. A nazar or evil eye stone (Nazar Boncuğu) is an amulet meant to protect against an evil eye or being. It is usually seen in the form of a flattened bead or hanging ornament, made by hand from colored glass. Typically it is composed of concentric circles or droplet shapes – from inside out: dark blue (or black), white, light blue (or yellow), and dark blue – and is sometimes referred to as blue eye. As well as being worn by people, including babies, it can be seen on cars, doors, horses and even cell phones.  Tourists will see these in many forms in souvenir shops.
  • The Janissary Band is the first military band. If you are interested in Military Bands this might be interesting to you. The Janissary Band is the first military band in the globe. They perform at the Military Museum daily between 3 and 4 PM excluding Monday and Tuesday in Istanbul (http://www.exploreistanbul.com/).
  • The ancient city Troy is located in Çanakkale province. The ancient city Troy is close to Çanakkale province in northwest Turkey. Parts of the Trojan treasures are now displayed in a modern museum.
  • The Topkapı Palace was the headquarter of the Ottoman Sultans. Istanbul was the 4th capital city of the Ottomans after Bursa, İznik, and Edirne. Built next to the former Byzantine Palace, Topkapı Palace was the home to the Ottoman Sultans for about 400 years. The palace developed over the course of centuries, with sultans adding and changing various structures and elements. In front of the Gate of Felicity in the Second Courtyard once stood the Ottoman Flag that ruled the three continents of the ancient world, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Since foreigners were not allowed behind the gate, illustrations and stories of the Harem and the treasures were only fictional. The historical peninsula called Sarayburnu where the Topkapı Palace is now located is a UNESCO World Heritage.
  • You can visit the Harem today. Once sacred and forbidden to men, today the Harem of the Topkapı Palace is a special part to visit. Admission needs a separate ticket and at the high season you may queue up for several hours to get in. The life of women in the palace and the family life of the Sultan are displayed in details. Dolmabahçe Palace also has the Harem section.
  • The Turkish Bow is a composite and the Arrow has its mass at its center. The Seljuk and Ottoman Turks ruled this region of the world for centuries with their horses and bows. The Turkish bow is a composite of horn and wood. Half size smaller than its counterparts, the Turkish bow gave the opportunity to use it while riding, shooting backwards while riding and the shooting distance was twice more than European bows. This gave the Turkish military great mobility and advantage during wars. The mass center of the arrow was at its center but not at its tip. This allowed a longer traveling distance and less vibration. Today the Turkish archery team competes among the top of the world class. (http://www.turkishculture.org/military/weapons/archery-part-ii-756.htm)
  • The first mall was the Grand Bazaar. Built in 1461, the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul was the last stop on the “Silk Road” from China. It has 3,600 shops. Today, it is still the heart of trade for jewelry, antiques and carpets. Silk can be found at the Grand Bazaar of Bursa. The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul is not a series of shops but a civil society construction and almost each street is devoted to a handcraft production. Owners of the shops keep Ottoman titled deeds and the whole structure is run by a foundation. Without exploring the Grand Bazaar, the visit to Istanbul is not accomplished (http://www.grandbazaaristanbul.org/).
  • Spices can be bought from the Egyptian Bazaar. Saffron is the most expensive and specific spice of Turkey. Saffron added pilaf is one of the most traditional cooking of the Turks. There are various spices that are also specific to this region. We recommend isot, a kind of chilly produced mainly in South Eastern Gaziantep city (http://www.istanbultrails.com).
  • Istanbul owns an ancient Egyptian Obelisk. Just like in Rome, Paris and London, in Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, at the old hippodrome, there stands the obelisk of Tuthmosis III erected by Byzantine Emperor Theodosius in AD 390.
  • The St. Sophia is a museum. Completed as a Byzantine church in 360, it was converted into a mosque in 1453, and finally into a museum in 1943. It was and is a monument of extraordinary beauty that one may call the 8th wonder of the world. Recent restorations discovered the 4 angel figures painted onto the ceiling. Stay under the center of her dome and turn around yourself 360°. Have you felt that you are at the center of the world? Yes you are! (http://www.ayasofyamuzesi.gov.tr/en/)
  • Eastern Romans were pagans. Before Orthodox Christianity was imposed upon the Roman Empire by the Emperor Constantine in the early 4th Century, Romans living in the city of Constantinople were pagans. When you visit the underground cistern across St. Sophia Museum you will find the head of Medusa at the bottom of a column.
  • Dolmabahçe was the last palace of the Ottomans. Dolmabahçe Palace was the last house of the Ottoman Dynasty. Today this palace is still used for official services and one part of her is a museum. On November 10 of every year, we Turks turn silent at 9:05 AM in front of this palace as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk died in this palace (http://www.millisaraylar.gov.tr/portalmain-en/Palaces.aspx?SarayId=16).
  • A Genoese colony lived in Constantinople in the past. At the end of the 14th Century the Republic of Genoa controlled a quarter of the city of Constantinople (shared with the Byzantine Empire). The Genoese built the 67 m high Galata Tower that can be visited today.
  • Turks invented paragliding. According to the world famous book “Seyahatname” of Ottoman historian and traveler Evliya Çelebi, in circa 1630-1632, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi flew using artificial wings to glide from Galata tower over the Bosphorus to the slopes of Üsküdar on the Anatolian side, nearly six kilometers away. Evliyâ Çelebi also tells of Hezarfen’s brother, Lagari Hasan Çelebi, performing the first flight with a rocket in a conical cage filled with gunpowder in 1633. If you are interested in this story you may watch the movie Istanbul Beneath my Wings directed by Mustafa Altıoklar.
  • Laz-board is a way of snowboarding in the Black sea region. As the Black sea region is mountainous, snow remains on high plateaus throughout the year. Some people of that area are called as “Laz”. To bring down branches of trees from the high plateaus to their homes they have been using a steered board that is identical to snow board for centuries. The region is getting popular for heli-skiing recently.
  • Aphrodisias is the home of the greatest sculpturing school of antiquity. The most spectacular city of Caria civilization named Aphrodisias near today’s Denizli city is the temple of Greek sculpturing. The Institute of Fine Arts of New York University collaborated with the State of Turkey for excavating this ancient city since 1961. In the late first century B.C., Aphrodisias came under the personal protection of the Roman emperor Augustus, and a long period of growth and good fortune ensued. As you may guess, the name of the city is derived from the goddess of love, Aphrodite, who has her famous sanctuary here.
  • Pamukkale, Cotton Castle and Hierapolis are all the same place. The ancient Hierapolis city is built on a natural hot spring, which is believed to cure various diseases. It is also called Pamukkale or cotton castle. Registered as an UNESCO World Heritage the blue lagoons in snow-white calcite travertines let you feel in another space. Today you may still swim in an ancient Roman Bath with columns; a historical event that is seldom experienced.
  • Roman Military cloths and fabrics were produced in Denizli. In Laodicea that is the city of Denizli today, cloths of Roman military was produced in history. Today the city of Denizli is still a leading textile center of the globe. Most well known hotels in the world prefer using towels and bathrobes produced in Denizli.
  • Ephesus is the best-preserved ancient city in the world. The protector of the city was Artemis, the Goddess whose temple was one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”. Celsus Library was the third richest library in ancient times after the Alexandra and Pergamum. The Library of Celsus was remarkable not only for its size and its beauty, but also for its clever and efficient design. Resting in front of the façade of the library makes you feel noble. (http://www.ephesus.us/ephesus/celsuslibrary.htm).
  • Virgin Mary lived and died in Ephesus. 9 km southwest of the ancient city of Ephesus is by legend the house of Virgin Mary, now a pilgrimage center for Christians. Muslims who recognize Mary as the mother of one of their prophets frequently visit this sacred place too. When you refresh yourself from the fountain in front of this house you may feel purified as well.
  • St. Jean Churches parapets are displayed in Selçuk Archeology Museum. Parapet slabs and temple architraves of the Ephesus St. Jean Church that was a pilgrimage center in the past are now preserved and displayed in Selçuk Archeology Museum near Ephesus.
  • Crusaders were frequent visitors of Anadolu. Mostly due to economical reasons, crusaders frequently went through Anadolu leaving trails behind themselves. The Triumphal Quadriga or Horses of St Mark’s in Venice is a set of bronze statues of four horses; belongings of the Byzantine dynasty taken by the crusaders in the past.
  • Leonardo da Vinci designed a bridge to cross the golden horn. In the years 1502–1503 there were plans to construct a bridge at Galata. Sultan Bayezid II solicited a design and Leonardo da Vinci, utilizing three well-known geometrical principles, the pressed-bow, parabolic curve and keystone arch, created an unprecedented single span 240 m long and 24 m wide bridge for the Golden Horn, which would have become the longest bridge in the world of that time if it had been constructed.  Michelangelo was also invited to design a bridge for Istanbul. Michelangelo rejected the proposal, and the idea of building a bridge across the Golden Horn was shelved until the 19th century.
  • Parchment was invented in the city of Pergamum. Due to shortage of Papyrus, which was imported from Egypt people of Pergamum invented paper.
  • Galen, the father of modern medicine lived in the city of Pergamum. Once the surgeon of gladiators, Galen was described by Emperor Marcus Aurelius as “Primum sane medicorum esse” meaning “the first among doctors”. Galen invented the scalpel that we use today at surgery.
  • The northern part of Mesopotamia is located in the borders of Turkey. The northern part of Mesopotamia, which is the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers is located in the southeast of Turkey. Today the Southeast Anatolian Project, consisting of several water dams built on these rivers, nourish the area.
  • Several ancient civilizations lived in Anadolu. The exact number of ancient civilizations who lived in Anadolu is not known and archeologists announce new findings every day. Hattians, Phrygians, Lydian’s who invented money, Ions, and Urarthians lived in this part of the world in between AD 6 thousand and AD 600. Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuk and Ottoman Turks followed them.
  • King Midas was buried in Gordion. According to legend in the ancient city of Gordion near Ankara, king Midas was buried. Midas who was a hero of several myths was the king of the Phrygians. Alexander the Great cut the golden knot with his sword in this city (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/phry/hd_phry.htm).
  • The first hospital in Anadolu was named after Gevher Nesibe. The first hospital and medical school in Anadolu was in the name of Gevher Nesibe established between 1204 and 1206 in the city of Kayseri. Today these two buildings are a museum of medicine. Darüşifa of Beyazıd II (http://saglikmuzesi.trakya.edu.tr/english/) built between 1484 and 1488 in the city of Edirne was the second biggest hospital and medical school of Seljuk and Ottoman Turks. Medical service was free and their foundations covered expenses of these hospitals. Music and the sound of running water were used to treat mentally disabled patients. The European Council’s “Museum Award” awarded the Darüşifa of Beyazıd II in 2004. There is an article published on this hospital in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11999-008-0645-1?no-access=true).
  • The first parliament was established by Hattians. They established the first parliament called Pankus. The first peace agreement after the Kadesh war (12th Century BC and involving over 5000 chariots) was signed between the Egyptians and Hattians. This script is now displayed at the Archeology Museum of Istanbul.
  • Gaziantep and Hatay have the best roman mosaics. Gaziantep and Hatay, the two cities in the southeast region of Turkey maintain the most prestigious mosaics in their museums. Once being the border of the Persians and Romans, trade enriched the region. Businessmen of that time build spectacular villas with mosaics for decoration.
  • Two of the seven wonders of the ancient world were located in Turkey. Two of the seven wonders of the ancient world stood in Turkey; the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in Bodrum. If you sail to Rhodes from Marmaris, you will arrive at the harbor where once the third wonder of the ancient world existed.
  • Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great conquered Anadolu. Julius Caesar proclaimed his celebrated words “Veni, Vedi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) in Turkey when he defeated Pontus, a formidable Kingdom in the Black Sea Region of Turkey. Alexander the Great conquered Anadolu with his forces.
  • The wedding gift of Cleopatra was the south coast of Turkey. Part of Turkey’s southwestern shore was a wedding gift from Mark Antony to Cleopatra. Now the city of Antalya in this region is a popular tourist and golf destination. Some of the beaches are naturally named after Cleopatra.
  • There is a Salt Lake in Turkey. Tuz Gölü (meaning Salt Lake) is the second largest lake in Turkey. It is extremely saline and during the summer, most of the water in the lake dries up and exposes an average of 30 cm thick salt layer.
  • Cappadocia is a historical and natural beauty site. Cappadocia is the so-called “land of horses” in central Anadolu. This region is particular characterized by fairy chimneys and a unique historical and cultural heritage. Early Christians seeking refuge from persecution inhabited the land and created underground cities for defense and the impermissible churches. Some scenes of Nicolas Cage’s “Ghost Rider II” were shot in this area. Hot air balloon ride is a popular tourist attraction that should not be missed.
  • Antiochus was the king of Commagene. The summit of Mount Nemrut in southeastern Turkey contains the tomb-sanctuary of King Antiochus I Theos of the Commagene Kingdom. This is the only not-explored pyramid on earth. A number of large statues were erected around the royal tomb from the first century BC. To watch the best sunrise in Mesopotamia, you need to climb this mountain and make sure you are prepared for a very cold morning. (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/448).
  • Noah’s Ark is assumed to be on Mount Ağrı. Many archaeologists and biblical scholars believe Noah’s Ark landed on Ağrı Dağı (Mount Ararat) in eastern Turkey.
  • Religion was born in Turkey. We used to think agriculture gave rise to cities and later to writing, art, and religion. Now the world’s oldest temple suggests the urge to worship sparked civilization. Göbeklitepe near the city of Urfa is the first religious temple dating back to 6.500 years BC (http://www.gobeklitepe.info/) (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/06/gobekli-tepe/mann-text).
  • The oldest shipwreck is in Bodrum. The oldest known shipwreck on Earth was found and excavated in Uluburun near Kaş, in the Mediterranean region of Turkey. Now it is preserved and displayed in the excellent Bodrum Museum. Excavation studies were made in collaboration with Professor George Bass of Texas AM University (http://www.bodrum-museum.com/).
  • Treasures of Karun are displayed at Uşak Museum. A collection of 363 valuable Lydian artifacts dating from the 7th century BC and originating from Uşak Province in western Turkey are named as the Treasures of Karun. They were the subjects of a legal battle between Turkey and New York Metropolitan Museum of Art between 1987–1993, which were returned to Turkey in 1993 after the Museum admitted it had known the objects were stolen when they purchased them.
  • Herakles statue is displayed in Antalya museum. Boston museum returned Hercules bust to Turkey. The Hercules bust was illegally removed from an archeological dig site in Perge in 1980. A dealer in Frankfurt sold the piece to the Boston museum and to art collectors Leon Levy and Shelby White a year later. It was first displayed in Boston in 1982. Now the statue is back at its home and displayed in Antalya museum.
  • The hometown of Santa is Demre. St Nicholas known also as Santa Claus was born and lived in Demre (Myra) on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. The village contains the famous Church of St Nicholas with the sarcophagus believed to be his tomb (https://www.goturkey.com/en/).
  • The bible was re-written in Iznik. The first Ecumenical Council (of Nicea) gathered in Iznik in 325 AM. At the Council, attended by 300 bishops, a solution was sought to resolve controversies over the divinity of Christ (http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/nicea-iznik.htm).
  • The first Christian church was established in Antakya. In the city of Hatay bordering Syria, one of the first churches in Christianity was established (http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5613/).
  • Glass production is a leading industry in Turkey. Ranking between third to the seventh in the world according to different sorting criteria, Şişecam a private Turkish company is considered among the most distinguished manufacturers of glass production. Together with Paşabahçe, which also belongs to Is Bank these two companies produce glass art of high quality.
  • Turkey is not a member of the European Union. Turkey is a member of NATO and a candidate for inclusion in the European Union. Free trade is a valid agreement and more than 4 million Turkish citizens producing a GDP over 100 billion Euro live in Europe today.
  • Cars and trucks are produced in Turkey. Turkey is a major hub of car, bus and truck production. Various brands including Ford, Toyota, Fiat, Renault and Mercedes have production plants in Turkey.
  • Turkish universities are competing in the world at the top. Middle East Technical University of Ankara, where I worked for 20 years is among the top 100-list ranking 60 at a survey of Times Magazine. Hacettepe University Faculty of Medicine, which I am a member of, receives a large amount of students from this region. Both universities teach in English and their graduates are working in well-known international institutes and universities in the globe.
  • Turkish cuisine is famous. Turkish cuisine is among the most famous and delicious cuisines of the world. Basic ingredients are lamb meet and rice. Bread, however, has taken over rice in recent times. In Turkish style restaurants you may still taste a variety of rice with various ingredients and cooking styles. Vegetables cooked either in the pot or oven is also quite popular. You may ask for vegetables dishes hot or cold prepared with olive oil. Armenians introduced eggplant dishes and they are served with names like Hünkarbeğendi (The Hünkar liked it) and İmambayıldı (The imam fainted)(http://www.turkish-cuisine.org/english/index.php).
  • Baklava is a famous Turkish sweet. Baklava is specially prepared in Gaziantep city and it is crispy. If you have a sweet tooth, Baklava should never be missed (http://www.gulluoglu.com/en-us-main-page).
  • Turkish coffee is very strong. Mostly served at restaurants after lunch or dinner, Turkish coffee is among the strongest in the world. Turks introduced coffee and croissant to Europe. We have a saying that a cup of Turkish coffee is the beginning of a 40-year friendship. Ask for fortune telling after you finish your coffee. It is the loveliest part of socialization in our society. (http://www.allaboutturkey.com/kahve.htm).
  • Maraş ice cream does not melt. Made of goat milk and sahlep powder, ice cream produced in the city of Maraş does not melt (http://en.mado.com.tr/corporate/corporate-history-150-year-ice-cream-tradition.aspx).
  • Turks frequently drink tea. Serving tea is a common custom and even if you don’t like drinking it, refusing a glass of tea is considered impolite. There are a variety of teas including herbal ones but black tea is the most commonly consumed one.
  • Aşure is a famous dish. Yes, the last meal on Noah’s Ark, a pudding of sweet and sour taste called aşure, is still served throughout Turkey as part of our culinary tradition. During the day of aşure, neighbors prepare and share this delicious food with each other. Other sweets to be tried are made of quince and peers with sherbet. You may add nut powder and cream on top of it.
  • Rakı is the most popular alcoholic drink in Turkey. Most men and recently women enjoy consuming Rakı as their main alcoholic drink. It goes very well with meze and fish. There are various types of Rakı but the preferred one is made of grapes with an alcohol content varying between 45 and 55 percent. We usually dilute it half to half with water. Some call it the lion’s milk and there are several rules to consume it. The glass of rakı is special. It is a long, cylindrical and narrow one. The person in charge of pouring rakı into the glass must be talented to distribute the amount equally in between those who drink it; not a single drop more or less is acceptable! Ice-cold water is added afterwards. Finally, 2 to 3 ice cubes are added. After a sip of rakı, a sip of water should be swallowed. Be prepared to get drunk as almost everyone at the table will get so. Meze are the side dishes served before the hot appetizers and the main course but before those, ask for a slice of white (feta) cheese and a slice of melon; people will think you are really cool (http://www.turkishculture.org/culinary-arts/cuisine/raki/thoughts-on-drinking-309.htm).
  • Turkey is a large producer of olive oil. For many years Turkey has been the 3rd largest supplier of olive oil to the US, after Italy and Spain. The olive tree originated in this region and later spread around the Mediterranean. (http://www.olivetolive.com/).
  • Turkey is the biggest producer of dried figs, dried apricots and nuts. Yes, Turkey produces the greatest amount of dried figs and nuts in the globe. The city of Malatya is the largest producer of dried apricots.
  • Turkey recently produces good wine. Good wine has been produced in Turkey for millennia, and still is. Local grapes such as Öküzgözü (Ox-eye), Boğazkere from South-East Anadolu and Kalecik Karası from central Anadolu are grapes that allow the production of great red vines. During hot summer nights go for chilled white vines of Misket and Sultaniye grapes. Aegean coast of Turkey is the motherhouse to Muscat (http://www.winesofturkey.org/category/wine-grape/).
  • Cherry was introduced to Europe through Turkey. Cherry was first introduced to Europe from the city of Giresun, Northern of Turkey. Cherry juice is a popular soft drink.
  • Ayran is a healthy drink made of yogurt. Although very healthy, Ayran, which is made by mixing yogurt, salt and water, is usually disliked by tourists. If you like sour drinks you can give a try.
  • Turkish music once influenced European composers. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s best-known piano piece Sonata #11 is called as the Turkish March as it imitates the sound of the Turkish Yeniçeri (Ottoman Military) Band. Various other works of the time imitate this music (the so called Turkish style), including Mozart’s opera The Abduction from the Seraglio (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrFbiw77_90).
  • The sound of Ney is the closest to that of human. Ney is the ancestor of the flute and its sound is the closest to human sound (http://www.neyzen.com/). Ney is the instrument of Sufi music and in traditional palace music it is played with other local instruments such as Kanun, Tambur, and Ud.
  • Turquoise color is specific to Turks. The word turquoise comes from “Turk” meaning Turkish, and was derived from the beautiful color of the Mediterranean Sea on the southern Turkish coast. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turquoise#History_of_its_use)
  • Mavi yolculuk is heaven on earth. Renting a boat for a week on the Mediterranean is a popular holiday. Boats travel to virgin bays where pine trees reach the sandy beaches. Celebrities are frequently around with their families. It is a custom to turn off mobile phones and computers during these travels. The crew, cooks the food from local ingredients, and fish (catch of the day) is usually the main course. We call it re-incarnation.
  • Avicenna is a famous scientist and a medical doctor of this region. Ibni Sina (Avicenna) was a scientist who was born in Bukhara and moved to Khorasan (Afghanistan) in 1004, shortly before the Turks moved into Anadolu. When he was 20, he said “I read all and all the books written on medicine. Now there is nothing new to read and it is my time to write.” His most famous works are The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine. The Canon of Medicine was used as a textbook in the universities of Montpellier and Louvain as late as 1650. The full-text of the book can be downloaded from the US archives. This year we are celebrating the 1000-year anniversary of this book. (http://ia700505.us.archive.org/8/items/AvicennasCanonOfMedicine/9670940-Canon-of-Medicine.pdf).
  • Mevlana Jelaledin Rumi is the most famous philosopher of the Turks. Mevlana Jelaledin Rumi is the most famous philosopher who was born in Khorasan and later lived in Konya. His words

Come, come, whoever you are,

Wanderer, idolater, worshipper of fire,

Come even though you have broken your vows a thousand times,

Come, and come yet again.

Ours is not a caravan of despair.” still leads our hearts and souls.

The United Nations declared 2007 The Year of Rumi and celebrations were held worldwide (http://mevlana.net/).

  • Soccer is the most popular sport in Turkey. The three main soccer clubs of Istanbul are Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, and Galatasaray. The Turkish National Soccer Team ranked number three in the world cup of 2002. Several Turkish teams are leading in the European Cups and offending a person on his/her team should be the last thing to do as soccer is taken extremely seriously in Turkey (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/03/07/110307fa_fact_batuman).
  • You can get more information on Turkey by visiting the Web sites at www.tourismturkey.org or www.turizm.gov.tr.