Holidays at the beach - lonely mountains and lakes - relics from thousands of years of history. From the North to the South the roads lead across the forest-covered Taurus Mountains from the Black Sea, across the huge Anatolian steppes and the lunar landscape of Cappadocia, before reaching the beaches of the southern Mediterranean coast.
For thousands of years Anatolia alternated between eastern and western civilisations always coming and going with different leaders, different religions and different political ideas: Hethites, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Seldjuks, Mongolians, Knights of the Cross and Osman people have all left their traces which can still be seen today. Sultans once led an empire stretching from Hungary to Algiers.
Turkey is able to offer something special to all of its visitors:
Holiday at one of the beaches of the Aegean or Mediterranean coasts with their still quiet and empty bays on more than 1.500 km of coastline;
Fans of nature will enjoy the huge variety of different plants and animals all across Turkey. At the national park of Kus Cenneti (Birds Paradise) on the Marmara Sea, there is a resting area for different species of pelicans and herons on their way to their winter resorts. Other national parks allow really rare animals to survive, for instance, the Anatolian cheetah or the wild horses. At some places on the Mediterranean the last survivors of the sea turtle, Caretta Caretta, are still breeding.
Fans of Sports and Outdoors will also find a huge variety of activities on offer. There are mountains up to 5000 metres in height for backpackers, lots of well equipped ski resorts for winter sports, outdoor activities and picturesque areas on the Mediterranean for divers. For the adventurous sportsmen there is wild water rafting, paragliding or canyoning (walking through wild canyons).
For seaside fans there are lots of five-star hotels and even golf in Turkey is getting more and more well-known around the world. The beautiful places around Belek are becoming more famous than even the places in Portugal.
More independent travellers can find small villages in the Anatolian mountains or valleys that no stranger would expect to find. They will find lovely, friendly people living simple and poor lives still keeping to strict traditions and very religious. If you accept them, you will always have real friends.
In some of the lonely mountain valleys you will meet nomads and their flocks. They are the last real, original Turkish people because they came from the steppes of Central Asia during the tenth century as far as the Black Sea coast.
The biggest open-air museum in the world.
For people who are interested in history and like to visit ancient places, Turkey could be called the biggest open-air museum in the world. Even Greece cannot offer more proof of the past than Turkey. Troy, Pergamon, Sardis, Aspendos and the ancient world capital Ephesus are the most well-known places, built by the first Greeks as settlers on the western coast about 1200 BC. Apart from these places, there are lots of churches, palaces and castles of the Byzantine kings (4th to 15th century) and all the really beautiful relics of the Islamic and Osman periods (16th to 19th century), like the fabulous mosques built by the Sultan’s architect, Sinan, in Istanbul and Edirne, or the religious schools in Konya. Apart from Israel, there is no country in the world which offers so many different things to religious pilgrims or people interested in the history of religion as Turkey: in Antakia (Antioch) next to the Syrian border, the followers of Jesus started to use the name “Christ” and Saint Paul started his mission. Mary and the apostle John died in Ephesus.
Also, because of discrimination and torture, lots of Christians escaped to Kappadokkia when they were attacked by the Romans.
Turkey of today
Today Turkey is more linked to Europe than ever before, even though just 3% of its land is actually in Europe. The main credit for this goes back to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Father of all Turks). It was him who introduced the Latin alphabet, European laws and the right for woman to take part in elections. Again, it was him who separated religion from the business of the state. Modern Turkish politicians have planned new aims for the future: The Southern Anatolian Project, GAP (Güneydoğu Anadolu Projesi), wants to build 22 dams along the Euphrates River for restoring the water to the lands there, an area larger than Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg together. All Turkish citizens are very deeply connected to their land. They are open-minded, friendly to their neighbours and have a really strong belief in the relationships of family life as well as a respect for their traditions. You can be sure that you will lose many of your prejudices once you are here. You will quickly find out that Turkish men are “macho”. But do you know that half of all universities in the land are run by women! You will always be a little surprised when travelling through Turkey, but simply enjoy it.
Turkey still has a lot of completely untouched areas of land. To protect these zones, many National Parks have been established during the last several years. Most of them are in the really thick forest areas, quite often containing lakes and rivers and a really rich world of different flowers and animals. On the Aegean Coast, on the Dilek Burnu peninsula south of Ephesus, you will find the contrast of 1.200 metre-high mountains, attractively merging into flat alluvial lands containing a rich variety of bird life. The mountains are the homeland for raptors, wild pigs, jackals, hyenas and, very rarely, leopards.
The two-thousand-metre high mountains of the Olympos Milli Parki on the Lycian Coast, covered with pine and cedar trees around Antalya, also contain a huge variety of animals. In the sea, shearwaters can be seen circling in small groups. The most beautiful months are April and May when millions of lavender and wild rose bushes lure uncountable numbers of butterflies. At the delta of the Göksu there are white pelicans. The forests of the National Parks in the interior of the country, like Kovada Milli Parki between the lake of Egridir and Antalya, are home to wild pigs, roe deer, red deer, wolves and a couple of varieties of bear. There is a comparable landscape, with similar animals and plants, in the National Park of Yedigöller (Seven Lakes), situated about 50 kilometres inland from the Black Sea coast at Zonguldak.
On the Aegean coast, on the beach close to Dalaman Airport, is a place where the ocean turtle, Caretta Caretta, lays her eggs. This is the biggest hatchery for turtles of that kind in the whole of the Mediterranean Sea, just beating the Greek island of Zakinthos. The turtle population has had problems over the last several years just because more and more tourists are visiting the area of beach where they lay their eggs.
During the breeding period, lasting two months, they can be disturbed by walkers not watching out carefully enough or, even worse, by people digging there. The young turtles hatch out during the night and immediately start their march to the sea, always attracted by the shimmering waters and the reflection of the moonlight. Quite often they become disturbed by the artificial lights of the hotels. If they stop on the way to the water they can easily be attacked by their enemies, even within reach of the safe waters.
A Bird Paradise
You can see lots of birds on sight-seeing trips or even just lying in the sun. You can see even more if you use binoculars and especially if a guide shows you the interesting places. Its position as a meeting point between the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa has given rise to a huge variety of birds in Turkey.
The most exciting seasons are spring and autumn, when huge groups of sparrow hawks, eagles and white and black storks pass through on their long journey from north to south. You can even see these fantastic sights in Istanbul - the best place is the hill at Camlica on the Asian part of the Bosporus. The best time to watch the passing birds here is in May. Even laymen are able to recognise a couple of hundred different kinds of birds. It is impossible to miss the crowds of storks, with their huge nests on top of the Minarets, roofs and telegraph poles, like circling crowds of raptors.
On the roads, thousands of crested larks hurl themselves around between the wheels of cars, and on the telegraph wires you can see thousands of black headed buntings, beautiful coloured bee-eaters and shining European rollers. Turkey has several protected areas for birds. The biggest and most important one is Kurs Cenneti (Birds Paradise) near the Sea of Marmara and there is a second one at Birecik near the border with Syria. If you are lucky enough you will be able to see the really ugly, nearly extinct Kahlibis, which is under special protection. The World Fund for Nature is trying to save the last living examples.
As in most of the countries of the Mediterranean, hunting is a very traditional and still widely-practised activity. Because of this, many animals, such as the brown bear are already gone. Bird hunters go after wild ducks, quails, partridges and pheasants. Visitors should only go on organised trips with officially registered companies organising these hunting events. These companies know all the details about hunting dates, places, weapons and license regulations. Fishing is usually allowed in tourist places, even without a licence.
Dangers of Nature
There are no real dangers from the environment at all. Huge numbers of mosquitoes can be really troublesome, especially on the Aegean and Riviera coasts. You should always use a protection gel if you want to stay outside during the evening and be careful when walking with open shoes or short leg trousers if you leave the regularly used paths.