25 July - 1 Sept, 2000
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ROUTE and COUNTRY INFO for Turkey
AN INTRODUCTIONHow to begin to describe such an outstanding travel destination as Turkey? It's a land of great natural beauty and incredibly nice people, with an amazing history reaching back thousands of years. As this is being typed, we've already spent 3 weeks here, with another 2.5 weeks yet ahead of us in this wonderful country, and we still don't have enough time to see it all. Since many people don't know a lot about Turkey, we thought a brief introduction might be in order.
But before we go any further, a brief note to all of you back home in the States (our European readers will not have this problem)...Forget everything you thought you knew about Turkey from watching the movie "Midnight Express"! Before we left for our trip, several people back home sort of half-jokingly made comments obviously spurred on by this quarter-century old, extremely biased film, not really knowing anything truly about Turkey or its people ("don't end up in a Turkish prison," etc.). Not only is Midnight Express hopelessly full of outdated stereotypes about Turkey and the Turkish people, but we've realized after spending some time here that it's an outright racist, propoganda-filled piece of junk. The movie reduces the Turks to barbaric, inhumane simple-minded toads, which we can tell you from personal experience is a bunch of hogwash! Lonely Planet's Turkey guidebook sums up the truth about the film best: "...a politically-motivated, anti-Turkish diatribe in which a convicted drug smuggler (people seem to forget about that part) is magically transformed into a suffering hero. Virtually all of the "Turkish" actors in the movie were of Greek or Armenian extraction." We would pose this question to those who would still swayed by the film: "what would happen to a person in the U.S. if they were caught trying to smuggle several kilos of hashish out of the country?" End up with 20 years in prison, that's what. Just like in the movie. It was a great piece of fictional drama based very loosely on a real event, but that's about it, folks...
Now, for the reality. Turkey is a middle income, democratic nation which is very Europeanized in many respects (in its western half, anyway). Also it's worth noting that Turkey is not an Arabic country. In fact, the Turkish language alone is a major indication that the Turks have no relation to the Arabs (although several words have been borrowed from Arabic). Turkish is a unique language that belongs to its own language group (Turkic). It sounds something like a cross between Scandinavian tongue and a Romantic language like French or Spanish. Ever since the country became a Republic in 1923, a separation of religion and state has been vigorously supported by the government, military and people alike. This distinction alone makes Turkey very different from its Arab neighbors to the Southeast. Most of the people in Turkey are Islamic, but there are also other religious minorities (mostly Jewish and Christian) living here quite at peace with their neighbors.
Turkey has been inhabited as long as man has lived in organized communities. Indeed, the oldest known human community, dating from almost 9000 years ago was found recently outside of the city of Konya. Turkey has also been fought over for just about as long, with layer upon layer of civilizations to be found at archeological sites throughout the country. First there were the proto-civilizations of Central Anatolia, followed by the Hittites starting in 2000 BC, followed by the Phrygians, followed by the Greeks and the Romans and the Byzantines and the Seljuks and...well, you get the idea. Everywhere you travel here, there are reminders of the ancient past: ruins sitting off the roadside, some excavated and turned into open air museums, some overgrown with weeds and trees. There are few countries on the planet that can hold a candle to Turkey's great history.
One cannot travel in Turkey without seeing the revered image of Mustafa Kemal ("Ataturk"). He is everywhere -- in park statues, on postcards, in paintings hung with pride from the walls of shops and hotel lobbies. A famous general and hero of the World War I Gallipoli campaign, Ataturk went on to lead the Turkish War of Independence in 1920-1922, becoming the new Turkish Republic's first president in 1923. In this role, he single-handedly turned the crumbling remains of the Ottoman Empire into modern, westernized Turkey. Thanks to Ataturk, Turkey maintained its national identity and avoided being torn apart into parcels by the Western Allies after World War I. A remarkable forward- thiking leader, Ataturk turned Turkey into the nation it is today -- westernized, secular, and democratic. He also latinized the Turkish alphabet and gave women the right to vote before he died in 1934. Ataturk is truly one of the 20th century's (if not history's) greatest leaders. It's no wonder the Turks revere him so!
Ataturk, the remarkable founder of modern Turkey
Well, now that our little introduction is out of the way, let's travel through Turkey!
NOTE: Many of the place names we use in the following pages aren't exact spellings, since we couldn't figure out how to get the pages to display some unique Turkish characters properly. We've done our best with English-alphabet approximations.
Back to Greece! On to Turkey pg 2!
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