Turkey A Complete Guide for the Country of Dreams
Turkey is far from the followers of the Indian route of the 1970s, who often only crossed it! It has definitely given way to another country which relies on the seaside assets of its west and south coasts, but also on Istanbul and exceptional sites such as Pamukkale and Cappadocia.
Identity Card :
- Area: 783,562 km2
- Number of inhabitants: 80 million
- Highest point: Mount Ararat (5165m)
- Length of coast: 7200km
- Status: Secular Republic
- Religion: Islam (99.8%)
- Capital: Ankara
Around Turkey unfolds a hemline of no less than 7200km of coastline bathed by four seas. To the north, the Black Sea, a historic trading area, puts the country in contact with Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia. To the west, the Aegean Sea, where the Greek islands brush against the Turkish coast. To the south, the Mediterranean Sea coast borders with Syria and faces Cyprus and Egypt. In addition, there is the Sea of Marmara, an inland Turkish sea separating Europe from Asia, which communicates with the Black and Aegean seas through the two famous straits, Dardanelles and Bosphorus. The Turkish coasts are occupied by rather narrow coastal plains, domain of fig trees, olive trees and, on the more watered Black Sea, fruit trees, tea and even rice. Sometimes, especially along the Aegean Sea, appear coves and promontories covered with scrub. In the Adana region, the coastal plain widens into vast agricultural areas suitable for citrus cultivation.
Parties and Festivities
Established with the proclamation of the republic, Turkish public holidays are secular holidays. In addition to these celebrations, there are public holidays linked to the Muslim calendar : 3 days for Seker Bayramı, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan, 4 days for Kurban Bayramı, the feast of the Sacrifice commemorating that of Abraham – each family is must sacrifice a sheep and share it with its family and neighborhood. These two events are an opportunity for many celebrations, with family or friends, in a holiday resort: it is then more difficult (and often more expensive) to find accommodation in tourist areas. Public transport (trains, buses, planes) is also congested.
The period of Ramadan is a highlight of the Turkish calendar. Throughout the month, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, and having sex from sunrise to sunset. Iftar, the moment of breaking the fast, is signaled by a call from the muezzin and often, in towns, by a cannon shot. On this occasion, the restaurants offer festive menus every evening: the starters, arranged in advance on the tables, are accompanied by bottles of water or soda and dates. At the table, the guests patiently await the breaking of the fast. When the cannon fires, silence falls: we drink for a long time, nibble on a date, while some roast the first cigarette of the day. Then begins the ballet of the waiters who quickly bring the dishes that were waiting ready in the kitchen. An experience not to be missed if you are in Turkey during this period. Traveling to Turkey during these festivities is no problem. In tourist areas, all restaurants remain open, and even in provincial towns, there is always a place for lunch.
Calendar of public holidays, celebrations and events
– January 1st: New Year
– April 23: Feast of Sovereignty and Children: anniversary of the creation of the provisional government in 1920
– May 19: Youth and Sports Day: Commemoration of the war of independence led by Mustafa Kemal from 1919 to 1922
– August 30: Victory over the Greek armies in 1922
– October 29: National day: Proclamation of the Republic in 1923
SOME FESTIVALS AND EVENTS
Izmir Jazz Festival: Numerous concerts for 2 weeks.
– April : Istanbul Film Festival (1st fortnight)
Istanbul Tulip Festival (10 days start of the month)
– May : Istanbul International Puppet Festival (10 days beginning of the month)
Spring maritime festival in Marmaris: Regattas, concerts …
Istanbul Conquest Festival: The city comes alive with concerts and celebrations punctuated by fireworks. The 29th
– June: International Pergamon Festival: Music, theater.
– End of June-beginning of July : Festival of art and culture of Kas: Concerts, exhibitions …
– June-July : Istanbul Classical Music Festival: 4 weeks
– July : Fire of Anatolia: Music in Aspendos.
Troia Festival: In Çanakkale.
Pilgrimage to Hacibektas: Sufi music concerts. From 16 to 18.
Festival of art and culture of Ephesus: A week of music in the ancient theater.
Harvest festival in Bozcaada: Music and dance. 1st w.-e.
Izmir Fair (10 days at the beginning of the month)
International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Istanbul: Even years.
– End of October:
International Regattas of Marmaris: concentration of yachts.
Efes Pilsen Blues Festival: blues concerts across the country.
Istanbul International Design Biennial: Odd years
Bursa International Shadow Theater Festival.
Olive harvest festival: In Ayvalik
Due to the diversity of its geography, Turkey experiences very different temperatures. In general, the coasts benefit from a Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and hot summers, even scorching. The Black Sea coast is the wettest: it can rain there even in midsummer. The Mediterranean coast is noticeably warmer and wetter than the Aegean coast: while the weather is likely to be scorching in summer in the Antalya region, on the Izmir side, the evenings are cooled by the northerly winds sweeping the sea. ‘Aegean. The interior displays a continental climate: hot summers, short inter-seasons and cold winters, even very harsh with temperatures that can exceed minus 20 ° C on the Anatolian plateau and records of minus 40 ° C in the east. mountainous. Snow is present there several months a year (from December to the end of March).
Dining is one of the pleasures of the Turkish art of living: at a restaurant or at home, with family or friends, a shared meal is always a special moment. Here, we do not compose the menu by detailing the menu. It is rather the result of a long greedy negotiation with the waiters, who are prowled with the exercise. You have to see the guests at work: we inquire about the mezze of the day, just to know if by chance there would be none other than those displayed in the refrigerated display case. We judge the freshness of the fish presented on a bed of ice with a faint eye, we ask questions about the preparation and seasoning of the stuffed vegetables. A prelude that makes your mouth water before attacking the different varieties of appetizers in which everyone can choose as they please. If you do not practice Turkish, you will have to take a detour through the map …
Mezze These starters, hot or cold, can in themselves constitute a meal. In family meals, their variation is almost infinite. In restaurants, there are invariably a few fundamentals: mashed beans in olive oil (fava), mashed eggplant with garlic (patlıcan), yogurt with minced cucumber and garlic (cacık), mash spicy tomato sauce (ezme). Prepared with spicy rice (often a cinnamon base), we also offer a whole range of stuffing: pepper, tomato, zucchini, zucchini flower or vine leaves preserved in brine. Without forgetting the mixed salads (green salad, tomato, onion, olives…) which accompany the whole meal or the compositions based on aromatic herbs and olives which vary according to the resources of the regions. Around Kayseri, you can taste pastırma, dried and flavored beef, and, on the coast, various preparations of marinated fish. Without forgetting the imam bayıldı – literally “the imam is swooning” -, candied eggplants, stuffed with tomato, and served cold. In the hot mezze section, you can taste börek (puff pastry with cheese, spinach, meat), Albanian-style veal liver (arnavut ciğeri), that is to say sautéed with onions, kokoreç (roasted tripe). The çorba (soup) is readily used as an entry point, especially in the menus offered in the guesthouses. For amateurs, there is a tasty tripe soup (işkembe) to be found in popular restaurants.
Main dishes Turkish cuisine happily uses the traditional alternative: grilled meats or stews. The Turks are masters in the art of grilling with the iconic döner that has conquered the whole world: slices of meat (beef, chicken, mutton) stacked up that roast gently in front of a grill (gas, electric or, better, wood fire). There is also the whole range of kebap: the şiş kebap, made up of small pieces of marinated meat, or flavored minced meat, tightened on a skewer (şiş), the Adana kebap, very spicy, or the İskender kebap, embellished yogurt and tomato sauce. In restaurants in the countryside, you can find roast lamb, served sliced on hot plates. Minced meat is also available in balls, köfte, which are available fried or grilled. In terms of stews, you can choose from a wide range of stews (yahni) of meats and vegetables, the recipes of which differ depending on the region and the chef’s imagination. In Cappadocia, you will find testi kebap, a stew cooked for several hours in an earthen pot.
Seafood More than seven thousand kilometers of coastline predisposes seafood to appear on your plate. Fish, shrimp, seafood are most often billed by weight. Your choice made, the fish is placed on a tray and goes directly to the kitchen to be accommodated at your convenience. The tastiest way is to grill it: again, Turkish cooks are experts and the cooking is usually impeccable. Some restaurants offer a salt crusted version: allow a 30-minute wait. The most recommended fish are red mullet (barbunya), wolves (levrek) and sea bream (çipura). There are also seabass and sea bream at prices – in principle – much lower: these are farmed fish that are offered in the inexpensive formulas of restaurants in tourist areas. Shrimp (karids) are also a delicious option.
Desserts You can’t leave Turkey without tasting its sweets. It will not be in the restaurants, which rarely offer it, but in the pastry shops (pastane) where you can sit down and taste the baklava (puff pastry filled with almonds), the kadayıf, angel hair cake wrapped around pistachios and walnuts and soaked in syrup, and the famous Turkish delight, bites composed of starch starch, sweetened with honey and flavored (rose water, pistachio, lemon …), even sometimes filled with dried fruits (pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds), all covered with icing sugar.
The Turkish gastronomic offer is abundant and diverse. There are establishments for all tastes and all budgets. Turks are not formal: you can sit down at a restaurant and order only a salad or a few starters to share. In popular snack bars and taverns, alcohol is never served.
Types of establishments
DÖNER SALONU: To eat on the go, head for this snack where we offer roasted meat stuffed in a flatbread or presented on a plate. In both cases, the dish is accompanied by salads and sauces of your choice. On the tables, peppers and pickled pickles add a more spicy touch. Accompanied by an ayran (fermented and salted yogurt), this is the typical Turkish lunch.
PIDE SALÖNU: Here, we only offer Turkish pizzas (lahmacun or pide depending on the round or elongated shape), garnished with meat, vegetables… or basic with tomato and herbs.
LOKANTA: In this popular restaurant, you will find half a dozen dishes prepared the same day at an affordable price. We choose among the specialties presented, we sit down and we are served: often delicious.
RESTORAN: A European restaurant that covers all price categories. Those specializing in fish and seafood are often quite expensive. This is where you can discover the rich range of Turkish mezes.
PASTANE: Turks do not eat pastry to conclude a meal. If they want to finish on a sweet note, they will prefer a fruit. To savor Turkish sweets, you will go to a pastane, a pastry shop where you can eat. The pastane also serve coffee, tea or cold drinks and sell to take away.
MUHALLEBICI: Establishments specializing in the sale of dairy products (cream, yoghurt), but also serving small prepared dishes such as chicken rice.
When to go?
You can travel pleasantly in Turkey in any season. it all depends on the tone of your stay. If you prefer the joys of the sea, you will obviously choose the beautiful season; you can swim easily from May to October. If your pleasure is more to survey ancient sites, avoid July-August, the hottest and busiest months. Most of the large sites are located near the Aegean or Mediterranean coasts and can be discovered all year round: even in winter, the days are mild with the only drawbacks of the risk of rain and shorter days.
Inside the country, the climate changes: the summers are less hot than on the coast, the days are pleasant and the nights, cool due to the altitude. We can therefore consider hiking in Cappadocia in the heart of summer. Winters, on the other hand, are very harsh, with abundant snowfall and temperatures plunging permanently below zero. This period also has its fans: the fairy chimneys and the wonderful landscapes of Cappadocia covered by snow take on another dimension. This is why most tourist establishments remain open.
Weekend in Istanbul
It is possible all year round: covered in snow, the city is a splendor. If you can, avoid the months of July and August: it is very hot and tourist numbers are at their peak. In addition, many Istanbulites have taken up their summer quarters, and cultural activities are less dense.
What to see ? What to do ?
ISTANBUL AND BURSA
Gigantic (5,350 km2) and teeming with life (13,500,000 inhabitants), Istanbul , straddling the Bosphorus , one foot on the European continent and the other in Asia, is on the rise. With its three names (Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul) engraved forever in collective memories, the unofficial capital of Turkey has been since Antiquity a monument of exoticism, at the crossroads of Western and Eastern cultures. But make no mistake, the graceful domes of ancient Byzantine churches, the minarets of some 3,000 mosques, the teeming bazaars and the luxurious palaces of the Ottoman sultans cannot sum up the city on their own: far from being a museum city. , Istanbul does not fear contrasts or change and knows how to reconcile the past and the present. Beautiful day and night, summer and winter, you will take immense pleasure in watching it live, fascinated by its dynamism and its cosmopolitanism: the religious traditions that have remained alive, the long parties of tavla around a hot tea, the convivial dinners. which end with a dance, the bars crowded until dawn … All the senses awake, discover it, and you will see that its hospitality is nothing short of legendary!
South-east of the Sea of Marmara, Bursa, the 4th largest city in Turkey, formerly called Brousse in French, stretches out on the slopes of Mount Uludağ, culminating at 2,543m. The Turks have a particular affection for this city, whose name comes from its founder, the king of Bithynia Prusias Ist. In the fourteenth century, it became the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. An important stopover for caravans from the Orient, it is renowned for its silks, bath towels and thermal baths. Its oldest districts are teeming with gems from the beginnings of Ottoman art: large bazaars, sumptuous hammams and charming alleys lined with historic houses … The significant industrial development of the 1960s made it a sprawling city, which counts today more than 2,100,000 inhabitants, but its location between sea and mountains, in the middle of fertile fields, as well as its numerous parks and gardens give it an undeniable sweetness of life and have earned it the nickname of “Bursa la Verte”.
THE AGEAN COAST
Spectacular Pergamon: an acropolis perched on a rocky outcrop visible for miles around, a vertiginous theater and, to give yourself a few chills, access to the top of the hill by cable car. Also the opportunity to restore health by visiting the Asklepion, the large ancient sanctuary dedicated to the god of Medicine. The excursion can be easily done during the day from Izmir or Foça, but it would be a shame to stick to the archaeological sites. Pergamon, a pleasant little town where it is good to walk between the market and Ottoman houses, also has excellent accommodation possibilities.
Ephesus and Selçuk
Ephesus deserves its tourist success: a grandiose theater, majestic arteries and sumptuous public buildings. No need to be keen on Antiquity or a regular at archaeological sites to be struck by the splendor of the city. In addition to these monumental remains, you will discover a more intimate version of the past, by visiting the “terraced houses”. With their Izmir Ephesus Bodrum painted walls, their mosaic pavements and marble slabs, they have the effect of a small Turkish Pompeii . Ephesus also welcomes many Christian pilgrims who have come to meditate in the house where the Virgin is said to have breathed her last. The ancient site adjoins the small town of Selçuk, where you will find pleasant accommodation.
The golden battlements of St. Peter’s Castle, in the middle of the bay, and the white cubes of the houses lined up along its alleys are the symbol of Bodrum. there floats an air of Saint-Trop ‘, an atmosphere of trendy idleness and good life. Nestled around a port where luxury yachts anchor, the city lives to the rhythm of its bars, restaurants and fashion boutiques. Because we must not hide the truth: Bodrum is no longer a small fishing port, but one of the country’s leading tourist destinations, the victim of rampant urbanization and the proliferation of luxury marinas. The only consolation, the real estate development took place in a certain harmony, there are no monstrous hotels or building bars, only pretty white houses which devour the hills, swarm in the neighboring bays and colonize all the peninsula.
THE MEDITERRANEAN COAST
South-east of Fethiye, Kalkan is only a modest point on the maps, although it has become a bustling seaside resort, particularly popular with Britons who have fallen under the spell of its tranquil bay. Leaning against its arid hills, the fishing hamlet has turned into a small town, with new streets gradually lining its slopes. Yet, at the bottom, it still feels like a Greek village in Kalkan Alanya, with its cobbled streets lined with small bright white houses, the purple of the bougainvillea and the bushy trellises in the shade of which you sip a raki. Kalkan also serves as the gateway to a fabulous concentration of ancient sites and one of the most beautiful beaches in Turkey, making it an ideal base for exploring the region.
A small, all-white town leaning against the mountain, Kas opens the procession of peninsulas that punctuate the southernmost part of the Lycian coast. Despite impressive tourist development, it has lost none of its attractions, neither the serene elegance of its cobbled streets, nor the kindness of its welcome, nor the splendid Kas Alanya landscapes that surround it. It is also the embarkation port to the islets of Kekova Bay and the sunken city of its main island, the starting point for the adorable villages of Üçagız or Kaleköy and the gateway to the mountains of Taurus, their rushing torrents and their slopes covered with cedars.
Its exceptional climate and its sheltered location, south of the Taurus Mountains, make Antalya the most important seaside resort in Turkey. If its beaches line up the big hotels and concentrate mass tourism, the city itself, with more than a million inhabitants, keeps its own rhythm and all its character. Past the endless suburbs, the old center unwinds its steep alleys towards the port, stacking beautiful Ottoman houses with opulent interior courtyards. You have to take the time to stroll: take a look in the alleys, enter the shops, stroke the thick pile of rugs and haggle around a çay … And then, do not hesitate to go on a mop in the surroundings, to discover some of the most beautiful archaeological sites in the country, Termessos, Perge or Aspendos, unless you prefer to raft down the torrents rushing down the mountains.
In Uçhisar, we gain height. Not only by climbing its famous peak which, culminating at an altitude of 1,400, is announced from afar in the landscape. The small village with beautiful stone houses, partly troglodyte, has become a popular resort for a rather wealthy Turkish and foreign clientele, with its charming or luxury hotels. It must be said that from here, the view is particularly beautiful. A few elegant or trendy restaurants complete the picture: there is both calm – souvenir shops are not legion – and the possibility of enjoying excellent comfort. You can also opt for one of the friendly family pensions in Uçhisar, which is more affordable.
Göreme is considered the capital of Cappadocia. Touristically at least: without being the most important in the region, the locality claims the highest concentration of hotels, pensions, restaurants and souvenir shops. There is therefore a certain animation – which is not at all frantic – maintained by travelers from all over the world. On the other hand, apart from those whose professional activity is linked to tourism, the natives seem to have deserted Göreme: you will not find there the characteristic atmosphere of Turkish towns and villages. Most tourists who visit Cappadocia pass through Goreme, but you are virtually guaranteed to find a room there in any season.
This small village is a good option to spend a few days in the heart of Cappadocia, away from the major tourist centers. If the day brings its flood of visitors, in the evening, we find ourselves among the villagers and the hosts of the few pensions in the village. Çavușin is, moreover, the best base for exploring on foot some of the most beautiful valleys in the region.
Do not miss to visit this famous valley, a long canyon carved out of rock churches, south of the tourist heart of Cappadocia. Most visitors are content with a day trip from Goreme. It’s a shame: the region fully deserves our attention. In addition to the splendid landscapes of the Anatolian plateaus, you will find a more authentic Turkey, far from the large tourist concentrations. Plan at least two full days, time to explore the Ihlara Valley at your own pace and day trips around Güzelyurt, the best option for staying.