For people who love history, then Turkey is a must. Istanbul, Turkey has roots in the ancient Roman Empire, when the Roman Emperor, Constantine I, divided the Roman Empire into two sections in 324 A.D. Rome remained the capital of the Western Roman Empire, while Constantinople (i.e. Istanbul) was the capital of the east. Some of the structures built by the Romans are still standing like the cistern to the right. A cistern is an underground water storage facility. Parts of an aqueduct and walls surrounding the city still remain and are shown below. The Western Roman Empire fell around 500 A.D. while the eastern empire, the Byzantine Empire, survived until the 15th century. The Mongols invaded and weakened the Byzantine Empire until Osman I formed the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire survived until World War I.
The Turkish people are consummate salesmen. Every where I went, I had people trying to sell me stuff. Sales are in their blood. To the right is a picture inside the Grand Market, which was founded in the 15th century. Tourist can buy a variety of souvenirs there. Of course, small stores and shops are everywhere. Even horse stables near the Blue Mosque were converted into expensive souvenir shops for tourists.
Many Turkish people speak multiple languages like English and Russian. The reason is business. Many Russians visit Turkey because Turkey is relatively inexpensive vacation. Further, many Turkish products find there way into Russia, Kazakhstan, and other former Soviet Union countries. One Turkish brand is Beko, which makes stoves, refrigerators, and washers. The Turkish textile factories also exports many clothes.
Turkey is a fascinating country because of the blend of western and eastern cultures. The Romans adopted Christianity in the 3rd century, and constructed many churches in Istanbul. During the Ottoman Empire, the rulers switched the official religion to Islam, and the churches were converted to mosques. Moreover, architects constructed many impressive mosques like the Blue Mosque to the left. Although Muslims still worship at the Blue Mosque, they allow visitors to come inside during no services. The Blue Mosque is so large; it is visible across the strait on the opposite peninsula. Many Turkish salesmen hang out around the Blue Mosque, trying to lure customers into their expensive shops.
Istanbul has a variety of architecture. The Galata Tower was constructed in the 15th century and is visible in the picture of Galata, Istanbul. Another 15th century building is to the right and houses a metro station. Istanbul has an excellent metro system and has several lines that stretch around the city. The metro line that weaves around the historical monuments like the Blue Mosque, and cistern is quite modern and clean. Other lines that lead to the suburbs tend to be old, but not bad. If you get off the main tourist routes, you can see some slums and rundown neighborhoods.
Most of the city looks like the neighborhood to the left. Small shops, cafes, and restaurants tend to be located on the first floors while apartments are on the higher floors. I could not find any large stores or malls. However, Turkish investors have constructed massive, and impressive malls in Central Asia.
- The area of the country spans 302,535 square miles.
- The currency is the Turkish lira.
- The capital is Ankara.
- In 2008, the population was estimated at 71.5 million, making Turkey the 17th populous country in the world.
- Turkey wants to join the European Union.
- Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, and its financial hub.