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Everything You Wanted to Know about Turkey

Flag of Turkey hanging in front of old building in Istanbul
Flag of Turkey in Istanbul by Ivankmit/DepositPhotos

History of Turkey

Turkey has been home to numerous cultures over thousands of years and it's actually one of the oldest continually inhabited regions in the world. From Neolithic times it has provided a home for humans, and evidence has been found at Troy of some of those earliest settlements.

The first major empire to live in present day Turkey was the Hittites, who for hundreds of years farmed and ruled over the land until 612BC when their empire collapsed. In the meantime, other civilizations including the Greeks, Aeolians, and Ionians colonized the coastal areas and established some of the region's greatest cities including Ephesus and Istanbul, which by the way, was named Byzantium at that time, and later Constantinople.

Towards the middle of the first century BC the Romans conquered most of Turkey, and by the year 324AD the Roman Emperor Constantine I made Byzantium the new capital of the Roman Empire. This meant the city was as important as Rome was to the Romans, and later when the Roman Empire split in two Turkey remained the center of the Eastern Roman Empire.

It was hundreds of years after this that the Seljuks began their move on Anatolia, but having been weakened by the Mongols their time here was short lived. However, from the dissolution of the Seljuk empire one man named Osman I split away and ultimately formed the Ottoman Empire, one of the strongest and longest lasting empires of all time.

From 1299 until 1923 Turkey was the heart of the Ottoman Empire and their legacy can still be seen across much of the country today. Great mosques, palaces and other architecture were constructed during this period, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries when the empire was at its strongest. After a couple hundred years of decline the Ottomans made the mistake of entering World War 1, and this really led to their demise; but, it also led to the formation of the current Republic of Turkey in 1923, and the country has not looked back since!

The People and Population of Turkey

Today Turkey is home to around 75 million people and the majority of them live in the towns and cities. This means there are vast areas of the Turkish countryside that are not inhabited, while the cities are crammed full of people who have come here to find work.

Istanbul is the largest city and it's growing all the time, currently home to around 9 million people in the city proper, but over 13 million in the metro area.

Geography of Turkey

Turkey is certainly a sizeable country, and with a land area of 302,535 square miles it's the 37th largest country in the world. So is Turkey in Europe or Asia? Well, it can be considered both; in fact, the city of Istanbul is the dividing line between Europe and Asia, so Turkey is situated within both of these continents.

There's a great distance (1,000 miles) between the western coast of Turkey and the eastern edges of the country where it borders with Armenia and Iran, and across this span you'll find a variety of landscapes and terrains. From the high interior mountains that include Mount Ararat, to the beautiful coastal landscapes where you can see turquoise blue waters and white sands reminiscent of the Caribbean.

And talking of the coast, Turkey has many miles of coastline to enjoy, from the Black Sea in the north west, along the Bosphorus at Istanbul and into the Sea of Marmara, heading south along the Aegean Sea and to the southern coast and the Mediterranean Sea.

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