Spotlight on Turkey

Turkey is a rapidly modernizing country with one foot in Europe and one in the Middle East. It has oriental splendor, mystery, intrigue and whirling dervishes, and it also has a spicy past. They have an unrivalled reputation for hospitality, the cuisine is to die for, the coastline is dreamy, and many Turkish cities are dotted with spectacular mosques and castles. And while costs are rising, Turkey remains the Mediterranean's bargain-basement destination. There's an enormous variety of things to see and do ranging from water sports to mountain trekking, archaeology to night-clubbing and river rafting to raki drinking.

Istanbul - This exotic capital guards the slender waterway between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and is the doorway between the West and the East. The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Sarai await-as does the Grand Bazaar, laden with carpets, beaten brass and spices from far-off lands. A walk down any backstreet gives the feeling of entering a completely different environment. Traders with handcarts, stevedores carrying burdens twice their size, limbless beggars and shoeshine boys all frequent the streets around the city center. Men monopolize public bars and teahouses, while many women cover their heads, their gaze downcast. In summer, dust tracks take the place of pavements, giving way in winter to a slurry of mud. Where there are pavements, they are punctuated at intervals with unmarked pits large enough to swallow you without trace. And this is before you even begin to cross any bridges into Asia.

Kusadasi - Visitors come to Kusadasi for beaches and nearby ruins of Ephesus. The major attraction is the archaeological site of ancient Ephesus, considered to be most important in Turkey. The history of this ancient city dates back to 10th century BC; many remarkable structures seen today are result of an excavation and restoration program. Along a white marble road grooved by ancient chariot wheels, the two-story Library of Celsus presents a striking sight. There are temples, houses of noblemen, and community buildings lining ancient streets. Nestled in the mountainside is a 25,000-seat amphitheater, still used for performances during Festival of Culture and Art. Bible buffs may know Ephesus as inspiration for St. Paul’s Epistle to Ephesians and the site of one of the first seven churches of Asia Minor. Treasures are kept in the Seljuk Archaeological Museum. Among the better-known ancient sites near Kusadasi are ancient Miletus and Dydima. Remains include a well-preserved Roman theater at Miletus and Dydima's sacred temple of Apollo.

Ankara – Turkey's capital is a sprawling urban mass in the midst of the Central Anatolian steppe. Since 1920 when Atatürk set up his provisional government here, Ankara's main business has been government but several significant attractions make it worth a short visit. Most visitors head straight for Hisar, the Byzantine citadel atop the hill east of the old city, and the nearby Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. To the south is Atatürk's mausoleum, a monumental building, spare but beautiful, that echoes the architecture of several great Anatolian empires. The Presidential Mansion is preserved as Atatürk used it, with decor and furnishings of the 1930s, including billiard table and cigar-and-brandy nook. There's a lot of ancient history around too. Roman Ankara was a city of some importance, and Roman ruins are dotted in amongst the mosques and monuments of Muslim Anatolia.

Cappadocia - The underground cities of Cappadocia give you an idea of the sensation of what living in a labyrinth felt like. Derinkuyu is one of the 40 subterranean settlements in this area. It was at one time the home for up to 20,000 people. Its 18 stories descend into the Anatolian plateau south of Goreme. The ventilation shafts, circular and descending from the surface to the lower levels, and the massive circular doors remind you of the motivation for moving underground in the first place – to guarantee a degree of protection. There are eight floors of tunnels open to the visitor. Not for the claustrophobic.

Iskenderun is now a busy commercial centre and an important port of Turkey on the Mediterranean region. Iskenderun has an active, modern life with good hotels, restaurants and cafes among the palm trees by the Mediterranean sea, in a fine location on the shores of a deep bay and at the foot of high Amanos Mountains. The cuisine of Iskenderun is delicious, especially "Kunefe", a desert with cheese in it and eaten hot. The best prawns can also be found here.

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