Join me as I travel, play, eat, live and work in cities and places around the world.
Published May 9th 2014
Ask any tourist about Türkiye or Turkey and you'll get enthusiastic conversations about kebabs, rugs, Turkish coffee, baths, historical sites, mosques and the Mediterranean sunshine. While touring the country I spoke to locals to find out more about the country, culture and people. I've learn that Turkey is a nation with a rich history, populated by friendly, hospitable and hardworking people who have built their country into one of the fastest growing economies in Europe and the world. Here are 32 facts I picked up to help make your visit to Turkey even more meaningful and interesting. To help you plan your trip, visit the Ministry of Culture and Tourism website.
1) Turkey has 82,693 mosques, the most of which are in the country's largest city, Istanbul, according to Religious Affairs Directorate data.
2) Turkey is one of the world's 5 only transcontinental Eurasian countries. Asian Turkey comprises of 97% while European Turkey comprises of 3% of the country. They are separated from each other by the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles.
3) Turkey is the first world hazelnut producer and exporter, with approximately 70% and 82% of the world`s production and export respectively.
4) Turkey enjoy a special level of friendship with Australia. 66,919 Australian residents claimed Turkish ancestry, with 32,847 having been born in Turkey based on Australia's 2011 Census; Sydney is a sister city of Adana; and both regard the 1915 Gallipoli landings as a mutually significant historic event and a large number of Australian and Turkish citizens attend commemorative services at Gallipoli every year.
Interior of Saint Peter's Church in Antioch / Photo by Volkanh of Wikimedia Commons
5) Antakya (then known as Antioch) is home to the Cave Church of St. Peter or the Grotto of St. Peter, where many believe Christianity was born as a religion and one of the pilgrimage destinations for Christians. The Church is a cave carved into the mountainside on Mount Starius. The Church's stone facade was built by Crusaders who ruled Antioch between 1098 AD to 1268 AD.
6) Efes is the beer of Turkey. Efes Beverage Group is the largest producer of beer in Turkey with approximately 80% market share and ranked 12 in the world beer market.
7) Once a loved symbol of nationality and a special badge of the Turks, the Fez which was worn by men and women, even if not a Moslem is hardly seen these days. The Fez was banned on 30 August 1925 and by the 1930 it was almost gone in Turkey.
8) The current 29-letter Turkish alphabet was established as a personal initiative of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
9) Tulips do not originate from the Netherlands as most people believe. It was a wild flower growing in Central Asia that was cultivated by the Turks as early as 1,000 AD. The flower found its way to western Europe and the Netherlands only in the 17th century.
10) The Anatolian peninsula or Asian Turkey, is one of the oldest permanently settled regions in the world. European Turkey, called Eastern Thrace, has also been inhabited since 40,000 years ago, and is known to have been in the Neolithic era by about 6000 BC.
11) The ancient real-life city of Troy is located on the northwest coast of Turkey, which is now known as Hisarlik.
12) Football is the most popular sport in Turkey. Galatasaray won the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 2000. The Turkish national team finished 3rd in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Finals.
Ruins of Göbekli Tepe / Photo by Teomancimit of Wikimedia Commons
13) Göbekli Tepe at the top of a mountain ridge in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey is the world's oldest known example of monumental architecture dating some 11,600 years old. It also contains the oldest known temple.
14) Cherries were introduced to Rome from the Anatolian region of what is now Turkey since 72 BC.
15) The Mediterranean diet actually originated in towns like Alacati located at the southern tip of the Cesme peninsula of Turkey, in the middle of the Aegean. The locals continue to speak the language of herbs and host the Alacati Herb Festival every 5 years.
16) Turkey is home to 2 of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus is near Izmir, and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is in Bodrum. The Wonders originate during the Greek era in 2nd century B.C.
17) The Turkish Delight or rahat lokum is one of the oldest sweets in the world with history dating back 500 years. Napoleon and Winston Churchill's favorite were the ones with pistachio filling, and Picasso used to consume it daily while working.
18) Turkey's Çatalhöyük is one of the first urban centers in the world (at 7500 BC to 5700 BC) with wall paintings and mural art that provide a direct window into life 9000 years ago. It is also internationally important for understanding of the origins of agriculture and civilization.
19) The Aşure or Noah's Pudding is a Turkish dessert said to originate from Noah's family. It is claimed that when Noah's Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat in northeastern modern-day Turkey, Noah's family celebrated with this special dish consisting of grains, fruits and nuts.
20) The world's first underground mosque is constructed in Turkey's Buyukcekmece district in Istanbul. Built 7 meters beneath the surface, Sancaklar Mosque was inspired by Cave of Hira and the building won 1st place in the World Architecture Fest competition for religious places.
21) Turkey has 11 Heritages on the UNESCO World Heritage List as of 2012. They include the Archaeological Site of Troy, City of Safranbolu, Great Mosque and Hospital of Divriği, Hattusha: the Hittite Capital, Historic Areas of Istanbul, Nemrut Dağ, Neolithic Site of Çatalhöyük, Selimiye Mosque and its Social Complex, and Xanthos-Letoon.
22) Turkish baths or hammams were an export of the Roman Empire to Turkey in the 7th Century, derived in part from Roman and Byzantine baths.
23) Turkish food is the mixture and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines by Ottoman chefs. It is typically rich in fish. lamb, beef, chicken, eggplants, nuts, garlic, lentils, cumin, pepper, mint, oregano, parsley and paprika.
24) The 7 Churches of Apocalypse are all situated in the Aegean region of Anatolia - Ephesus, Smyrna (Izmir), Pergamum, Thyatira (Nazilli), Sardis, Philadelphia (Alasehir) and Laodicea.
25) Turkey's beaches rank 3rd in the world, with 383 beaches and 21 marinas awarded by Blue Flag, an international eco-label given to beaches and marinas with high water quality, cleanliness and environmental standards. Its Mediterranean resort city of Antalya holds the world record for having the highest number of 'Blue Flag' certified beaches across the world with 197 beaches and 6 marinas awarded.
26) St Nicholas or Nikolaos of Myra, commonly referred to as Santa Claus was a historic 4th-century Christian saint and Greek Bishop of Myra who lived in Demre, part of modern-day Turkey.
27) 623 years of Ottoman rule was abolished and the newly formed "Republic of Turkey" was officially proclaimed on 29 October 1923 in Ankara. Mustafa Kemal became the republic's first President and was bestowed the honorific surname "Atatürk" (Father of the Turks).
28) The typical Greek dish of moussaka originated in Turkey.
29) Turkish Airlines flies to 245 destinations in 105 countries across 4 continents, making it the 4th in the world by number of destinations.
30) Turkey is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. While the entire continent of Europe has 13,000 plant species, Turkey alone has 10,000 plant species. Every 10 days a new plant species is discovered in Turkey. There are 11,500 species of flowers in Europe and Turkey alone has 9,000 species. Turkey is the richest country in Europe in terms of the variety of bird species. The number of animal species in Turkey alone number over 80,000 and to over 100,000 including sub-species. Europe has only around 60,000.
31) Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was actually born in Greece. The founder of modern Turkey was born in 1881 in what was then the Ottoman city of Selanik, now Thessaloniki, Greece's 2nd city.
32) Turkey is ranked the 6th most popular tourism destination in the world with 35.5 million foreign visitors in 2012.