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Where East Meets the West

February 2018 Lifestyle Travel

Where East Meets the West

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An enthralling combination of the mystical and the mundane, Turkey is a delight to the eye of its beholder. Hailed as ‘the bridge between the east and the west’, stretching from Europe in the west to Asia in the east, the country boasts ornate minarets, mosques and whirling dervishes. Throbbing with life and culture in every corner, Turkey’s recent bid to join the European Union portrays a picture of the otherwise conservative country’s effort to embrace modernity. In fact, there have been collective efforts to improve its tourism industry, with the introduction of impressive airports, better public transport, swanky hotels, cleaner cities, and upgraded facilities. Delving into the history of Turkey is like taking a dive into a vast, wondrous ocean. A part of the erstwhile Ottoman Empire, the country has borne the impression of several civilizations over time. What was once known as Anatolia came to be called Türkiye, the Land of the Turks, after 1923, under the leadership of the revolutionary Mustafa Kemal Atatürk? Acclaimed writer Orhan Pamuk has beautifully captured the glorious landscape and religious intricacies of sixteenth-century Istanbul in his timeless book, My Name is Red. Apart from literary brilliance, the magnificence of the cities of Turkey has led to the conception of several beautiful pieces of artwork over the ages.

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A walk through Istanbul’s varied and lively neighborhoods is an exotic experience. From the bustling life and commercial activities of Kadikoy to the enchanting boutiques of Nisantasi, to the innumerable masses swarming the Sultan Mosque of Eyup on Fridays, Istanbul is an eclectic mix of many cities.

The transcontinental city that was once the cultural capital of Turkey reflects a thrilling mix of the cultures of the west and the east and remains the only city in the world that has been the capital of both an Islamic and a Christian empire. Standing testimony to the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman civilizations that once inhabited the city are the architectural grandeur of the Hagia Sophia church (now, a museum called Ayasofya Müzesi), the Theodosian walls, Topkapi Palace, and Sulaimaniye mosque. Also, make sure you experience the mystical dance of the Sufis, commonly known as the Whirling Dervishes, at the Galata Mevlevi Museum. What’s a trip to Turkey without a Sufi dance?

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One of the most favored tourist destinations of the world, Cappadocia has an abundance of historical, archaeological, and natural wonders. Hopping on a hot air balloon for a ride over the volcanic terrains of Göreme is guaranteed to be a wallpaper-worthy moment, giving you a view of the landscape that looks straight out of a fairytale. Göreme pulls the masses for its variety of adventure sports.

A World Heritage Site, Cappadocia’s stunning topography was transformed from rough terrain, the result of a volcanic eruption, into mysterious underground chambers, cities and tunnels centuries ago. Its towering rock-cut pillars, caves, and frescoed structures are otherworldly and are sure to offer travelers breathtaking memories for a lifetime. The rock-cut churches, Göreme’s open-air museum and Avanos, a town famed for its ceramics, are some of the most preferred tourist destinations here. The local wine and pottery make for great souvenirs.

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This is one of Asia Minor’s exquisite ancient Greco- Roman archaeological sites. With over 80 percent yet to be unearthed, Ephesus remains the most grandiose and well-preserved classical cities of Turkey. The magnificent city offers its travelers a peek into what life was like in the days of yore. The impressively restored Library of Celsus, the Terrace House (a well-preserved Roman house) and the Great Theatre, which was built around 200 BC, are all sights to indulge in.

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The capital of the Turkish Republic, Ankara is a lively metropolis and the second-largest city in Turkey after Istanbul. The city, which does not have scenic locales like the rest of the country, is dotted with reminders of its rich history. Its landscape is speckled with ruins of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires that once ruled the land. Two remarkable monuments that remain integral to Turkey’s history are the Anit Kabir, the mausoleum of Atatürk and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ulus. If you are the kind who loves a bustling nightlife, Ankara is the place to be. The city teems with happening clubs, exotic dinners, art galleries, museums, and antique shops.

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Turkish cuisine is essentially a tried-and-tested version of the Ottoman cuisine. In ancient times, food was at the center of celebrations for the Turks. The present-day Turkish cuisine is a blend of North African, Central Asian and Middle Eastern flavors. Similar to Indian cuisine in terms of the spices used, one could consider it to be on a similar platter of taste. Their kebabs, doners, koftas, and baklavas are some of the most preferred gastronomic delights here. If you’re spending time in the coastal areas of Turkey, make sure to try their seafood specials. Grilled sea bass, fried calamari, hamsi, sizzling prawns, and freshwater trout are some of the specialties. Try the mackerel fillet, and you are sure to order a couple more!

As much as the Turks love their food and respect their multifarious culture, they welcome their guests with as much warmth and love. Navigating its busy streets, walking beside the faded footprints of its emperors and sultans, soak in the mystical feeling that Turkey exudes. In its corners, cultures blend seamlessly and stories await to be retold. Are you ready to listen?


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