Turkey enjoys not just a geographical location between Europe and the Middle East, but a cultural location somewhere in the middle as well. It is a country of fabulous variety, a hybrid of many different peoples, cultures, and ideas. Its abundance to Europe, beautiful destinations, and tourist-friendly attractions have made it a premiere destination for Europeans. In the last ten years, the number of foreign visitors to Turkey has increased from under 10 million to roughly 30 million people, a decidedly substantial increase. Turkey is currently one of the top 10 destinations in the world for tourism ….. yet most Americans rarely hear about it. Even fewer visit. I think it is time to rethink that policy.
I have been personally curious about Turkey ever since high school, when I took Latin classes and slowly realized that the present-day locations of many of the sites we were reading about were located in this country. Troy, many Ancient Wonders of the World, and a few ancient authors (Herodotus springs to mind) all sprang from what is modern-day Turkey. My older sister was going to go with me when I graduated high school, but she decided to over-land Africa with me instead. Consequently, neither of us have yet been. Perhaps one day we will be lucky enough to cruise the Turkish Riviera and explore its deep-blue waters.
Most of the beach resorts and vacation destinations are located on the southern Aegean and the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. The area has become increasingly popular with Spanish tourists in recent years, due to its proximate to Spain, the cheap price (relative to the south of France, for example), and its myriad natural wonders. Antalya, the tourist capital of this nation, is increasingly popular, not just with the Spaniards, but the ubiquitous German and English travelers as well.
Yet Turkey has much to offer beyond its gorgeous beaches. Istanbul is one of the most-visited cities worldwide, and has a wealth of attractions for just about any visitor. The city also makes for an interesting blend of cultures. As a holy site in Islam, Istanbul sees many pilgrims make the trek every year. Istanbul also has Europe's largest shopping mall. This mirrors the spiritual-material dichotomy which characterizes much of Turkey. A slow trickle of Americans is starting to come to this intriguing land. There has been a push in recent years to offer many tours to Turkey , especially among the larger companies. Yet Turkey has much more to give, and I feel the current tourist traffic is much less than the country merits.
Beyond the beaches are the many cultural attractions. Cappadocia is one of the prime must-see spots on my list for Turkey. The pictures of the landscape are absolutely fascinating. It has this sort of ruined, bizarre, sublimely beautiful feel to it. The underground cities of early fugitive Christians also greatly interest me. To hide in this landscape, underground, so close to the Holy Land …. These were hearty people.
Furthermore, the ancient ruins of numerous civilizations litter the landscape. Troy is located in Turkey, after all. Troy! Ephesus is another popular stop along the archaeological and cultural tourist route. Turkey was at the center of the Ottoman, Byzantine, Trojan, Greek, and Roman civilizations. It has always been at the crossroads of civilization, and in many respects this holds true today. I am honestly genuinely surprised by the lack of American tourist growth here. Does this reflect unease with the country's Muslim identity, and its proximate to Iraq, Iran, and Syria? I would like to believe this is not the case. For some reason, many Americans must not realize what a safe, friendly, frequently touristic destination Turkey is. Hopefully us Yanks will realize this sometime soon and not be left out of the party.