Turkey is a land of striking contrasts, a country that is embracing the new without casting off the old. It is a country of big bustling cities and vast open countryside; a country of warm sandy beaches and towering snow-capped mountains. It's climate varies from the warm Mediterranean coastline, where the sun shines for ten months of the year and the sea is inviting to swimmers even in December, to the far east region where in winter the temperature plunges below zero and the snow lies thick enough to entice adventurous skiers looking for untouched slopes.
The country's most popular resorts lie in a 500 kilometre arc that stretches from Izmir on the Aegean west coast to Antalya on the Mediterranean south coast.Here are to be found towns like Bodrum, Marmaris, Fethiye and Kalkan. Once small fishing villages, they have spread out from their original harbours to become sophisticated holiday resorts with a range of hotels -stretching from the four star with every conceivable facility to the small 'pension'. run by its owner and providing wonderful value for money.
Each of the region's resorts has its own character. Bodrum's buildings are no more than two-stories high, all of them whitewashed and spattered with bougainvillea and olive trees. Marmaris is in the most spectacular location, a bay enclosed by pine covered mountains famous for the honey produced by the local bees. Fethiye is the town nearest to Olu Deniz (the 'Dead Sea'), a lagoon edged with soft sandy beaches that is a favourite picnic spot for tourists and locals alike. Whilst Kalkan is smaller and further south, close to the spectacular seven-mile beach and sand covered ruins of Patara.
At all these resorts there is a variety of boats for hire and water-sports facilities. From para-gliding to canoeing, there is no shortage of ways of getting out to sea. Near Bodrum is Bitez Bay, where international windsurfing competitions are frequently held, and in Fethiye Bay lies a series of little inlets where boats moor overnight and the occupants grill freshly caught fish from their on-board barbecues. All along the Aegean coast, there is almost always a refreshing breeze blowing, which makes it one of the favourite spots in the the whole of the Mediterranean for serious sailors.
After a day at sea there is plenty to do on shore. The region's bars and restaurants serve European food and drink as well as the favourite local tipple - raki - which is flavoured with aniseed and well worth a try. All the towns have known haunts where people gather for cocktails and to watch the sun set. The bigger towns, Bodrum and Marmaris, also have a number of bars and nightclubs where the sun never sets and the music plays till dawn.
There is a variety of international cuisine on offer, but when in Turkey we recommend you eat as the Turks do. Turkish cuisine is exceptionally varied, making use of the wonderful array of fruit and vegetables that grow in one corner of the country or another. It's an easy place to be a vegetarian, but excellent lamb, fish and cheeses are available everywhere.
The citrus fruits are a local speciality, but the cherries, peaches, apricots and figs are unlike anything you have ever tasted at home. There are hitherto unseen delights to try - the small plums called maltepe, for example, or pistachio nuts freshly roasted that day.
All the resorts have a variety of fascinating little shops filled with curios that can keep you happily browsing for hours. There are some first-class carpet shops scattered around the area where colourful floor coverings of many different styles and prices can be found.
Wherever you choose to stay, there are plenty of opportunities for a day's outing. Ephesus, with its magnificent Roman library and baths, is one of the best preserved ruins in the area. Bodrum's superbly restored Crusader Castle tells the fascinating story of a less well-known period of history. Or go to Dalyan and see the ancient rock tombs carved out of the sheer cliffs, then head down the river to the sea in a little boat that passes through high reeds where colourful kingfishers dart in and out and turtles swim beneath your hull.
Alternatively,you can hire a Gulet,one of the familiar local flat-bottomed boats,some of them as comfortable as your hotel,and take a few day away from it all.The crew will pamper you and you will wake to the tinkle of goats' bells and the smell of wild thyme growing on the shore.
Finally. it's a shame to be in Turkey and not take a trip to Istanbul for a few days. The commercial and historical heart of the country, the city sits astride the Bosphorus, one of the busiest and most varied waterways in the world. Its modern skyscrapers contrast with the teeming streets of its famous covered bazaar and the glorious old wooden houses beside the Bosphorus. Hurrying through its street are people whose ancestors came from modern-day Kazakhstan, Hungary or Egypt, people as varied as the country they have created.
On any visit to Turkey, there's never a dull moment
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