For centuries, Turkey has been the bridge between East and West, between Christianity and Islam, between Europe and the Middle East. Although many things have changed over the years-Turkey was formerly known as the Ottoman Empire until the end of WWI, and Istanbul, was known as Constantinople-Turkish hospitality, and the beauty and mystery of the land have remained unchanged. Although Turkey is moving quickly into modernity by stabilizing the economy, cleaning up its human rights record, and trying to retain a secular government, whether or not the country is allowed to join the European Union remains to be seen.
Although the Turkish economy is stable and fairly strong these days, the country still remains a bargain for tourists and visitors, especially when compared to other destinations in the Mediterranean. Budget travelers can travel, eat, and sleep for about $40-60 a day, while around $100 per day, allows one to sleep in nice hotels, eat well, and travel in style. In the major cities, dollars, euros, and other major currencies can be used, but when traveling in smaller villages off the beaten path, keeping a ready supply of Turkish Liras is advised.
Turkey has a modern transportation system in place, and visitors can easily and cheaply get in, out, and around the country via airlines, ferries, trains, buses, and cars. The trains are typically slower than the buses, but many do have sleeper cars for long-distance travelers, and can be a good value. The Bosfor Ekspresi train connects between Budapest, Bucharest, Belgrade, and Sofia.
Istanbul has to be considered one of the worldâ€™s most beautiful cities, with domes, minarets, and modern building all standing side by side in a city that as been home to philosophers, crusaders, mystics, artists, and holy men for centuries. Surely, no trip would be complete without a visit to the Aya Sofya, or its western name, Haghia Sofia. Built 15 centuries ago, the structure was first built as a Christian church, but became a mosque for several centuries before finally ending up as a museum. Another gorgeous religious structure that shouldnâ€™t be missed is the Blue Mosque, or the Mosque of Sultan Ahmet. A perfect example of the perfection and harmony that Islamic architecture strives for, the mosque contains the largest courtyard of any Ottoman mosque, and six minarets.
Although Turkeyâ€™s cities are enormous, loud, and chaotic, plenty of opportunities to relax and enjoy the Turkish sun exist in the resorts, smaller towns, and islands that make up the rest of the country. Bodrum is one of Turkeyâ€™s most gorgeous resorts, replete with picturesque white houses and villas, and a bay that is usually dotted with sailboats, swimmers, and others enjoying the Aegean waters. Although Bodrum is a place to come for relaxation and rejuvenation, partygoers can dance the night away in the townâ€™s famous discos, which pump out the beats until the early morning hours.
Turkey is both modern and old fashioned. At once European, Asian, and Middle Eastern, it was one of the first multicultural societies on the planet, and a melting pot of different ideas, cultures, customs, and arts, but also a place still defining itself. Visitors will be awed by the architecture, inspired by the art, and romanced by the energy and verve that the cities and people have to offer.