Cultural diversity and international recognition
Culture in Turkey is truly inexhaustible, from the cuisine, great hospitality, street food, kebabs and diverse local traditions and specialities, you will be sure to discover new ways of life while in Turkey. Though Turkish cuisine is usually associated with meat dishes and kebabs, in actuality the food is of a more healthy Mediterranean taste. Serving diverse seasonal vegetable dishes with local specialities like peppers, aubergines, tomatoes and fresh herbs, you will always have new dishes to try. The land in Turkey is vast and fertile, so there the agricultural industry is booming here, with food-related to olives, nuts, fruits and vegetables being plentiful everywhere you go. Interestingly, Turkey is the world's number 1 hazelnut exporter (known as ‘findik’), and nuts are purchasable at very affordable prices at local shops in all Turkish cities, way cheaper than abroad. Modern Turkish culture has taken on a more western feel, with the latest smartphones and gadgets being sold everywhere. However, the traditional side of Turkey remains on display everywhere you go, from the Turkish ‘chay’ after every meal, to the herbal medicine shops on crowded streets showcasing ancient cultural knowledge of natural remedies produced from local goods. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is replicated in every city at slightly smaller scales, with a more local feel, bazaars are where you can practice your bargaining skills and buy amazing souvenirs and speciality confectionery goods sold by the locals.
The Ottoman Empire - One of the great civilizations of its time
Once a mysterious kingdom, where sultans and pashas schemed and a harem of concubines produced heirs for the throne. It is an empire that continues to shape our world today. This was the Ottoman empire. It was the dawn of the 14th century, on the Anatolian plateau in what is now modern-day turkey. Nomadic tribes, Muslim Turks, Persians, enjoyed a pastoral existence; breeding livestock, cultivating crops and following the seasons with their families and their herds. But now their native lands were under siege. Barbaric hordes of Mongol horsemen were advancing from the east. On the west were Christian armies from the once-great but now weakened Byzantine empire.
From military conquests to profound cultural history
Built on the qualities of tolerance both religious and liberal foundations created by the first Ottoman emperor Orhan. The rise and fall of the Ottoman empire, through various successful military campaigns that were far-reaching in breadth, going all the way up to Europe. From Constantinople representing a mythical place, imperial power and global success. Captured by the ottoman in the 15th century, sending a global message that the empire would do anything to, marking the beginning of the Golden Age of the Ottoman empire. This towering achievement headed by Mehmet the Conqueror and the conquest of the 29th of may 1453 achieved unbelievable prestige across the world. He refortified the battered city walls and commissioned the great church of Sophia into a mosque today known as the Hagia Sophia museum. The new capital took on the name of Istanbul, with a new skyline and great mosque, nearby Rumeli fortress which was instrumental in the conquest of Constantinople. He wanted to make Ottoman Constantinople Istanbul; into the rich and powerful city that it had once been, to protect the past, incorporate it into the present and use it as a foundation for his own authority and power. With a location that bridged continents and cultures, the city had prospered for centuries through trade. The new Sultan ordered the construction of the legendary Grand Bazaar, still the largest covered street bazaar in the world, where textiles, crafts, jewellery and spices were traded in an intricate maze of covered streets, with secret gardens and private sections for the rich that can still be found today. The Ottomans controlled the major trade routes that connected Asia, China with Europe, which brought them a great amount of power and influence across trade networks between these nations. Europe dearly loved Asian goods, including the spices of the East Indies. But the only way they could get those was if the goods past through the Ottoman world. Mehmet gathered whatever and whomever he needed to revitalize the cities merchant class, he recruited tradesmen and craftsmen from across the empire to take part in the city's rebirth. Christians were invited back into the city with the promise of protection, and jews were encouraged to come to Istanbul. Mehmet's Idea was not simply to rebuild a city, but to ensure that the city had a population with the urban skills, economic and trade skills that would make it the capital that he had in mind of a great city. With new skills attracted to the capital, silk from the early Ottoman capital Bursa, along with wool goat hair and cotton, were woven together into intricate carpets that became the Ottomans most famous export.
In 1465 the 33-year-old Sultan Mehmet the second began work on the crown jewel of his city; the extraordinary Topkapi Palace. It was designed to be a gigantic household, consisting of concentric circles of power, the outermost circle being the least powerful and as you get closer to the centre of the palace, you get closer to the person of the Sultan, and therefore closer to the locus of power. It was intended to be of a symbol of power but also the actual place of power. The massive 173-acre complex would ultimately include 10 mosques, 2 hospitals, 5 schools, 12 libraries and 22 marvel fountains. Although it was called a palace, it was actually more like a city, as the historical records show that the royal kitchens were in charge of a massive operation feeding over 5,000 people a day. Topkapi Palace was in fact a city within the largest city of Istanbul, Mehmet governed both in royal fashion, taking over much of the trappings of the Byzantine emperors, the eastern roman empire. The bread that the Sultan ate came from very special wheat that grow in two villages in Bursa. Even the famous janissaries, 200 of which had the job was to sort through the flour and make sure there were no impurities, to send hundreds of pounds of the special wheat to wherever the Sultan went so that he would have his favourite bread (Siyez wheat). He also had 2 mountain villages ordered to supply ice year-round for Topkapi, resulting in a 200 donkey load of Ice weekly shipment to cool the sherbets served at the meals at the palace.
A culture founded on tolerance
Mehmet's religious tolerance and his broad interest in art and commerce transformed Istanbul into the vibrant new centre of the Islamic world. He surrounded himself with Byzantine historians, philosophers, writers and diplomats, as he was interested in many of the things that his contemporaries in Europe were interested in. He was as an Ottoman renaissance man, that may have inspired the great Ataturk who later took the same route. His civic interest, however, did not alter his military prowess and aggressiveness, and new conquests generated new revenues to supply the lavish lifestyle he was leading. For 25 years he waged war against the Christian territories, pushing the outer boundaries of the empire into Romania, Albania and Bosnia dominating his enemies. His primary goal was to conquer Christian lands, subdue them and tax them. Like Napoleon, he was a dynamic and decisive military leader, that characteristic also spill over into other respects. After an extraordinary 30 year reign, he died of natural causes on May 3rd 1481 at the age of 49. He had reinvented the empire but also left it exhausted after constant military campaigns which left the janissaries special force tired and mutinous. Religious leaders were also angry and resented the sultan attempts to decide what were traditionally religious matters. The Ottoman empire enjoyed a period of relative tranquillity under his son’s reign. Later on, under the rule of Suleyman the great, the Ottoman empire expanded drastically into most of the Middle East, Europe, and Russia. Istanbul and the Topkapi Palace took on renovations to rival that of the renaissance in Europe and adopted the grand style of European royalty.