Turkey is a country with a bit of everything. It encompasses azure Mediterranean coasts, dusty Anatolian plains, bustling Black Sea ports, pastoral Kurdish territories and the cultural cosmo-polis of Constantinople, modern Istanbul. It stretches over 1,500 km end to end, from the Greek islands in the west, past the limestone cave-worlds of Cappadocia and the snowy forests of the Kashkar, to the Biblical slopes of Mount Ararat on the eastern borders with Armenia and Iran.
Historically, it's seen 3 of the world's largest empires, from the ancient Greeks, some of whose key cities (including Troy and Ephesus) are in modern-day Turkey, to the Byzantines, the 'Eastern Romans' who created their capital at Constant-inople, and the Ottomans, who ruled everything from Vienna to Iran.
In every sense, it is the bridge from Europe to Asia: you'll recognise the Latin alphabet but not the spoken word (which is descended from Mongolian), you'll find middle-Eastern cuisine and Islamic religion allied with a westernised democracy pushing to join the EU in 2013. With all these diverse strands, it's a miracle how Ataturk, the great statesman and WW1 colonel, pulled them all together to form modern Turkey.
Nowhere is this diversity more striking than in Istanbul. It's a huge city, at 11 million people the largest in Europe, and also one of the largest in Asia – since it straddles both sides of the Bosphorus channel dividing the 2 continents. It combines a wealth of art and architectural history - soaring mosques, Byzantine churches, Ottoman palaces - with exotic bazaars and boat trips, and an emerging club-, bar- and museum scene in Beyoglu, the heart of this 'Paris of the Orient'.