Turkey is a fascinating country of Asian-European contrasts and overlaps. The region has been a crossroads of civilizations. The Roman Empire once exerted its influence, with Byzantium (later Constantinople and Istanbul) emerging as a significant center of power. The Byzantine Empire thrived until the 15th century when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople, heralding the transition from Byzantine to Ottoman rule. Under the Ottomans, Turkey became a major global power, reaching its zenith under Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. The decline of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century led to the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 by Atatürk, who implemented radical reforms to modernize and secularize the nation. The latter part of the 20th century witnessed political turbulence, including military coups. In recent decades, Turkey has grappled with challenges such as political polarization and evolving geopolitical dynamics, shaping its role in the global community and prompting contemplation about its future trajectory.
Turkey is also a nation of practical people. When I sat down in an Istanbul restaurant and ordered meat and rice, the manager came back with a different proposition "I'm sorry, the meat is finished. Instead of rice and meat, here I give you rice and yoghurt. Don't worry for you same price". Very practical guy indeed.
Istanbul, the vibrant and historic metropolis straddling Europe and Asia, encapsulates a narrative of cultural convergence and resilience over millennia. Its iconic skyline is adorned with architectural marvels such as the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, echoing the diverse influences that have shaped its character. Istanbul is a living testament to the coexistence of modernity and tradition, where bustling markets, like the Grand Bazaar, exist alongside contemporary neighborhoods. The most iconic sight is the huge Blue Mosque, which tells the story of Suleiman "the Magnificent", the Ottomans's greatest ever military leader, who gave up everything for a slavegirl named Roxalena.
Suleiman had conquered most of Eastern Europe, and Roxalena was a captured Ukrainian girl who was taken to the slave market in Istanbul, where she was purchased for Suleiman's harem. It wasn't long before he fell in love with her. She then managed to convince the sultan to marry her, which caused a stir throughout the Islamic world for marrying a slave. It resulted in their son Selim, a very incompetent man, inheriting the sultanate. It happened because all the other candidates had been murdered thanks to Roxelana's influence over Suleiman.