14 Surprising Facts About Turkey You Must Know!

There’s more to Turkey than just rugs, Turkish coffee, and whirling dervishes. Get to know Turkey a little better with these 14 surprising facts you must know!

1. It has the oldest and biggest mall in the world.

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Dating back from the 15th Century, The Grand Bazaar or Kapalıçarşı is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. It spans 61 covered streets and has more than 3,000 shops which will take you more than 3 days to see it all.

2. The second-oldest subway in the world is in Istanbul.

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The Tünel or Tunnel in English, is a short underground railway line connecting the quarters of Karaköy and Beyoğlu. It was inaugurated in 1875, making it the second-oldest subterranean urban rail line in the world after the London Underground, which was built in 1863.

3. You can cross continents under the sea.

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97% of Turkey’s land is in Asia, and the remaining 3% in Europe with the Bosphorous Strait separating the two land masses. The Marmaray Metro Line, an undersea rail tunnel under the Bosphorous Strait, opened in 2013 is the first standard gauge rail connection between Europe and Asia.

4. The oldest dessert in the world is from Turkey.

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Ashura, or Noah’s pudding, is a Turkish dessert congee made of a medley of grains, fruits, dried fruits and nuts. It is believed that Noah’s family first made this dessert, hence the name, after Noah’s Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat, in the Eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey.

5. You might find chicken in your dessert.

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One of Turkey’s signature dishes is a milk pudding dessert made with chicken meat and sprinkled with cinnamon called Tavuk göğsü which literally means chicken breast. This delicacy is one the most famous dishes served to Ottomon sultans in the Topkapı Palace. Chicken or not, who’s to deny a dessert fit for royalty?

6. Santa Claus is from Turkey.

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Anyone would be surprised to discover that Santa Claus, a ‘western’ icon isn’t really from the west but from Asia Minor instead! St. Nicholas, the man behind the story of Santa Claus, was born in Patara and was the Greek Bishop of Myra, an ancient Greek town in Lycia, situated in present day Antalya Province of Turkey.

7. Turkey introduced tulips to the world, not The Netherlands.

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You would think that tulips, the symbol of The Netherlands, would naturally have been discovered there too. But in actual fact, tulips originate from Turkey and the first tulip bulbs were sent from the Ottomon Empire to Vienna in 1554. And surprise, surprise - the tulip is Turkey’s national flower.

8. It was the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s murder-mystery novel “Murder on the Orient Express".

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The highly acclaimed and celebrated British author Agatha Christie wrote her famous novel “Murder on the Orient Express” while residing at the Hotel Pera Palace in Istanbul. The Orient Express, the epitome of luxury travel, was a long distance passenger train that ran between Paris and Constantinople (Istanbul) from 1883 to 1977. Today, the Hotel Pera Palace is still in operation and retains the elegant classical style that made it famous.

9. Oil-Wrestling is the national sport.

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Two bulky men, doused in olive oil, grappling each other under the hot sun is like nothing you would have ever seen. The traditional Turkish national sport is yağlı güres meaning oiled-wrestling, and has been since Ottomon times.

10. Turkish baths are actually Roman.

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The famous not-to-be-missed Turkish bath or hammams, were an export of the Roman Empire in the 7th Century and partly emulates Roman and Byzantine baths.

11. The legendary city of Troy is actually in Turkey.

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Even if you’re not a fan of classical literature, you’re sure to have come across stories about Helen of Troy‘The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships’ or at the least watched the 2004 movie titled ‘Troy’ starring Hollywood A-listers Brad Pitt and Eric Bana. The ancient city of Troy as portrayed in Homer’s epic poem the Iliad is located in northwest coast of Troy, which is now known as Hisarlik.

12. It is believed to be the birthplace of Christianity.

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Antakya, which was known as Antioch, is home to the first Christian house of worship - the Cave Church of St. Peter or the Grotto of St. Peter, where many believe Christianity was born as a religion and one of the pilgrimage destinations for Christians.

13. Istanbul has been the capital of some of the greatest empires in the world.

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Over a period of more than 2,000 years, Istanbul was the capital of three major empires: the Roman, Byzantine and Ottomon.

14. Turkey is incredibly rich in history and culture.

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Turkey is home to 2 of the 7 ‘Wonders of the Ancient World’, namely The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus near Izmir, and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in Bodrum, and has more than 10 heritage sites inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and another 62 on the tentative list. It’s also the birthplace of historical figures such as Aesop, Homer and St. Paul the Apostle.

 

Turkey was a crossroad for many civilizations dating as far back as the Neolithic period and it’s by far the largest “open air museum” in the world. Having so much to offer in terms of culture, history, cross-cultural cuisine and a thriving art scene, it’s no wonder Turkey is ranked 6th most popular tourism destination in the world. The French poet Alphonse de Lamartine once said, “If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.” And why not? See it all yourself and plan a Turkish getaway with Summit Holidays.

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