Turkey is a country torn between Europe and Asia. Literally divided by the Bosphorus running through Istanbul, the country is 97% in Asia and only 3% in Europe.
While Istanbul is beginning to feel more European with it’s attempts to join the European Union, the country still has a strong Asian or Middle Eastern feel which intensifies as you move east.
The mix of cultures and the strong Ottoman influences make for a beautiful, unique country worth exploring.
Perhaps the most obvious difference visitors notice between Istanbul and the rest of Europe is the dress.
While more similar to typical European dress than surrounding countries, it is still different.
Women don’t always wear a headscarf. Those who do often have their arms and legs covered, but still show off their curves. From what I gathered, young women wearing headscarves usually do so to please their parents, but they wear figure-flattering clothes to be stylish.
While you do hear the five daily calls to prayer, you don’t always see people praying like you do in other Islamic countries.
Since Atatürk’s founding of Turkey as a secular state in 1923, observing the call to prayer or even the following of Islam in general hasn’t been enforced by the government.
The muezzins still recite the call to prayer, but it is up to each person what they do with that time. Since Turkey is a secular state, there is actually a clause that if the government ever becomes a theocracy (a religious government), the military is required to overthrow them.
The food in Turkey is quite different that in Europe. It definitely seems to be more Middle Eastern.
While this is an interesting contrast between Europe and Turkey now, it might not be for long. The European Union holds it’s member countries to stricter regulations than what Turkey currently upholds.
For instance, salep is a hot drink in Turkey. It’s treated kind of like hot chocolate, but it’s made from orchid roots. It is already illegal to export because wild orchids are endangered. If Turkey joined the EU, this and other food standards would certainly change.
If you’re hungry, have a look at my post on Turkish foods you can cook at home.
There is a lot in Turkey that feels like it hasn’t changed since the days of the Ottomans. But slowly, the country is adjusting to Europe and EU standards.
By entering the EU, I think Turkey will loose some of its charm, but it will also gain Europe’s support in increasing infrastructure and other issues the country has.
It will be interesting to see what identity the country finds in the coming years. I hope it holds on to its old world charm as much as possible!
For more articles and photos of Turkey, go here.