You do not have to be a historian to know that Turkey is a relevant part of world history. While Piri Reis may not be a household name, he was busy charting the sea for sailors in the 16th Century; Evliya Celebi an Ottoman Turk in the 17th century wrote about the world from the perspective of a Muslin and is considered one of the world’s first travel writers having visited and chronicled most of the cities and towns that were part of the Ottoman Empire, and beyond.
Historically Turkey has been open and welcoming to refugees. Sultan Beyazit II (1482-1512), learning of the expulsion of Jews from Spain during the Inquisition, opened the borders and received 150,000 who fled for fear of persecution. Rabbi Eliyahu Capsali, (16th century historian) wrote, “So the king of Turkey heard of all the evil that the Spanish king had brought upon the Jews and heard they were seeking a refuge and resting place. He took pity on them, and wrote letters and sent emissaries to proclaim throughout his kingdom that none of the city rulers may be wicked enough to refuse entry to the Jews or expel them.”
At the beginning of the 20th century, the famous Eliz Kazan (born Elia Kazanjoglous in Istanbul in 1909 to Greek parents), directed On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof,
Ahmet Ertegun, the noted business executives, songwriter and philanthropist, the founder and president of Atlantic Records, the Chair of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and co-founder of the New York Cosmos soccer team was also born in Turkey.
This country has given us chickpeas, lentils, apricots, almonds, figs, hazelnuts, cherries and sour cherries. We can thank Turkey for tulips and lilies. The word “coffee” may have entered the English language in 1598 via Italian caffe; however, the word originated from Turkish Kahve and morphed into Arabic qahwa (wine of the bean). As we know, Islam prohibits alcohol as a beverage so coffee provided a suitable alternative to wine. Even yogurt originated in Turkey.
How We Know
Murat Karakus, Director of Tourism. Turkey
The team that has introduced us to Turkey includes Murat Karakus, the Director of Tourism for Turkey. He been associated with the industry for over 20 years; currently based in New York City, he has represented Turkey in the Netherlands and Washington, DC.
Haldun Dinccetin, Vice President, Finn Partners
Haldun Dinccetin, a Vice President with Finn Partners, heads the Turkey Group and through their efforts Turkey has become one of the most popular destinations in the world. His 20-year career includes being the Protocol and Public Affairs officer at the Turkish Consulate General in New York.
Turkey links the old world with the best of what is new and as the 17th largest economy in the world boasts an economic value of $820 billion. Turkey is the 6th largest economy among the EU countries and the 6th most visited tourist destination in the world – just behind France, the USA, the PRC, Spain and Italy.
Luxury. No Limits
Today, Turkey is positioned as a luxury destination and it possess all the bells and whistles the high-end traveler has come to expect. Important hotel brands are visible on the Istanbul landscape. Looking for elegance? One of my personal favorites is the Kempinski Ciragan Palace. Prefer something that shouts young and stylish with a Euro-Madison Avenue flourish? Then the right property is the delightful boutique House Hotel (from WorldHotels). For guests who prefer glitter and high-intensity, the best choices are Raffles Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton. For Hilton followers there is a DoubleTree coming soon along as well as Istanbul’s 9th Radisson Blu.
Planned for the very high – end explorer is a Peninsula property that brings with it a $328 million investment. Visitors can look for a Viceroy Bodrum on the Turkish Riviera, and an Okura Spa and Resort in Cappadocia (the first Japanese property in the country) and a Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort at Kaplankaya near Bodrum.
What to Do
Of course there is fabulous shopping at the Grand Bazar. Come with an empty suitcase (or two). Look to acquire a few terrific and stylish fur coats and leather jackets that scream to be adopted. From leather boots and cashmere scarfs, from gold and silver to faux-fashion jewelry – these bargains are too wonderful to leave behind. A word of caution: Do not rush through the bazar! Take the time to talk with the merchants and meander from stall to stall. Make sure to shop the outer rim of the market for the best prices and everything (I mean everything) is negotiable.
Whether you are walking along the many streets, alley-ways and malls of Istanbul, window shopping or sauntering through art galleries, this exciting city is perfect for exploration.
First the Wines of Turkey
Sommeliers will not be disappointed with the quality and variety of wines available at bars and restaurants. The wines of Turkey have an 11,000-year history and the variety of grapes range from international with terroir difference to unusual (and delicious) indigenous varieties unique to the country.
Please – do not think “table wines.” The wines of Turkey are as sophisticated as the wines of other competing regions (i.e., Italy and France). Turkish wines are award winners, achieving an outstanding entrance to medal rate of almost 78 percent in the most respected international wine challenges (i.e., Decanter, IWC and IWSC). Between 2011 -2013, Turkish Wines won more than 1,000 medals (including double gold and regional trophies) in important competitions throughout the world. Important wineries include brands include: Doluca, Kavakhdere, Sevillen and Vinkara. For more information, click here.
Then the Food
Turkish cuisine is influenced by the nomadic life and cultural mix of Greece (round breads), China and Mongolia (noodles), Sephardi Jewish (eggplant), Arab (hot peppers), Persia and the Byzantine Empires (cabbage, cauliflower and parsley). The combination of meat and fruits finds it roots in Iranian stews. The kebab originated in Persia as well as pilaf (the Turkish version of pulau). Food was an important part of the Ottoman Empire, especially during the reign of Sultan Mehmet the Second (conquered Istanbul in 1453) when dining options and kitchen systems became more complex.
Of great importance to the Ottoman culinary mix were yogurt salads, fish in olive oil, stuffed and wrapped vegetables. By the end of the 1500s the Ottoman court employed 1,400 live-in cooks and passed laws regulating the freshness of food. A separate skill-set was required for the preparation of each type of dish (soups, kebabs, pilafs, vegetables, fish, breads, pastries, candy, etc.). Cookbook author, Alya Algar, in Classical Turkish Cooking notes that, “In 1661, a list showed that 36,000 bushels of rice, 3,000 pounds of noodles, 5,000,000 bushels of chickpeas and 12,000 pounds of salt were used in the palace; in 1723, the annual meat supply of the palace was 30,000 head of beef, 60,000 of mutton, 20,000 of veal, 2000,000 fowl, 100,000 pigeons”.
Time to Dine
• Kempinski Ciragan Palace
You do not go to eat at the Kempinski Ciragan Palace, you make a reservation for gourmet-level dining. Whether you show up for a cheerful and abundant breakfast in the dining room, select a mid-afternoon tea break in the lobby-lounge, spend delicious hours experiencing the best of Turkish wines via a wine tasting or reserve for dinner, the Palace creates profound experiences that form lasting memories – not just a satiated stomach. The Tugra restaurant has won many awards, and continues to be the highlight of Istanbul dining.
Do not rush your visit to Raffles. From the awesome lobby, to the fabulous meeting spaces and contemporary rooms and multiple dining options, this is a property where a month could be a short-stay.
With two over-the-top restaurants, two bars and lounges as well as a patisserie, hunger is never an issue. Menu selections run from contemporary Turkish to classic Mediterranean and the settings are incredibly elegant – think Vogue Magazine or the perfect backdrop for a GQ photo shoot.
Rocca serves Mediterranean cuisine influenced by the culture of Turkey; Arola is directed by Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola and offers an array of creative tapas-style plates. The Long Bar is perfect for drinks, small plates of delectable goodies and long conversations and the Lavinia is ideal for drinks and tea. Sweets are available at the Patisserie. Guests at the pool get to select from the Turkish mezze and grill (no extra charge for the view). In the summer, live music, entertainment and cocktails are available at Lounge 6.
Where to Go
There is so much history in Istanbul and Cappadocia that smart visitors will arrange for a tour guide and private transportation. Without this service, plan on long lines for the most popular sites. To encourage visitors to see more of Turkey, the office for tourism is encouraging visitors to explore Cappadocia for history and archeology, wineries and horseback riding, biking and trekking; the ruins near Izmir, Bodrum for sun and A-list celebrities (i.e., Tom Hanks, Beyonce, Sting, Elizabeth Hurley and Nicole Kidman), as well as resorts along the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts.
Turkey is centrally located and a destination for visitors from the US, Europe, Middle East and North Africa. With a sophisticated infrastructure and reliable domestic transportation systems, the destination meets the most demanding wants/needs for tourists – from health and wellness (Turkish baths, hamams and spas) to adventure (hiking, wave surfing, paragliding, parasailing, skiing and jet-skiing), to day and night-life for families, couples, and LGBT tourists.
For additional information: Turkish Culture and Tourist Offices in New York at 212-687-2194 or in Washington, D.C., at 202-612-6800, or Los Angeles at 323-937-8066 and visit their web sites at goturkey.com or kulturturizm.gov.tr
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