Capital city: Ankara
Total area: 780 580 km²
Population: 71.5 million
Currency: Turkish lira (TRY)
Schengen area: Not a member of Schengen
Located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, Turkey has a rich cultural and ethnic diversity. Its history stretches from ancient civilisations, such as the Hittites, through the Greek and Roman periods (when St Paul introduced Christianity there) to Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire. The modern Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 as a western-style secular State. Nearly 99% of the population is Muslim. A considerable Kurdish population lives in the south-eastern part of the country.
In 330 AD, Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), which lies on the Bosphorus between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, became the capital of the Byzantine Empire, the eastern half of the Roman Empire.
Turkey’s architectural gems include the Selimiye and Suleymaniye mosques and the world-famous church of St Sophia, which became a mosque under the Ottomans and is now a museum. The country’s vast archaeological heritage is a major tourist attraction. At its height, the Ottoman Empire was the dominant power in the eastern and southern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Turkish cuisine is based on lamb, while goat’s milk yoghurt is also popular, especially when mixed with cucumber, garlic or mint. There is a long tradition of coffee drinking and coffee houses are a favourite meeting place.
Famous Turks include the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Nobel Prizewinning novelist Orhan Pamuk.