The landscape of Turkey is a magnificent, but threadbare Turkish carpet, hundreds of years old, displaying patterns which had evolved to perfection over the centuries.
The Turkish landscape encompasses a vast variety of geographic zones. If you take a cross section along the east-west axis, you will encounter rugged, snow-capped mountains where winters are long and cold; the highlands where the spring season with its rich wildflowers and rushing creeks extends into long, cool summers; the dry steppes with rolling hills, endless stretches of wheat fields and barren bedrock that take on the most incredible shades of gold, violet and cool and warm greys as the sun travels the sky; the magical land of fairy chimneys and cavernous hillsides; and eventually the warm, fertile valleys between cultivated mountainsides, reaching the lacelike shores of the Aegean where nature is friendly and life has always been easy.
A north-south cross-section begins with the lush, temperate zone of the Black Sea coast, well protected by a chain of high mountain ranges, cultivated with hazelnuts, corn and the tender tea (which will soon become a part of the daily ritual during your stay here). High passes and winding roads offer breathtaking views of the Black Sea, leading to highlands and steppes with orchards tucked into the foothills of lesser mountains; then on to the vast Konya plain, and up the Toros (Taurus) Mountains into coniferous forests, which eventually transform into a scrubby maquis fragrant with bay leaves and oregano as the Mediterranean coast approaches. If you take a turn east on this route, passing by banana plantations and cotton fields, you will come to the most desert-like part of Turkey. Just north of Syria the earth displays all the textures and shades of brown which a civilization can mould it into without dominating it. In short, for every two to four hours of driving you find yourself in a different zone with all the accompanying changes in scenery, temperature, altitude, humidity, vegetation and weather conditions.
This landscape has the combined characteristics of the three old continents of the world; Europe, Africa, and Asia. It has an ecological diversity surpassing any other place along the N40th latitude. This diversity is reflected in the intermingling of all sorts of animals, whose habitats are now dispersed in these continents, before the land masses separated in geological history. Now it is possible to observe the yearly ebb-and-flow of nature as the birds continue on their migratory routes twice a year. The flocks of storks and birds of prey convey a magnificent spectacle that you can watch from the hills of Camlica in Istanbul every fall. The flamingos nest in the river valleys of the Aegean and the Mediterranean and spend the winter in the salt water lakes of the inland. If you happen to be visiting Dalyan (or any one of the 17 beaches along the Mediterranean) on a warm spring night in May you are sharing the sand dunes with one of the most delightful and shy creatures of the world, the sea turtle, which lays its eggs at this time of year.
In addition to the richness of the flora, Turkey is the home of a number of ornamental flowers, the most notable being the tulip. In fact the word "tulip" comes from a Turkish word which means turban. Bulbs brought to Vienna from Istanbul in the 1500s started the craze for tulips in England and the Netherlands. By 1634 this interest in tulips had become so intense that in Holland it was called "tulipomania" with individuals investing money in tulips as they do now in high-tech stocks. This period of elegance and amusement in 17th century Turkey is symbolized by this flower being known as the 'Tulip Age'
Many familiar fruits such as cherries, apricots, almonds and figs all originated in Turkey. Our common ancestors are said to have evolved in different parts of the world, most likely Africa. Nevertheless, the depiction of Adam and Eve wearing their fig leaves confirms the long-standing view of Turkey as heaven-on-earth....