“If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital”. Napoleon Bonaparte.
Turkey stands with one foot in Europe and the other in Asia. At the western end of the silk route, it is the terminus for the oil and frankincense caravans that came from the Arabian Peninsula, it guards the channel that connects the mineral and timber-rich Russian heartlands to the great civilisations of the Mediterranean and North Africa. In every sense, it is and has been for millennia, an axis, an exotic melting-pot of peoples and ethnicities, a trading hub for precious goods, a broad church of religious beliefs and a wonderful, chaotic, vibrant and boisterous country with a cultural intensity that dazzles and delights.
The great city of Istanbul teems with activity. Opulent hotels jostle with charming little boutique properties, watching on as the great ships navigate the narrow Bosphorus, as Jason and his Argonauts did in antiquity. In the steamy bazaars, the cries of hawkers and the heady scent of spices make a sharp contrast to the 1,500-year-old ethereal tranquillity of the lofty, awe-inspiring, monumental Hagia Sophia, once the focal point of Orthodox Christianity and the centrepiece of Constantinople. The wild Asian heartlands of Turkey, known as Anatolia, boast some of the earliest evidence of organised humanity on the planet and particularly striking are the distinctly phallic pillars of soft, volcanic rock spread across several valleys of Cappadocia, into which cave-houses and extraordinary frescoed cave-churches have been excavated.