15 things you didn’t know about Turkey

15 things you didn’t know about Turkey

Today we are exploring beautiful Turkey, one of the few transcontinental countries. Turkey spans both Asia and Europe. Inhabited since the Palaeolithic era, Turkey has been taken over by various civilisations, including the Assyrians, Greeks, and Armenians. From the 14th century to the early 20th, Turkey experienced war after war. Its current political situation is turbulent too. What can we learn about this diverse country that is forever in the headlines? We want to show you 15 things you didn’t know about Turkey. 

1 – Turkey is home to 2 of the seven wonders of the Ancient World


We often assume that the Ancient World’s Wonders may mainly be in Egypt and Greece, but Turkey has its fair share. The Temple of Artemis is dedicated to the Greek Goddess and childbirth also known as Diana is Ancient Rome. The Temple is located near the ancient city of Ephesus, which is now on the hedge of Selçuk and understandably ion ruins. 

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was a burial chamber built in 353 BC. It was carved by 4 Greek sculptors. Its ruins can now be seen in a modern-day Bodrum. 

2 – A soup before a meal is very common, even before breakfast


No matter what time of day it is, Turks love soup. Breakfast is a very important meal, often consisting of meats, cheeses and bread. But it’s always begun with soup. During winter months, the soup will begin all meals and is served with rice, wheat, bulgur, or yoghurt. Summertime generally involves cold vegetables with olive oil as a starter. Other Turkish customs include finishing the food on your plate, the host not leaving the table until their guests have finished and it’s absolutely fine to belch in rural areas. 

3 – Santa Claus was technically born in Turkey

Saint Nicolas, a Christian Saint and the origin of Santa Claus, was born in modern-day Turkey. At the time, this was a part of the Roman Empire and St Nicolas was a bishop of great significance. He is supposed to have brought 3 murdered boys from the dead with his prayers, magically double the ship’s cargo of wheat and become known for gift-giving in the modern world.


4 – Turkey has the highest no. of Facebook users in the world when compared to the online population

Turkey has just under 30 million facebook users which is especially impressive when you consider that just 58% of the population is online. The nation has embraced social media and is one of the most engaged online audience in the world. Partly because the population is especially youthful, with over 50% of people under 30 years old. 


5 – You might be served chicken breast pudding when travelling in Turkey

A popular Turkish dessert is the bizarre-sounding chicken breast pudding, made from boiled chicken, sugar, milk, and cinnamon. It was commonly served to sultans when Turkey was a part of the Ottoman Empire, which would have been a great honour. If you find it on your plate, it would be a good idea to try it, smile and nod to not offend anyone… 


6 – Leonardo da Vinci planned a bridge that would run over the Bosphorus but it was never built

Plans for Da Vinci’s bridge were discovered in the 1950s, showing that the famous artist and inventor admitted plans for a bridge which linked Asia and Europe in 1503. The bridge was going to be built between Para and what was then Constantinople. And it is unknown why the plans were never put into action. However, we do know that the Sultan at the time was offered a windmill and a water pump by Da Vinci and he gladly accepted.


7 – Turkey is world to 30 Unesco World’s Heritage Sites

Turkey’s beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. But it’s not just the beaches that are protected sites. Turkey is home to stunning hot springs, some of the most remarkable mosques and religious sites and national parks full of history. The country’s significance in the Ancient World means there are many Greek and Roman ruins to see too. Some dating back to 129 BC.


8 – Many Turkish people didn’t have surnames until 1934=

A Surname Law was introduced in 1934, requiring all Turkish citizens to have a surname. Before that, people would take their father’s name and add “oglu” meaning “Son of…” Since 1934, citizens have used a similar system to many other countries where children take their father’s surname. As of 2013, the most common surname in the country was Yilmaz. 


9 – More journalists are imprisoned in Turkey than anywhere else in the world

Syria and Russia are notoriously dangerous for journalists, with many being killed for their careers. But Turkey has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world. The majority have been jailed for their support of the Kurdistan Workers Party, charged with an anti-terror law. The government puts a lot of pressure on the media to dismiss journalists who are critical of them. So many journalists have chosen to self-censor in order to avoid prosecution. 


10 – Part of Turkey’s coastline was given to Cleopatra as a gift

When Mark Antony and Cleopatra got married, he gave her was is now Alanya, in the South of Turkey, in a bet to impress her. Cleopatra beach is one of the most stunning in Turkey and Cleopatra Island of its coast is a true gem. The queen of Egypt herself thought it was her paradise. And now you can travel there by boat. 


11 – The 5th most expensive house in the world is on the coast of Istanbul

Decorated in a Classic style in an appropriately East Meets West decor, this $115 million estates has his own 200 ft quay. Measuring 30,000 Sq Ft in total, this waterfront estate has 64 rooms and is kitted out with gold sinks and crystal chandeliers. The mansion was designed by Alexandra Valerie in the mid-19th century for one minister. It has been bought by a Qatari businessman. 


12 – One of Istanbul’s most emblematic restaurant only accepts cash

Kanaat is a 360 degrees restaurant in Istanbul that offers a stunning view of the surrounding area. They offer traditional Turkish and Ottoman food in a modern and minimalist setting. But there is no point in bringing your American Express as they only accept cash. It is common in Turkish restaurants, no matter how luxurious. 


13 – Turks are very patriotic

The Turkish flag has religious and national significance. So it is displayed everywhere with pride. Sales of the Turkish flag actually soared after a failed military coup in July 2016, with 1.5 million sold on day 1 to show loyalty to the country and the government. Turkey has a very high turnout in elections, with 85% voting in the last election. It demonstrates how the population is particularly invested in the country and how it moves forward. 


14 – The women of Turkey won the right to vote before most European countries 

It’s easy to assume that a predominantly Muslim country would be slow on the uptake when it comes to equal rights for women. But that’s not necessarily the case. Women in Turkey won the right to vote in 1930, before France, Portugal, Belgium, Greece and Switzerland. 


15 – Troy wasn’t in Greece, it was actually in Turkey

The famous ancient city of Troy where Helen was taken after being kidnapped and the big wooden horse was created is believed to have existed in Turkey. Located in what is known as Asia Minor, the European part of Turkey, some of the walls of the city’s acropolis can still be seen. For many years, people thought Troy was entirely fictional. But these ruins seem to prove exactly where it stood. 


We are all used to reading about Turkey, but it’s shrouded in negative news stories. What’s actually evident to anyone who has visited the country is that it is a stunning, diverse place with a really rich history. It has as much ancient significance as Egypt and Greece. Its scenery makes it one of the jewels of the world. There is much we don’t know about Turkey, so maybe it is time to explore! Before travelling, make sure your Global Health Insurance Card is up to date. To apply for your GHIC (formerly known as EHIC), click here > As Turkey is not in the European Union, remember to buy travel insurance to be fully covered. You can compare prices here >