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Top facts about Turkey

There are many things that spring to mind when we think about TurkeyOttoman architecture, colourful bazaars, Turkish delight and stunning beaches. But when you look beneath the cover there are a bunch intriguing discoveries to be made about this culturally-rich country. From wonders of the world to turtle hatching spots and homegrown hazelnuts – lets take a look at what makes this country so special.

1. It’s a Eurasian country

We might think of Turkey as European but it's actually 97% Asian, with the two continents being separated by the Sea of Marmara and two straits called the Dardanelles and Bosphorus.

Istanbul straddles the territorial divide as the world's only city spanning two continents. You can now cross continents underground on the Marmaray metro line that was opened in 2013, passing under the Bosphorus strait to and from Istanbul.

2. A Silver award in world’s best beaches

Ranking second in the world for its number of Blue Flag beaches, Turkey's shorelines have a lot to be proud of. At last count Turkey had a whopping 444 accredited sand spots plus 21 marinas. Acclaimed for their high water quality, cleanliness and environmental standards, Antalya makes up a big percentage of this total, with this area alone boasting 201 Blue Flag Beaches. One of the most famous is Patara Beach near Fethiye, which has some interesting claims to fame. It's the longest sand spot in the Mediterranean at 18 kilometres, it's home to endangered caretta caretta turtles and it's the birth place of Santa Nicholas – Father Christmas to you and me.

3. The grandest market in the world

The biggest, the oldest and the most visited – Istanbul Grand Bazaar is a world-beating market. With a 31,000-square-metre area containing more than 3,000 shops, you can see how it attracts over 91 million visitors each year. You'll need plenty of time to get round the shops but fortunately they group similar products together. This way you can head straight for the areas you like, whether that's clothes, carpets, Turkish Delight, spices or anything else on sale.

4. Two out of Seven Wonders of the World

Turkey has a whopping 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and dozens more on the tentative list. They range from the archaeological site of Troy and the biblical city of Ephesus near Izmir, to the World War One battlefield at Gallipoli. Ephesus and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in Bodrum, are also classed as Seven Wonders of the World, both dating from the 2nd century BCE.

5. They shared coffee, tulips, cherries and hazelnuts with the world

Historians believe agriculture was born in Turkey some 11,000 years ago. People first added crops like wheat and barley to their diet and there are many examples to prove produce originated from the country. Tulips are Turkish wildflowers that were introduced to the Dutch by Turkish traders in the 16th century, while black roses only grow in Turkey. Coffee, cherries and hazelnuts all come from Turkey, with around 80% of the world's hazelnut export coming from here. With a new type of plant being discovered in the country every 10 days, who knows what Turkey still has to share with the world.

6. A primary Mediterranean turtle nesting location

Endangered loggerhead turtles return to Iztuzu Beach, just west of Fethiye, every year to lay their eggs, hence why it's often referred to as Turtle Beach. Between May and October around 300 nests are dug, during which time there is no night-time access to the beach. This spot and surrounding area has Special Environmental Protection Area status to control development. However it's in a tourist area and visitors are allowed to come and see the baby turtles hatch as well as being educated on their protection and conservation at the turtle centre.

7. A delightful sweet

Heralded by famous figures as their favourite sweet, the Turkish delight, or rahat lokum, is one of the oldest sweets in the world, dating back 500 years. Picasso was known to eat Turkish delight while working, and Napoleon and Winston Churchill favoured those with pistachio filling. Deriving from the Arabic 'rahat-ul hulkum', which means 'soothe the throat', the classic flavours are rose, lemon, mint and mastic, which has pine-resin and balsamic aromas.

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