27 weird, wonderful and downright surprising facts about Turkey
How many of these weird and wonderful facts have you heard?
1. Some people leave bread outside for others
It’s a long-held tradition in Islam to look out for those who are less fortunate. That’s why you might see bags of bread left out for people who might not be able to afford to buy their own.
2. People make shelters for homeless cats
Cats rule in Istanbul. The city is home to a large number of street cats, who have become the city’s unofficial mascots. People have built shelters for the animals, and have their own adopted cats they feed regularly.
3. Some believe Noah's Ark washed up in Turkey - and inspired a dessert
Mount Ararat is thought by some to be the land that was sighted by the ark after the great flood. Asure, or Noah’s pudding, consists of grains, fruits and nuts. Popular legend has it that when the family came to rest on Mount Ararat they celebrated with this dish.
4. Turkey is home to the oldest-known human settlement, the first writing AND the first artwork.
Catalhoyuk in Central Anatolia dates back to 7000BC, while the first writing, found on clay tablets in the ruins of Assyrian Karum, dates back to 1950BC. The first Neolithic paintings on manmade walls are also found in Catalhoyuk.
5. Turks eat a dessert that contains chicken
Tavukgogsu contains boiled chicken, milk and sugar. It’s dusted with cinnamon and MUCH nicer than it sounds.
6. The Turkish flag is a holy object
OK, so it’s not really holy. But Turks are so patriotic that you’ll notice their flag everywhere. This also means that you should treat the flag with reference: don’t dress up in it, wrinkle it, drag it about or stand on it. Desecration of the flag is more than offensive: it’s punishable under Turkish law.
7. Turks love Facebook
Turkey has the most Facebook users in the world per capita.
8. “Veni, vidi, vici” was coined in Turkey
After Julius Caesar conquered Pontus, in Turkey’s Black Sea region in 47BC, the emperor wrote to the Roman Senate, informing them “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
9. The Virgin Mary spent her last days in Turkey
It’s thought the Virgin Mary came to what is now Turkey with St John, who fled Europe to live near Ephesus. The first church dedicated to Mary is in Ephesus.
10. Istanbul is the only city located on two continents.
Straddling Europe and Asia, Istanbul’s continental division is the Bosphorus Strait. Around 97% of Turkey is in Asia, while 3% is European.
11. The word “turquoise” comes from the colour of the Turkish Mediterranean
And with vistas like this, it’s easy to see why.
12. Tulips come from Turkey
Most people think the striking flower comes from the Netherlands, but tulips actually grew on the Central Asian steppes and were extremely popular in Turkey in the 17th century, around the time they were introduced to Holland.
13. 70% of the world’s hazelnuts come from Turkey
Hazelnuts have grown in Turkey’s Black Sea region for more than 2300 years, and have been exported since the 15th century.
14. Mark Antony gave Cleopatra a part of the Turkish coast as a wedding gift
The rulers who famously fell in love in Turkey have spawned a number of legends in that part of the world. One story is that Antony gave Cleopatra the western part of Asia Minor, which includes part of the modern-day Gulf of Gokova.
15. Oil wrestling is a national sport
Turkey is probably the only country where you can see bare-chested men, slathered in oil, grappling each other in the hot sun. The sport is almost 700 years old – and a real sight to behold.
16. A new plant is discovered every 10 days
Turkey’s one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, with 10,000 plant and 80,000 animal species.
17. Can you say Muvaffakiyetsizlestiricilestiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmissinizcesine?
The longest word in Turkish means “as if you are from those we may not be able to easily make a maker of unsuccessful ones”. Make of that what you will. And check out our Istanbul team trying to pronounce it in the above video.
18. It’s illegal to wear a fez in Turkey
Kemal Ataturk banned the popular hat in 1925. He saw it as too traditional for his modern Turkey. While it’s still against the law to don one in Turkey, you will probably get away with it if you really want to wear one.
19. Christianity was born in Turkey
Antakya is the home of the Grotto of Saint Peter, where many believe Christianity was born as a religion.
20. Turkish delight is one of the world’s oldest sweets
Sticky, fragrant Turkish delight has a 500-year history. Read more about Turkish delight here.
21. Turks sometimes throw water behind you before you drive away
To ensure a smooth journey, Turkish superstition has it that you should throw water behind someone before they embark, and say “su gibi git, gel,” or “Go and return, like water.”
22. The number 40 is really lucky
Turks believe if you say anything 40 times it might come true. This stems from 40’s significance in religion, including the fact Mohammad received the Quran when he was 40.
23. Leonardo da Vinci wanted to build a Bosphorus Bridge
In 1503 Leonardo da Vinci submitted plans to build a bridge across the Strait. However, it wasn’t until 1973 that the first suspension bridge was completed.
24. The word “harem” means forbidden in Arabic
During the reign of the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificient, more than 1000 of the sultan’s wives, concubines and children lived in the 250-room harem of Topkapi Palace.
25. The Turks invented parchment
When the Egyptians stopped sending papyrus to Pergamum, fearing the ancient library would start to rival the one at Alexandria, then the world’s largest, the Turks simply invented their own - paper made from calfskin.
26. Turks introduced coffee to Europe
During their 16th century raids into Central and Eastern Europe, the Ottomans took coffee with them. The countries they invaded developed a taste for the bitter drink.
27. Turks drink 10 cups of tea a day
Turkey has the highest consumption of tea in the world, drinking seven pounds of tea per person a year. Ninety-six percent of the population drink tea on a daily basis.