The center of the world? Quite possibly.
In many ways, it has been the center of the world at several points in its colorful history. With coastlines stretching along the Black and Mediterranean seas, connected by the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles, Turkey has been a strategic location for conquering armies and empires, ancient trade routes, religious power and artistic influence. Today’s Turkey has existed since the 1920’s following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, though civilization has existed in the region since the Paleolithic era. Understandably, a lot of innovation was born from this lengthy history, much of which still benefits modern life across the globe. The list of contributions for which we have Turkey to thank is long, and we’re giving credit where it’s due this Wanderlust Wednesday, highlighting a few of our Turkish inventions.
Tulips. Your mind may drift to the Netherlands when you picture these brightly colored blooms, but Holland’s calling card was a gift from the Court of Süleyman the Magnificent in the 16th century. A Flemish ambassador visited the Ottoman ruler and returned home with the seeds that would cloak his homeland’s hillsides for centuries.
Santa Claus. Byzantine history recalls that Saint Nicholas of Myra, a Greek bishop born in the 3rd century B.C., resided in Lycia in the Byzantine Empire, part of what is now Turkey. According to experts, Santa has moved to colder climates since then, residing in Finland’s Lapland region with his thousands of reindeer when not at his North Pole workshop during the holiday season.
Money. We can thank the Turks for the world’s first official currency, coined in the 7th century B.C. in what is now western Turkey. The first coins depicted images of livestock animals to indicate how much they were worth, quickly replacing the need to pay for goods with the actual animals, seashells, spices and other cumbersome collateral.
Air travel. Long before the Wright brothers, Ottoman aviator Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi successfully landed his “eagles wings” in 1630. Unfortunately, rather than being congratulated for the innovation, he was exiled as the sultan considered him a threat to his power. Today, Turkey continues to be the center of the world in aviation, as Istanbul Atatürk Airport connects the city to more than 260 global destinations.
Still innovating. Turkey’s fertile landscape has produced thousands of crops and sustainable resources for centuries, and more are being discovered each day. As one of the world’s 35 most biodiversity hot spots, a new plant species is discovered here every 10 days.
Crystal voyages in 2021, 2022 and 2023 highlight the deep history of Turkey. In Istanbul along the Black Sea, explore the Grand Bazaar, dating back to the 15th century and boasting more than 3,000 shops sporting cultural treasures; the contrasting, multi-faith significance of Hagia Sophia and the adjacent Blue Mosque; Topkapi Palace, former home to Ottoman sultans; and the distinct character of each of the city’s districts. To the south, the Turquoise Coast where the Mediterranean meets the Aegean is a haven for sun-soaked holidays by the sea, also with a storied past. Today a riviera for yachting escapes and deep dives into the glittering blue water, the region still boasts many roads that lead to the past, including ancient Lycian landmarks, the UNESCO site of Ephesus and Phoenician trading ports.
Crystal invites travelers to plan a voyage along the Mediterranean and Black Sea with added flexibility as we look ahead to sailing together again.