Türkiye: Embracing the Entire Silk Route
Nick Coe is the Content Creator for the 2023 Silk Route Cycling Expedition. In his latest report he takes a look at the connections between the fascinating country of Türkiye and the other Silk Route countries.
The Silk Road, both historically and today, has a western terminus in the captivating nation of Türkiye: a country that passionately preserves its heritage while displaying the influences of some of its neighbours. We witnessed this firsthand as we cycled through the northern part of the country. The environment, landscape, culture and cuisine all bore resemblances to the countries we’ve previously crossed on this epic journey. At every turn, Türkiye seems to echo the experiences of the TDA Silk Route thus far.
One of the most striking commonalities between Türkiye and its Silk Route neighbours—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia—is the astonishing diversity of landscapes. Just as the Kazakh steppe transitions into the Kyrgyz mountains and the Uzbek deserts, Türkiye shifts from the Anatolian plateau to lush forests and breathtaking coastal regions along the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
The lush greenery that surrounded us as we descended towards Istanbul mirrors the vibrant mountains of Georgia, and the serene rural rivers winding through rock canyons evoke the valleys of Kyrgyzstan. This shared topographical diversity is a testament to the unique beauty that these countries offer to intrepid travellers.
Türkiye, much like its Silk Route counterparts, boasts a rich history of being a crossroads for cultures and civilizations. The ancient cities of Ani and Kars, the grandeur of Istanbul’s architecture and the mysterious cave churches of Amasya all bear witness to the layers of history that have shaped this land. Just as Khiva, Samarkand, and Bukhara symbolize Uzbekistan’s Silk Road heritage, Türkiye’s historical sites resonate with a similar aura of cultural exchange and trade that defined the ancient Silk Road.
Turkish cuisine, akin to the culinary traditions of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia, is a food experience in and of itself. From succulent kebabs and flavourful mezes to the sweet delights of baklava and Turkish delight, its food reflects the diverse flavours of the Silk Road. Just as plov is a staple in Uzbekistan, and khachapuri is a Georgian delicacy, Türkiye’s cuisine mirrors the influence of the various cultures that have traversed its historical crossroads. Even the bread here carries the imprint of the countries to the east, tracing the ancient silk trading routes. Tea traditions, kebabs, tomato and onion salads—all these elements remind us of the places we’ve visited on this remarkable journey.
The warm and welcoming nature of the Turkish people is another common thread that weaves through the Silk Route. Just as Kazakh nomads invite travellers into their yurts and Georgian hosts pour endless glasses of wine for their guests, Turkish hospitality is celebrated worldwide. Travellers in Türkiye often find themselves embraced by the kindness of locals who are eager to share their culture and stories. As TDA cyclists, we’ve experienced this through the tea culture, where riders frequently pause for tea in picturesque locations, greeted warmly by locals along the roadside.
Turkish cities vary in their blend of tradition and modernity and as a woman on the Silk Route, you’ll often ponder whether to embrace tradition (with long pants) or not. Cities like Kars in Türkiye reminded us of the time-honoured aspects of Khiva, Uzbekistan, while Amasya exuded a more relaxed, modern vibe, similar to Tbilisi in Georgia. Speaking of Tbilisi, it stands out as the most westernized and modern city we’ve encountered on this Silk Route. Thanks to a growth of the younger generations and multiple universities, Tbilisi feels like a city of myriad cultures and diversity—an unparalleled experience on this journey.
Türkiye stands as a bridge between Europe and Asia, much like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia did along the historic Silk Road trade route. The environmental diversity, historical significance, bustling markets, delectable cuisine, and warm hospitality all draw parallels between Türkiye and its Silk Route counterparts. As cyclists venture through the lands, they are bound to encounter the rich tapestry of cultures and traditions that have been interwoven along the Silk Route, creating a truly unforgettable journey.
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