Turkey - About the Country

photography
Istanbul, Turkey. Public Domain.
photography
Istanbul, Turkey. Public Domain.
photography
Tourist Hotel, Turkey. Public Domain.
photography
Aegean Sea, Turkey. Public Domain.
photography
Ballons over Cappadocia, Turkey. Public Domain.
photography
Ballons over Cappadocia, Turkey. Public Domain.

Turkey is located at the border between orient and occident, between Europe and Middle East. In the geographic sense in belongs to Asia, in the cultural there are European roots, and the urgent wish to join the European Community. However, Europe has some problems with the country joining the EU, especially because of the frequent Human Rights violations. There are several problematic topics, the biggest is obviously the relation to the Kurdish minority. Most of the differences are based on the Medieval structures in culture, politics and legal system, which have a direct connection with the Islamic religion.

Turkeys borders are generally well-defined natural borders, as it is surrounded by water on three sides and protected by high mountains along its eastern border. Its demarcated land frontiers to eight neighbour countries were settled by treaty early in the twentieth century. The borders are stable since the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 which solved the conflict with Greece (except Cyprus). However, the border to the former Soviet Union is now the border to the independent countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.

Turkey is really a huge country. Sparsely populated, often mountainous and most of it arid. And many huge karst areas all over the country, but the most important are the Taurus Mountains in the south, around the tourist centers of the Turkish Riviera.

Turkish speleology started very late, in the mid 1960s, and with a single man, Temuçín Aygen. He was aware of the potential of Turkey and invited cavers to explore the caves of Anatolia. In 1964 the Turkish Speleological Society was established, but there was still not very much interest in caving. In 1973 students of Temuçín Aygen founded a caving club at the Bogazici University. They soon explored more than 350 formerly unexplored caves. Today there are more than ten caving clubs in Turkey, which is still an oddly low number. But the number of members and clubs, and their results, continually increase. Eight of the ten deepest caves of Turkey have been explored by locals. International caving expeditions to Turkey are still an important part of the Turkish cave exploration. Today they are organized by the Turkish Cavers Union, which was formed on the second speleological symposium of Turkish cavers in November 1994 in Ankara.

Show caves are actually not a new thing in Turkey. Caves were visited since early prehistoric times, during Greek, Roman and Byzantine eras. They were almost forgotten in the early 20th century. With increasing tourism since the 1980s the caves were developed, existing footpaths equipped with railings, electric light installed. Soon a sort of show cave subculture established. Show cave owners thought of themselves as a mixture of show man and dealer at a bazaar. They invented legends and told exaggerated and invented facts about their cave. Soon any show cave was the largest cave of the world, had more stalactites and stalagmites than any other, and cured asthma on a 45 minutes tour. Sometimes, when asked how a 400m long cave could probably be the longest cave of the world, they told about the collapse in the 1950s where 90% of the cave was cut off. Thinking a cave with a length of 4km could probably be the longest cave of the world shows a certain amount of ignorance though.

In the mid 1990s the government started a development initiative with government funded cave exploration by the