Turkey is a stunningly beautiful country with very friendly people, great food and, for the car-hire travellers, contains wide and practically empty roads outside of towns and cities.

It’s not surprising that our ancestors chose to settle here. A near-perfect climate and good soils mean that crops thrive in such a fertile landscape. Olive trees are everywhere, citrus fruits aplenty, and today tomatoes can be seen all over the western hills.

The history of Turkey, however, is steeped in blood. The country contains two of the oldest settlements in the history of the world – Göbekli Tepe, situated near the city of Şanlıurfa, is the oldest site in the world at 12,000 years old, and Çatalhöyük, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located near the city of Konya, dates to 9,500 years ago. Both these sites have re-written history in many different ways.

Turkey is the centre of the world in many respects. In ancient times, and even today, it is the dividing land between east and west – the Indian subcontinent, China and the Middle East on one side, and the great civilisation builders of the western world on the other. Here, right in the middle, empires have clashed on numerous occasions.

Turkey was once known as Asia Minor, or Anatolia, although those terms refer to what is now the central and western parts of the modern country, but the history extends way beyond the days of the Greeks. The Neolithic Revolution is thought to have started in Turkey, all the way back to 10,000 BC, and this was the time when humans are thought to have first domesticated animals and started farming. From this transition came the first settlements, and from the onset of settled life the long journey to metalwork and the Bronze Age began.

The first known cultures also spring into life. The Hattians and the Hurrians are thought to be the first indigenous populations, both springing from the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia sometime around 2400 BC. Since that date there have been many cultures that have come and gone, all fighting wars and battles for control of resources and land, including the Assyrian Empire, the Hittites, the Mittani Kingdoms, Arameans and Luwians, to name a few. Many of these earlier cultures each found a niche area in Anatolia in which to make a civilisation.

Around 2000 BC the western side of Turkey was settled by the Greeks in the form of the Mycenaen Culture, and then the long and bloody road to Roman rule began. Alexander the Great, of course, also left his mark all over Turkey, before heading off towards India and committing horrendous acts of genocide, little of which makes him very ‘great’, and much of which is missing from the western history books.

In the first few centuries AD the Christian religion took hold and the Eastern Roman Empire kept its power grip in Anatolia, right up until the 15th Century when, finally, today’s Turks – both the Seljuk Turks and the Ottoman Empire – destroyed the final vestiges of what has been the world’s greatest empire. The Eastern Roman Empire – the Byzantine Empire – was finally crushed in 1453 when the Ottomans defeated them and Constantinople – modern-day Istanbul – fell into Turkish hands.

Today the Turks have made the country their own and have set their borders, and the man behind the new country was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938) – a military officer who founded the Republic of Turkey. He is seen today as the father of the nation.

Today Turkey is a mix of many bloodlines and religions, and although predominantly Muslim is very tolerant of others. Its people are extremely friendly and placid, for the most part, and offer hands of friendship, give food and welcome outsiders wherever possible.

What little is written here cannot do justice to such a country; a country that we all owe our existence to today. Turkey is incredibly attractive, with snow-capped mountains and perfect beaches and weather, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. There is so much more to learn about this magical place, and I have to say I was utterly surprised at how amazing the country is. I am ashamed to have to say such words, for I am not a person to prejudge or make assumptions, but the beauty of Turkey truly took my breath away. I shall return to continue my work, but for now here are the travelogues from my first visit. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did making them.