Turkey has always had a whiff of the exotic about it.
Forming a bridge between East and West, Turkey has always signified the unknown, the alluring, the different, a place where cultures collide and fuse like wires. When we hear the word 'Turkey', we think of the Ottoman empire, the aroma of spices in the souk, the might of the spectacular Hagia Sophia, tender lamb koftes served on a bed of creamy rice. For centuries, crossing into Turkey (and particularly Istanbul) has meant going through the gateway into Asia and the Orient.
That is still true, to some extent. Look at where Turkey sits on a map. Bordered to the East by Iran, Georgia and Armenia, and to the South by Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, it is clear to see that the country's influences are as much Asian and Middle Eastern as European.
Having said that, Turkey doesn't seem to be influenced by anyone. It is, undeniably, unique, sitting smack bang in the middle of a patchwork of civilizations, definitely independent and different.
Sounds like a very far-off land doesn't it?
Not quite. With the wonders of modern day technology, a trip to Turkey, whether to the metropolis of Istanbul, the more relaxed coastal city of Izmir or the legendary Adana (home of the Adana kebab), Turkey flights are now quicker, easier and more affordable than ever. Flights to the ancient home of the Ottomans take a fraction over four hours – not a huge amount more than flying to Rome or Vienna. After all, a four hour train from London wouldn't take you much further than Newcastle.
This level of accessibility means that Turkey doesn't have to remain a place you only hear about in books, or a place you visit by proxy in restaurants. A weekend spent touring the sights of Istanbul is every bit as doable as one in Barcelona, Berlin or Paris, yet rarely enters people's thoughts. All it takes is a slight change in your thinking.
The question over Turkey's accession to the European Union is very much a hot topic right now. If the country is eventually granted membership, then UK-Turkish relations can only improve and increase. You could be seeing a lot more of Turkey over the next decade – so choose to visit now before everyone else does!