Because of it's location, Turkey is considered the door between Europe and Asia.
It's about 4 hours by plane from Madrid.

Half of our Turkish friends live on the Europe Side of Istanbul and the other half live on the Asia side.
Crossing sides is no problem at all, it costs about a one dollar and it's a beautiful ride in a ferry boat.

In addition, Istanbul holds the only connection between the Black Sea
and the Marmara Sea, which is HUGE for commerce, that's why so many civilizations have pursued it.

Before it was called Istanbul, it was called Constantinople and led by Constantine the Great.
Later, when the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches split, it was the center for the Eastern Church and the
Byzantine Empire. Meanwhile, America was still 400 years from discovery.

For 100 years, the Byzantine Empire got really big and everything was great. But the next 900 years
were tough with all the costly wars, expensive cathedrals and enemies (like the Catholic Crusaders and
the Ottoman Turks). It just got worn down.

The next people to take over Constantinople were the Ottoman Turks.
They were led by 24 year old Sultan Mehmet II, he was a really sharp youth.
They started calling the city Istanbul after this point.

It started small enough in 1453, but the Turks were a very clever and imperialistic.
"The Ottoman Empire" and the country "Turkey" pretty much mean the same people.

In only 200 years, The Ottoman Empire had spread to include Egypt, North Africa, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria,
Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Isreal, Iraq, Syria, etc. They became the SUPER POWER of the world!

But just like the Byzantine Empire, it all went back down. 300 years of rebellions and costly wars
almost made them lose everything! The land you see here is pretty much modern day Turkey.
And they almost lost that too, check this out....

During World War I, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) sided with the Central Powers
(Germany and Austria-Hungary) because Britain, France, Italy and Greece
were ALL breathing down Turkey's neck and wanted more control of the Mediterranean.

When the Central Powers lost in World War I, Istanbul was occupied by Allied Forces
and the sultan at the time (Mehmet VI pictured above) signed a treaty to split up Ottoman land between
the Kurds, Armenians and the Greeks.

After living on that land for hundreds of years, the Turkish People had basically nowhere to go!

Enter Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a True representitive of the Turkish People. Let's face it, the Ottoman
Government wasn't a bunch of angels. It needed some MAJOR reform or the Turkish People would lose everything!

In 1919, he convinced the soldiers of the Ottoman Army that they could overthrow the Sultan
and THEY DID IT! This dissolved the Ottoman Empire and began the fight for a Republic of Turkey.
They were now faced with the almost impossible task of regaining the orginal Turkish land.

And thus began the Turkish Independance War from 1919-22, a time where the Turks were faced with
getting rid of the British supported Armenians and Greeks, along with French supported Kurds and Italian
interests as well. They did it one by one with regional battles and innovative war strategies by Atatürk.

On October 29th 1923, after four years of struggle, Atatürk proclaimed the Republic of Turkey!
However, things were going to be very different from the outdated Ottoman System, for the better.

The First Turkish Parlament

Thus, the first thing he did was seperate church from state making Turkey the ONLY
Muslim country with a modern, secular government. THIS WAS A HUGE REFORM!

Also, in the beginning of the 1920's, only 9 PERCENT of Turkish Society could read!
Why? Poor Ottoman education was one, but also, they were still using the Arabic Alphabet,
which was outdated, unnecessarily complex and never fit well with the Turkish Language.

Seeing this problem, Atatürk proposed a language reform using the Latin Alfabet
and making the language spell how it sounds (logical and useful). This enabled children
and adults to read and write in only a few months!

He even went so far as to teach classes himself! His words were, "the enduring benefits
of victories on the battle field depend only on the existence of an army of education."

As if all of this innovation wasn't enough, Atatürk also gave women equal rights and opportunities.

In the TWENTIES, women were granted equal rights in divorce, custody, and
inheritance. The whole educational system became available to women and so did
full political rights! Women could vote! In the 1930's, 18 women were elected to
the national parliament and later, Turkey had the world's first woman supreme court justice!

As opposed to the Imperialistic Ottoman Empire, the Turkish Republic never
tried to expand or conquer the land of others. Instead they made peace treaties with Greece,
Romania, Yugoslavia, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. They maintained friendly relations with
Russia, the United States, England, Germany, Italy, France, and all other states.

As a veteran having seen so much bloodshed, he based Turkey's foriegn policy on history saying,
"Peace is the most effective way for nations to attain prosperity and happiness.
Unless the life of the nation faces peril, war is a crime."

Turkey's flag also comes from this ideal.

At the end of the Indepedance War in 1923, Atatürk looked into the blood soaked battle field and noticed
that the river was completely RED. Then he noticed the moon and a star reflecting in the blood.

It was at that moment he decided to make the Turkish Flag red for the bloodshed of the soldiers,
and put the moon and star to signify that night, so the Turkish People would never forget.

Because of his military victories AND incredibly innovative and unselfish reforms,
Turkey was given new life. Leaders this wise don't come along too often.
The Turkish nation holds Atatürk in gratitude and reverence.

Click HERE- to see the final part of our trip and our Club Thank You Ceremony