Turkey's overnight trains: Oh the places you'll go!

Turkey has a long legacy of travel, renowned for not only having one of the most longstanding railway systems in the world but also for one of the most elegant railway travel experiences around the globe, with private cabins and cozy dining wagons, having established itself as one of the most widely sought destinations in Europe along one of the most exotic railway routes there has ever been in the history of mankind.

The era of the Orient Express, a historic railway service for which the two cities of Istanbul, once Constantinople, and Paris, were its most famous destinations, will always remain a legacy that has become associated with curiosity and luxury travel. In the days of the Orient Express, elegant sleeping trains and premium service amid candle-lit dinners were the norm. While modern-day regulations no longer permit candle-lit dinners, travelling on Turkish trains will always be a special delight.

This year marks the 160th anniversary of the inauguration of the Turkish railway system which has been in operation since 1856. This anniversary is marked by the construction of the Izmir-Aydin line. While legend has it that the railway system was engineered by Germans who were paid by the kilometre - accounting for the twists and turns once inherent to Turkish train routes - the system has undergone an extensive transformation, especially within the last decade. Now, a number of high-speed trains are included which service both the capital city of Ankara and the cultural capital of Turkey.

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Amid cold weather in Turkey, authorities distribute food for migratory birds

Snowfall and low temperatures have struck Turkey, sparing no one, including migratory birds that are taking breaks in the country's national parks on their route from Central and North-eastern Europe or Russia to warmer regions.

Having difficulty finding food in winter, authorities are leaving large amounts of bird food in national parks to ensure they don't starve, while risking death in the cold. A number of migratory birds, including geese, are staying for a while on the Maritsa before heading to Lake Gala National Park in Turkey's far-western Edirne province.  Days-long snowfall in the region has negatively affected migratory birds, and to feed them around 2,000 tons of food have been distributed in nature.

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Warm up with a cozy cup of herbal tea this winter

For your stomach, drinking hot beverages in winter is the equivalent of wearing a woolly hat on your head or socks on your feet. Enjoying a warm drink during the cold winter months can help maintain your body's internal energy, which tends to dip during the cold months of the year. It is about preserving the body's internal energy by preventing the loss of heat.

One of the most effective ways to protect yourself from winter cold is by consuming herbal teas. Both natural and relaxing, herbal teas boost the immune system and are rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C, making it possible for you to stay completely healthy during the winter with these herbal teas. However, while enjoying these natural beverages, you should avoid drinking excessive amounts in a single day, as this will do more harm to your body than good. Here are some of the herbal teas that offer crucial health benefits and are most suitable during winter.

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Ancient city of Troy to be revived in new museum project

The construction of the museum aiming to revive the ancient city of Troy, next to its relics in the western province of Canakkale, has entered its final stage.

The museum is planned to cover a 10,000 square meter-area, including 3,000 square meter showrooms with a 50 million Turkish lira ($14.1 million) project.  The building of the complex started in 2014.

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Dog town in northern Turkey - cozy haven for street canines offers adoption opportunity

In the northern province of Samsun a "dog town" has been set up on a piece of land totalling 40 acres, where street dogs are being looked after with the utmost care.

Following a cat town that opened its doors two years ago in the same city, the special dog town with small shelters named "Sevgi Evleri" (Compassion Houses) gives a home to unclaimed dogs and street puppies. The shelter has already drawn attention from many as the number of adoptions is growing.


Built according to the needs of dogs and helping them to get familiar with the environment while they are waiting for adoption, the dog town features 20-square-meter houses with two separate rooms provided for street puppies, and older dogs reside in bungalow style houses of 4 square meters.

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In freezing temperatures, thermal springs offer a warm oasis

In Turkey's eastern Agri province, where temperatures hit almost minus 20 degrees Celsius at night, locals prefer thermal springs in the city's Diyadin town on the weekends to stay warm in winter.

Seven kilometres from the town centre, the thermal springs of Kopru, Davut and Yilanli gush out from 300 meters below and reach as much as 80 degrees Celsius. Their water is distributed to pools after it is cooled down in five cooling pools.  Known for their healing properties against skin diseases, depression, gastro-intestinal, respiratory disorders and, especially, rheumatism, the thermal springs provide a warm shelter for locals and visitors.

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How funeral traditions differ across Abrahamic religions

Having become a subject of philosophy, psychology, sociology as much as it has of anthropology and theology, mortality has always been a matter of interest throughout history as well as in the present day. There is even a scientific field named "thanatology," the science of death.

The anthropology of death brings us the very different funerary customs that have been in practice throughout history.  To start with a common example, ancient Egyptians used to embalm the deceased and built giant pyramids to house the embalmed bodies of their kings and pharaohs. Other interesting burial traditions include those of the ancient Greeks, recorded in anthropological records or literary works like those in Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey."

As far as can be understood from historical accounts telling about the funeral of Attila the Hun, ancient Turks used to show their grief by hurting themselves. Before the 6th century, Turks were burning the deceased with their belongings and horses, and keeping the ashes to bury in autumn or spring. Certain Chinese and Arabic accounts report that it was the Kirghiz people who were the first Turks to burn the body. However, it was after this century that Turks began to bury their deceased.

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Local Erzurum women work to revive ancient rug weaving tradition

The "Bardiz Rug," used in tents and homes in the 11th century during the reign of the Saltuqid Dynasty in modern-day Erzurum province in eastern Turkey, has been given a new lifeline since a group of women living in the Turkish city began creating these ancient rugs and selling them to make a living.

The traditional rug of the Saltuqids, who once ruled Erzurum and the surrounding regions, has a deeply rooted history and was woven during the reign of the Seljuks, the Ottomans and even during the early years of the Republic of Turkey before falling into obscurity due to lack of demand.

Bardiz rugs are made entirely of sheep's wool, and painting techniques for decorating the rugs in accordance with ancient tradition which involves using paints derived from non-chemical sources such as roots and stones.

After centuries however, the Erzurum Metropolitan Municipality is bringing this ancient traditional rug back to life, having initiated a project to revive production of the woven coverlet, offering courses to local women in collaboration with the local Artistic and Vocational Training Courses (ESMEK), where participants are learning how to weave Bardiz rugs, made entirely of sheep's wool, and painting techniques for decorating the rugs in accordance with ancient tradition which involves using paints derived from non-chemical sources such as roots and stones.

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Locals, municipalities around Turkey keeping stray animals safe in harsh winter

The life of stray animals is pretty difficult, and this is even more so when the cold of winter sets in. A snowstorm that started on Friday evening and continues at full speed producing the knee-deep snow and disrupting the daily life around Istanbul has led municipalities and locals to take care of stray cats and dogs in need.

Animals are trying to find winter shelter in holes in trees or logs, under rocks or leaves, or underground. Most cats endure hunger for about six hours, while dogs may freeze to death if they find no food for over 17 hours. In the city's Besiktaş district, the municipal veterinary team is distributing food to street animals in small shelters, and suffering dogs and cats are taken to shelters for treatment and care. The vet team has also launched a campaign asking locals to give their left-over food from home to street animals.

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Turks are drinking more and more coffee

Data released by the International Coffee Organization (ICO) indicates a consistent increase in the quantity of coffee consumed per person in Turkey over the past years.

The average person in Turkey consumed 920 grams of coffee per year in 2015-2016, up from 595 grams in the 2012-2013 period.  The rise in coffee consumption is considered to be a result of the increasing investment of world-renowned coffee chains in Turkey.

Caribou Coffee Turkey director Ayhan Kap explains the trend as a result of the centuries-long coffee culture embedded in Turkish society.  ''The traditional Turkish coffee has been for centuries the main and only relationship of Turkish people with coffee. However, with the diversification of the coffee market and the introduction of new coffee variants, the coffee culture is evolving in Turkey,'' Kap added.

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Endangered monk seals' breeding caves put under protection

A species seen as one of the world's most endangered marine mammals, Mediterranean monk seals, are being monitored by hidden cameras set inside their breeding caves.

For the surveillance studies carried out so far, 10 breeding caves have been monitored through a total of 15 hidden cameras. The researchers' plan is to set up additional hidden cameras in 10 more seal caves. The Mediterranean monk seal is a rare and endangered species protected by international agreements and national laws found on the shores of Mersin.

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2,000-year-old Roman tombs discovered in central Turkey

2,000-year-old tombs dating back to ancient Roman civilization have been unearthed in Turkey's central province of Kutahya during construction works of the new municipality service building, reports said on Thursday.

Officials of the Museum Directorate of Kutahya were informed about the discovery of the ancient tombs, and construction stopped after archeologists took over and started working on the construction foundation at the site.

The provincial museum director Metin Turktuzun spoke to an Anadolu Agency correspondent and said "three tombs have been unearthed in the excavation works,"  adding that "according to initial findings during our observations, the tombs likely date back nearly 2,000 years. This area had probably been a necropolis."  The museum director said that the tombs date back to the Roman period and added that four or five human skeletons have been found in each tomb. He noted that other tombs are expected to be discovered around the area.

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Make a healthy start in the New Year

The New Year means new beginnings! The most important beginning here is to welcome the New Year with a healthy body. That's why we met with Doctor Ender Sarac, one of the most highly educated and trustworthy doctors in the country. We talked about the ways of rejuvenation by means of healing with sources specific to Turkey.

Even though western medicine, as Dr. Ender Sarac calls it Orthodox medicine, is old, it has not been able to catch up with modern medicine. The science and technology developed by the western world has not healed the diseases of today such as stress, insomnia, cancer, etc. This is because the speed of western medicine could not prevent ecological deterioration, electromagnetic contamination, stress and GMO foods. This accounts for the decline in average age although the U.S. is a country where medicine is so advanced, whereas the life span has increased in communities that have adopted oriental medicine and added spirituality into the rules of a healthy life. Dr. Ender Sarac thinks that the Okinawa Island in Japan, Crete Island and the Mediterranean basin are a few examples to name.

Indian and Chinese medicine has been known for years and utilized by millions of people. However, the healing methods of the Islamic world and Turkey in particular are not as promoted as they should be. This sacred information called Prophet Medicine used to be a source of healing for many patients at that time. The source for most of these healing methods in the past is Turkey. Here are some examples.

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Antalya's mountainous forest home to country's oldest trees

The enormous trees located on the foothills of Kizlar Sivrisi Mountain in the Elmali district of Antalya are popular among mountaineers and continue to arouse interest.

The Cedar Research Forest is located 1,520 meters above sea level at the highest summit of the West Taurus Mountains, also known as the Kizlar Sivrisi Mountains, and is home to hundreds-of-years-old monumental trees. The "Sah Tree" is 988-years-old and was analyzed by a team from the Western Mediterranean Forestry Research Centre in 2010.  The tree is 2.42 meters in diameter and 22.8 meters tall. On the other hand, the 897-year-old "Great Cedar," which is located in the same forest, stands at 32.5 meters tall. Nusret Yakisikli, the founder of Patika Nature Walk Group, which organizes trekking events in the region, said visiting old trees and taking pictures with them is a trend on the rise in Turkey as well as the rest of the world. "It is reported that the Sequoia National Park in the U.S. welcomes 18 million visitors annually. Protecting old trees is a biological as well as touristic necessity," Yakisikli said.

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Ancient theatre, stadium in Adana nearly unearthed

Excavations in the ancient city of Magarsus in Adana will focus on unearthing the ancient theatre’s orchestra and stadium sections next season.

The city was named after the Magarsia priestess in the Temple of Athena where Macedonian King Alexander the Great sacrificed an animal before the battle with Persian King Darius in 333 B.C. The history of the ancient city of Magarsus can be traced back to the fifth century B.C.

The excavations in the ancient city were launched in collaboration with the Adana Museum Directorate, the Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism and Cukurova University's Department of Archaeology with financial contributions from the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and the Museum and Directorate of Circulating Capital in 2013. Since the beginning of the excavations, archaeologists have managed to unearth a 4,000-capacity ancient theatre. The excavations, which have cost around TL 1,200,000 ($400,000) so far, aim to fully unearth the stadium and temple of the ancient city. The excavations in Magarsus, which took a break due to the winter conditions, are planned to kick off once again in March 2017.

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Eating yogurt leads to less stress, study suggests

You now have another reason not to skip your yogurt cereal with fruits, as a new study by the University of Missouri suggests probiotics reduce stress-related behaviour and anxiety. Also called beneficial live bacteria, probiotics show a reduction in the metabolic pathways associated with stress, Science Daily reported.

Using a zebra fish as a model, researchers at the University of Missouri studied how gut bacteria changes the behaviour in zebra fish, which could lead to a better understanding of how probiotics may affect the central nervous system in humans. "Zebra fish are an emerging model species for neurobehavioral studies and their use is well-established in drug-screening," said Aaron Ericsson, director of the MU Metagenomics Centre. The fish were given the common bacteria found in yogurt and probiotic supplements, "Lactobacillus plantarum."

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