Personal geography: East Thrace

Ship traffic on the Dardanelles

Ship traffic on the Dardanelles

When I look at the Gallipoli peninsula from our apartment, or better, view it while walking along the coast, I become aware that I’m seeing a large land mass that is only a peninsula jutting out of Doğu Trakya (East Thrace), a part of Turkey that’s in Europe.

Trakya, as it’s known within Turkey, is just a small part of the country. But if Trakya were a separate country its population would make it one of the larger ones in Europe. To put it another way, based on my musings about the Gallipoli campaign, if the Ottoman empire had dismembered in a different way, I might be looking at a sizeable European country.

East Thrace

East Thrace

In particular, it’s larger than many of its European neighbors, such as Serbia, Slovakia, Georgia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Albania, Macedonia, Slovenia, Kosovo, or Montenegro. It’s also larger than most of the US states. One reason is that it contains two thirds of the population of İstanbul, a huge, cosmopolitan city. Of course with time, Turkey in its entirety will become more a part of Europe politically and economically. That will further confuse all of us who never fully understood why Eurasia was considered to be two continents in the first place.

Trakya borders the Black Sea as well as the Aegean Sea, the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporous. When I walk I see only a tiny fraction of the region, but I “see” its shape and history in a way I never come close to doing otherwise. I see Russia’s annexation of Crimea to the northeast, a fact that makes Romania and Russia now neighbors. I understand more of what it means for Turkey to join the EU. And I appreciate more how a substantial portion of the world’s commerce steams up and down the corridor joining the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea.

To be continued…

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