A sweet hello as we pass by his restaurant
Why travel to Turkey in these unsettling times you might ask. To answer, lets back up a bit to 2013 when our youngest, Jessica, feels the pull to add Turkish to her list of language proficiencies. In short, she studies 2 years and receives a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Turkey’s capitol city, Ankara. Being both a dedicated mom and a hopeless wanderer, this is just the reason I need to overcome any trepidation and dive in to explore this interesting and oh so important part of our world. Over the course of 2 visits, including stops in Istanbul, Ankara, and Cappadocia, I have seen the palace of sultans, breathtaking Islamic mosques and byzantine cathedrals, secret caves that housed and served as church for persecuted 6th
century Christians, perfectly preserved cuniform writing carved over 3,000 years ago, and fairyland vistas enveloped in colorful hot air balloons. I have bargained with carpet touts, drank my first intoxicating raki, been scrubbed raw with coffee grounds in a hauntingly beautiful hamam, crossed the Bosphorous in a ferry with the local Istanbul commuters, bobbed in and out of scenic valleys in a balloon, prepared Turkish foods in the cave home of a local Turk, and
Dancing in history
The Aya Sophia and her 1500 year old stones set the stage for Kirsten's leap of joy
watched more than my fair share of sunsets over sites of history that make the mind wander and the heart yearn for more. And these are just the tip of the iceberg of experiences that await the traveler intrepid enough to explore this crossroad between Europe and Asia. There are so many more regions in this country that I would love to explore - Trabzon, Pamukkale, Izmir, and Ephesus just to name a few. Alas, there are always more travels to be experienced and it seems that one trip always is the tinder for embarking on yet another.
With my dangerously limited experiences in this wonderland of Turkey, I’ve learned just a few important things to note about this place and the charming people who call it home. In no particular order and certainly not all inclusive:
· Turkish tea: As ubiquitous as kimchi in Korea. Not only is it a sign of welcome and hospitality, it smooths over all sorts of problems and differences and provides a sense of comfort in its commonality at all sorts of locations and venues.
· Innocence: The Turkey I experienced is one where children are joyful, twenty somethings a bit
Simply breathtaking views and unbridled joy
less sophisticated (in a good way), and the elderly warmly greet and engage with foreigners. As for those in the workin ‘years…
· Men: They work hard when young, but somewhere around 50 give it all up in favor of sitting around streetside and talking. Then there’s the
· Women: Hardworking. Fixated on cleanliness for their home. Do basically everything and never rest.
· History: We’re talkin’ Mesopotamia history here – as in cradle of civilization! Mostly though the historical artifacts and places I visited started with the Hittites around 1800 BC and moved through the Romans (500BC-500AD), Byzantines, Islamists, crusaders, and Ottomans. Whew! Makes for interesting artifacts and even more interesting explorations of remains.
· Christians, Muslims, and conquerors: All have left their mark on Turkey. How did I not know that in the 20’s there was a big switch of populations? All Turkish Christians forced to move to Greece and all Greek Muslims to Turkey. North Korea/South Korea, Palestine/Israel, native Americans/settlers and more – how our world still suffers from forced living arrangements of the past.
· Food favorites: Dondurma (chewy goats milk ice cream), Kaymak (the cream of the cream), Taprak (stuffed
Photo bombing the solemnity
As we respectfully wait in line to enter the Blue Mosque
grape leaves), lentil soup, testi kebap (stew cooked in a small ceramic pot), baklava, hazelnuts (best in world!), goat milk cheeses, and so much more….
· Here’s an interesting one: scores of simit (big pretzels) and corn vendors dot the tourist areas around Istanbul. According to locals, these are actually jandarma in disguise. I wondered how they could ever sell so many ears of corn!
The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. So here I'll switch gears and invite you to trot along with me through my Turkish journeys through pictures and captions. Afiyet Olsun - may it be good for you!
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