“If you have never been burned in the sun,
you won’t know the value of shadow.”
A lot of people were surprised and concerned when we said we were heading for Turkey and it made us wonder if we’d made a huge mistake, especially when we discovered halfway through the trip that there would be a major cause for celebration! The Turkish people were celebrating the first anniversary of the successful defeat of the military by civilians during an attempted coup on July 15 in 2016. But, we enjoyed every minute and our only regret is that we only had 10 days to explore this incredible land.
Turkey is steeped in history and culture, overflowing with people from all walks of life.
We were rushed, crowded, trampled on, confused, confounded and conned but we expected it to be a ride of a lifetime and it was…
We were very aware that we were the ‘outsiders’ especially as we had a blonde traveling companion as she certainly attracted a lot of attention! English is not widely spoken by the locals and this led to some very interesting experiences in the local restaurants that didn’t really cater to tourists. Our first meal involved a lot of pointing at items on the menu and indicating which ones we were keen to try or curious to know more about as the names meant very little to us! Eventually what turned up at our table for two turned out to be a banquet fit for a family reunion of at least 10 guests – yes! There were only two of us! We valiantly sampled everything placed before us and immediately fell in love with the deliciously authentic tastes of Turkey. Well spiced and simply prepared with fresh ingredients and accompanied by lots of fresh salad with delicious cheese and tasty tomatoes. Fish cooked to perfection and of course, local favourites such as Kebap, Pide and Lahmacun. Every meal was a new experience and after a long day exploring the sights, it was great to sit back and enjoy the warm evenings drinking Ayran and sampling the local delicacies. Bread and cheese are popular menu items and our traveling companions couldn’t get enough of the traditional Turkish air filled bread (Lavas) which was served with a cheesy dipping sauce. The Turkish people definitely have a sweet tooth and there were a lot of exciting things to try from Baclava, to Kunefe and Furunda Katmer and of course, Turkish coffee or tea to finish.
You will need loads of energy when traveling in Turkey, especially in the summer months as it is really hot and humid and Istanbul can be really crowded, especially around the popular tourist sites such as Hagia Sofia, Sultan Ahmed and the Blue Mosque. We discovered that there was so much to see that we didn’t need to stand in long queues to visit the most famous attractions.We visited the Basillica Cistern as the queue there was a bit shorter and marveled at the architectural genius of our ancestors who built these incredible structures without bulldozers, cranes or anything vaguely mechanised. Absolutely fascinating.
Fortunately our experiences overall were extremely positive and the only real negative was the yellow cab drivers. These guys make David Copperfield look like an amateur. Despite being warned about their skills at exploiting tourists and feeling very confident that we were forewarned and would therefore have the upper hand, we were really taken ‘for a ride’ at least three times. These guys also drive like lunatics and sitting in the back of a yellow cab during rush hour traffic in Istanbul is definitely not for the fainthearted. After a few bad experiences, we decided to purchase an Istanbulkart and used public transport to get around. We thoroughly enjoyed traveling on public transport even though the buses, metro and ferries were crowded at times, we felt like we had an opportunity to experience life as a local to some degree.
Despite our experiences with the cabbies, for the most part, the hotel staff and people we encountered were welcoming and kind with a sense of mischief that I found charming and engaging despite the difficulties created by the language barrier.
Whether we were walking through Pigeon Valley outside Goreme where it feels like you have stepped 2000 years back in time or racing along the Istanbul highways in a yellow cab driven by someone who believed he was the reincarnation of Ayrton Senna, you can’t help wondering if you’ll survive the journey…
Turkey takes you, shakes you and wakes you…
I loved every minute of it!