I think we all could admit that we have lots of preconceived ideas about everything in life. It’s just a characteristic of people everywhere. It’s baked in to who we are. We had opinions and ideas about what we would see and learn here in Turkey, but we were also very open minded and eager to experience as much as we could in a short period of time. I don’t want to speak for Rick, but I have been blown away by this country. People often ask us what trip has been our favorite and that is impossible answer because…well, just because. So we generally say that our favorite trip was the last one. But curiosity brought us to Turkey and it’s looking like it may go down as one of our most memorable travel adventures. Yes, sir, right up there with Egypt and Morocco. And no one is more surprised than we are! To be honest, Turkey needs to up their PR game. This is one astonishing country but it doesn’t get the recognition it so deserves.
Admittedly, the president of the country isn’t helping things and we were fortunate to witness this country going to the polls on Sunday. An amazing percentage of Turks turn out and vote. At least half the county wants desperately to oust the sitting president as he continues to rob the country (he’s worth well over 330 billion dollars) as well as drag it back to a theocratic dystopia. We sat watching election returns like it was our country, not understanding a word of the commentary which we think was probably a good thing. It was a nail biter and a run off will take place in two weeks, so everyone needs to cross their fingers and hope that “the other guy” can pull it out. But it’s not that he’s all that fabulous. Oh, look! Another country is having to vote for the lesser of two evils. What’s up with that? Can’t any country manage to come up with two halfway decent candidates? Our guide says it’s a done deal: the current president will be re-elected. What has surprised us is how everyone from business owners to hotel bellmen has been very open in expressing their political opinions. Didn’t see that coming. Never asked a soul how they felt about their politics. We never insinuate ourselves in another country’s politics. We view that in the same way as mettling in other people’s marriages. We believe that it’s none of our business. We don’t understand the nuances of other people’s affairs, so we have no right to give our opinion. Plus, we find it maddening when non-US citizens think they need to point out the error of our ways as they see it as if we asked for their advice. But enough about politics.
Turkey is cleaner than our country and the roads we have traveled are better. The internet is fabulous everywhere we go. We’ve seen very little homelessness. They take wonderful care of their historical treasures. We’ve eaten in Michelin-starred restaurants and at places that would be called roadside diners and the food has been excellent. They seem to be fairly health conscious, although the usual suspects have metastasized: there are loads of KFC, Burger King, and McDonald’s outlets all over Turkey. Turks make some seriously good wine. Sadly, about half of the population smokes. Turks take care of each other and are generous to visitors. Everyone has been welcoming and warm. There are other countries where travelers get snubbed, but that’s not the case here. They tolerate religious differences. Honestly, I rather expected a third world country, or at least second world. I was horribly mistaken.
Here is a short story that I think says a lot about Turkey. Since we usually arrive at the airport well in advance of our outbound flights, we often stop at a watering hole in the airport from which we depart. Our favorite place has great onion rings, so you will find us there. One of the servers always recognizes us (Rick notoriously overtips) and she even asks if I want onion rings for my meal every time. She asked us when we last passed through where we were off to this time and we told her that we were on our way to Turkey. She lit up and started telling us how much she loves Turkey. She very much wants to go back for a visit. We were clearly puzzled. She explained that she is Iranian and, when she was a teenager, her family had to flee their homeland. Her mother was actually imprisoned for teaching children of their sect. Her father paid all the money he could get to make it possible for her mother to get a furlough after about a year of imprisonment. Then the family fled to Turkey because Turkey was welcoming political refugees. They had to spend two years in Kayseri before immigrating to the USA. She had nothing but happy memories of their time in Turkey. She loved the food and the people and longs to go back to revisit the country that welcomed them when they were so desperate for a place to go.
Now it’s time to share some random photographs. This post is rather long, so bear with me. Also, thanks to unwieldy Word Press, the captions under the photos don’t show up in the email version of the post. You have to go to www.lawsonsontheloose.com if you want to read the captions.
First I will show the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. In the city of Istanbul, there are 20 million residents and 3000 mosques. About 65 percent of the residents of the country of Turkey self-identify as Muslim even if many of them aren’t seriously practicing.
We visited a cistern in Istanbul. Since so much water was needed to keep a huge city running, there are 400 known cisterns in the city and every once in a while, new one is discovered. They were built prior to the seventh century.
In Skyfall, James Bond did some daredevil motorcycle riding on the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar. We didn’t try any of those stunts, but we did walk along the rooftops.
In Cappadocia, we popped in to see an underground city. These cities were used as refuge when invaders passed through the area. These cities could accommodate around 25,000 people for short periods of time.
To describe the landscape of the Cappadocia area as otherworldly is kinda lazy, but here we are.
When we were driving along the Silk Road, we stopped at one of the caravanserai. These are the world’s first inns. The sultans had them constructed so that the camel caravans would have a place to stop for the night as they transported goods along the Silk Road. They were about 20 miles apart since that was about how much ground the camels could cover each day. At the caravanserai, the traders and merchants could get food and drink, be entertained, and sleep within the walls for protection from the elements and from robbers. The one we visited was built in 1249. Think of it as a thirteenth century Ho Jo. Below are a few pictures.
On the way to Bodrum, we stopped at Karnas Winery for a yummy lunch in a beautiful setting. To start, we were served the best rosé I believe I have ever tasted.
Bodrum has a fabulous underwater archeology museum. They have artifacts from the 14th century BC! The first underwater excavations in the world took place along the coast of Turkey in the 1960s. The museum is housed in the Bodrum Castle, which was constructed, in part, from huge blocks taken from the ruins of the grave of Moussollos, a governor of the Persian Empire. The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and was reduced to rubble by an earthquake. This man’s name, as you can see, was the genesis for the word “mausoleum.”
We spent our last day in Turkey on a traditional gullet sailing the Aegean Sea. A perfect way to end an unforgettable journey!