In the Spring of 2011, I traveled to Turkey with my brother. It was part of a trip that also included some time spent in Greece.
We traveled to Turkey via the Greek island of Chios. Perhaps we ought to have planned this better because we woke, in Greece, on the morning of Greek Independence Day and proceeded to catch an early ferry out of the country. Funny that we moved on to Turkey on the very day Greece was celebrating their independence from the Ottomans. Perhaps we missed some fun parties and interesting celebrations in Greece, but Turkey certainly didn’t disappoint. That being said, next time I’ll make a point to change the schedule if it means being at the right place for an important event.
Traveling to Turkey was like taking another cultural step eastward. In Greece, I had already felt the influence of the east and the blending of its styles and feelings with those of the west. Traveling to Turkey was like riding this cultural pendulum further east, even to the point of passing the point of equilibrium and beginning the arc upward, now undoubtedly in the east. It was a very exciting feeling! Turkey is unique in that it geographically sits in two continents, Europe and Asia. (Even though the European part of Turkey comprises only 3% of the country’s area, I chose to categorize this blog post in Europe because the majority of our time was spent in that region, known as East Thrace.)
We traveled by bus (Turkey’s bus system is awesome – modern, clean, reliable, plentiful) to the ruins of Ephesus (site of the Temple of Artemis, another of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, though we didn’t visit it, specifically). Tyler tested the acoustics of the nearly 2000-year old odeon at Ephesus by cranking out a cowboy yodel, much to the delight of the other tourists who applauded his anachronistic performance.
Yodeling in Ephesus.
Back in the nearby town of Selçuk, we purchased tickets for an overnight bus to Istanbul and passed the time before its departure by getting impromptu haircuts from a local barber, complete with a flaming q-tip used to singe unwanted hairs from the ears and face. We also indulged in multiple varieties of baklava, a common practice of ours throughout both Greece and Turkey.
Exciting haircut in Selçuk, Turkey.
Istanbul is a beautiful, enchanting city. It is very clean, modern, and friendly. Though we had heard it before, in Selçuk, it was quite an experience to hear the call to prayer originating from multiple points all around us. The gorgeous and huge mosques, as well as the Hagia Sophia, were breathtaking. It is difficult to grasp the size and grandeur of these buildings without standing beneath the towering domes. To give you an idea, imagine the Statue of Liberty standing in the Hagia Sophia. From toe to tip of torch, she wouldn’t be able to touch the ceiling. In fact, she’d need to balance a two-story building on her torch to reach the top of the mosaiced dome!
Looking up at the ceiling of the Hagia Sophia.
Our time in Istanbul was spent sightseeing, visiting the bazaars, wandering the streets, and eating more baklava. The night before we were to fly home we visited a hamam, or Turkish bath. This was an experience, indeed! It was simultaneously invigorating, cleansing, painful, hilarious, relaxing, and a fine test of our ability to not feel uncomfortable or awkward. The mix of sauna, bath, exfoliation, massage, and chiropractic visit had me feeling cleaner and more refreshed than any other time I can recall.
Here’s a glamorous look at our guilty pleasure during this trip – baklava! Featured here is the chocolate baklava:
Visiting Turkey was an absolute delight! There are treasures to be discovered, both tangible and otherwise, in this region’s wide-ranging history as well as its exciting present. The people are pleasant and helpful; clerks and salespeople are friendly and the continuous calls from restaurant concierges were entertaining and welcoming. I would be very happy returning to Turkey!
Is Turkey on your list of places to travel? If you’ve been there, what was your favorite part?