Last Look at Turkey

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Traditional Turkish Group dancing on a Sunday night in Kadikoy.  Sometimes there are more than 100 people doing the circle dance that you first see and they do it the whole weekend. However, as a sign of respect, they quickly dismantled their music and set-up when the call to Allah came blaring over the speakers.

The Upsides

The People

At first, I was going to write that the people are incredibly friendly in Turkey, but then I realized that it’s more just the men who go out of their way to talk to strangers. (see the accompanying downside to this.) Aside from people trying to sell us stuff, many locals chatted with us just to talk. They were so curious about our perspective of their country and whether it was being portrayed in a positive light. They are not shy or stand-offish people. They are warm, always offering tea, trying to make you laugh/smile even at their own expense, and giving you advice about Turkish travel. We had one local approach us and sit with us for an hour at a café, leaving his friends to chat with us about America and the war and about our time in Turkey. He wanted nothing in return, kept wondering aloud if he was a bother and encouraging us to try to work on our (terrible) Turkish with him.

Their Langauge Skills and Intellect

Turkish people can seriously speak at least 3 languages. I don’t think I met one person who couldn’t speak at the very bare minimum both Turkish and English. There was not a language barrier. Emrah in Cappadocia spoke 6 languages fluently and was working on his 7th. As you walk through the streets of Istanbul, you will hear a shop owner say “Merhaba!” “Hello!” “Hola!” “Bonjour!” “Guten Tag” until he gets the right one. Turkish people are smart and they seem mostly well-educated. Almost every young person we met over the three weeks had some sort of degree in engineering or medicine.

The Muslim Religion

This is the first predominantly Muslim country we have ever been to and we loved it. The call to Allah is magical in the early morning and at sunset. The mosques are stunning and unique and the rituals so full of history and culture.
Cappadoccia Region

The crazy landscape, the beautiful valleys and cave churches, our cave hotel and the friendliness of the locals here made this region the highlight of our trip. Goreme, we will return for you again some day!

Istanbul Modern

One of the finest modern art museums I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Around every corner some outrageous piece of work and so many pieces I will forever remember standing in front of, in utter awe of the creativity.

Baklava and Apple Tea

Both delicious Turkish specialties and both perfect after some mezes.

The Variety of Landscapes

Turkey has an incredibly varied landscape with mountains, sea and cities. From the West to East, Turkey is completely different and even is placed strategically on two continents. This country is expansive and offers so many different sights for all kinds of people to enjoy.

Patriotism

Turkey is a very patriotic country and all of the people we met would often tell us they’d love to visit America but they’d never stay permanently because Turkey is best country in the world. It feels good to visit somewhere that has a lot of pride in it’s traditions and somewhere where the people feel strongly about your visit and if you think their country is as wonderful as they do.

Amazing Produce

Turkey is one of the only countries in the world that can eat feed its own people with no help from any other country and still have a surplus of produce in the end. The tomatoes and cucumbers here were unreal. Seriously, they were bursting with taste. Tomatoes and cucumbers can be kind of bland vegetables but not in Turkey. Cucumbers are actually greener than they are white (like back home) and tomatoes aren’t watery boring flavors.

The Downsides

Meat-Addicted

Totally not a problem for anyone who doesn’t consider themselves vegetarian or vegan, but Turkey, aside from Goreme, was a challenge for food. They love their meat so even though they have tons of delicious veg, they don’t utilize it as often as I’d like which maybe indicates where that surplus comes from. You will manage and find something to eat but it’s been one of the most challenging countries to date. (Also, falafel does not exist much in Turkey and we were under the impression that we’d be in falafel heaven due to the misconceptions of greasy late-night Turkish doner places in London.)

The Flirting/Aggressive Sales Pitches

I really like to read menus and window shop before buying or eating anywhere. This is nearly an impossible practice because everytime, you pause even briefly, even to tie a shoe or look at a map, the shop-owners or waiters are demanding that you eat/shop/go on a date with them and when you refuse they want to know why. We ended up lying ALOT just to get off the hook. They also called us “Spice Girls” a lot or “Hey America, ” neither nickname left me with a wonderful taste in my mouth. Also, the flirting can sometimes stand in the way of getting to know someone since you constantly are on-guard about sending misleading signals that might get you in trouble later. It was shocking sometimes when people were speaking with you who didn’t WANT something from you. Although, I have heard that some older women enjoy the heavy male attention, I, on the other hand,  don’t need a man with no teeth, smelly armpits and a gigantic mustache to notice me to feel good about myself, YET that is.

Lack of Female Perspective

Turkish women are very stand-offish, unlike their male counterparts. Both the conservative ones who are stand-offish based on their religion and the modern Turkish women who seem stand-offish and a little snobby. Sinan’s girlfriend tried to tell me that the modern women were that way with everyone even fellow Turkish girls and most were just snobby. Aside from Helin in Istanbul, we didn’t have any lengthy conversations with  other girls the entire we were there.

Bodrum

Just not our cup of tea and we have a whole post on why that is, so I won’t bore you again with it here.

Youtube

Youtube is disabled in all of Turkey. This wouldn’t normally pose many problems for me, but when we are working on videos for the blog, it was frustrating. Also, the reason it was taken down is pretty ridiculous.  Greek and Turkish YouTube users were  trading video insults over Youtube in 2007. Greek videos reportedly accused the founding president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, of homosexuality; a Turkish user responded by calling Greece the birthplace of homosexuality, therefore they made Youtube inaccessible to avoid the defamation of a potentially “homosexual” founder because then they’d have a gay airport, gay roads and all variety of gay establishments named after Ataturk and of course, that would never happen in Turkey, which lacks any sign of a gay movement or gay existence.(another downside) With this ban on free speech, Turkey is not doing itself any favors by because if they are seriously trying to become candidates for the EU, this will never fly.

Would we go back to Turkey? I think without a doubt, youtube or not!

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