Istanbul wakes me up with the call to prayer from Sultanahmet Mosque right out my window. Built in 1609 it stands as a landmark on the horizon. Turkey has more mosques than any other Islamic country. So when the call comes, it’s echo goes on from dozens of voices. It’s beautiful to hear. On this trip we flew 11 hours, covered more than 2500 miles by road, walked many miles at sites leading us to 8,000 BC. We witnessed history from the days of Constantinople (now Istanbul) along the Bosphrus where some of the most incredible palaces and estates stand today. Some, home for a while for the likes of Napolean’s wife while he was on excursions.
Being in a place that hosted the traders from north, west and southern Africa, on the Silk Road from China, Caravans and European Crusaders makes for an unusual mix of cultures, languages, fabrics and food, and the craftmanship is impeccable. The gold and precious jewels, silk carpets, and ceramic tiles that make you wish you had taken measurements for that dream bathroom or kitchen.
Once you experience Turkey, you ache to go back. It is informative, beautiful and fun. It’s so easy to travel around on public transportation, once you accustom yourself to language and spelling, it’s safe and fast. Turkey is a pretty young city given the country’s age, Taksim square in Istanbul is hip; night spots and loads of people promenading around the area until late at night. The bars and restaurant seem to turn themselves inside out at night. For blocks people sit at tables outside and the band is playing inside, doors and windows opened wide.
The Grand Bazaar is a place to get lost in, The largest and oldest covered market place in the world…all the finest goods, pashmina scarves, leather bags that are as good as the high end ones they are copying, jewelry you would consider sacrificing your mortgage this for, and the best blue jeans ever…most of the worlds jeans are made in Turkey…and a MAC store in the Grand Bazaar. The vendors expect you to haggle for goods to a point but all know the true value of what they’re selling. There is very little begging on the streets, the culture feels that it is not proper to ask for money without earning it.
Once we leave Istanbul, the names of cities ring so familiarly; Gallipoli, Troy, Ephesus, Kusadasi. We are heading south along the coast, cross the Dardenelles, where we load up on pistachios from the street vendors and head for Gallipoli and Troy…home of the mysterious disappearance of jewels and history but centered around the Trojan Horse. The horse on the site is a replica and the horse on the coast is a gift from Brad Pitt after his version of Troy.
Ephesus and Kushadasi are next and offer so much wonder and history, it’s amazing that the country hasn’t been more on travelers’ radar, but that is rapidly changing. At every stop there is an opportunity to get fresh pressed pomegranate juice sweeter and tarter than anything you’ve ever had and it immediately makes you feel that you’ve done the best thing for your body, ever. The juice goes right into the blood stream and you feel it and it makes you feel good…and you feel good being in Turkey. (more to come)