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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Turkey

I've written quite a lot about Turkey but not so much from a tourist or traveller’s perspective. That's an omission as Turkey is a great destination. The many wonderful places I remember (e.g., Constantinople, Ephesus, Hagia Sophia) have a close relation to the Eastern Roman Empire that was taken over by the Ottoman Empire in 1453. Our Christian roots are partly in Turkey.

Nowadays, Turkey is mostly known for its beach resorts. I've mixed feelings about them. However, one of these beach resort visits resulted in an excursion to - and the everlasting memory of - Ephesus, the first Christian city ever. I still remember walking on its 2,000 year roads and feeling my “Back to the Future” moment. The excavation of Ephesus is a must-see. It's also close to the house where Mary, mother of Jesus, spent her final years.

The Turkish beach resorts mostly remind me of their remoteness, the human traffic jams at dinner time, and the rude behaviour of Russian tourists. I strongly advise monitoring the various travel experience websites (e.g., Zoover). Avoid any hotel or resort frequented by large groups of Russians. Their behaviour may ruin your vacation. Please be aware that several Turkish beach resorts are owned and staffed by Russians.

My city trip to Istanbul brought me to must-see places like the Aya Sofia, Blue Mosque, Bosporus river, Grand Bazaar, and the Topkapi Palace. You will be invited drinking sweet apple tea by carpet suppliers while wandering the Istanbul streets. Dining in Turkish restaurants is a pleasant experience. Don’t expect anything fancy though.

The Hagia Sophia church and current Aya Sofia museum is one of my best memories, next to my Ephesus visit. The dimensions of this church are immense, especially its height. All Christian paintings above, say, 3 meters are still present. Lower altitude paintings have been modified to reflect the Islam religion. There are no stairs to the second floor but a road. This brick road within the church seems to last forever. The Hagia Sophia feels like a miracle.

The Grand Bazaar is a huge indoor market featuring very many suppliers in small shops and "is often regarded as one of the first shopping malls of the world". Specialised suppliers are grouped in corners (e.g., gold, silver). You are supposed to negotiate the price for gaining the seller’s respect. The asking price is just the start of negotiations. It's helpful remembering your entrance gate, else you end up in a different part of the city.

In general, Turkish people are friendly. Nevertheless, I was tricked twice. Once by a cab driver taking a long route over a short distance. Also, be aware of people begging you to change their coins into your paper money. It's hard not to be fooled by them.

Visiting a Roman bath or Turkish hamam is a must-do experience which combines a sauna (warm & hot steam and then cold water) and then a massage. Obviously, men and women are separated while women serve women, and men serve men. Beach resorts may include a hamam but usually only the sauna and book them as early as possible.

Today, tourism to Turkey is hurt by several factors. Tomorrow, it's a perfect destination again.

Şımarık (1997) by Tarkan - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2