This is the first question I’ve been asked the first time I told my family and a few close friends that I’m going to Turkey (Note: I told this in a confidently-beautiful-with-a-heart tone, and did so after I already had plane tickets and visa). That question is followed by “Is it safe?”, “Why don’t you go somewhere else safer?”, “There had been terrorist attacks there a few months ago!”
My answer to that question is simple. I choose Turkey because wanderlust struck me. I’ve read and heard how beautiful it is, how exceptionally friendly the people are, and how profoundly rich are its history and culture. I don’t claim to be astig or to be a very brave woman. Of course, I’m afraid of bombs! I bet even the suicide bombers are scared to death, literally and figuratively, before they blow themselves up.
The thing is, the probability of a terrorist attack is something that can be compared to the risk of being involved in an accident. There are many more other accidents that can happen while tourists are on a vacation. But did fear of your airplane crashing or your boat sinking or an earthquake happening or being hit on the road, ever stopped you before from going where you want to go?
It’s sad to hear from hotel owners we’ve stayed at that a lot of tourists cancelled their booking with them, especially after the January 2016 Istanbul bombing and the March 19 bombing in Taksim area, also in Istanbul (we were actually in transit in Doha at that time).
Even so, cancelling the trip was never an option for me. Cancelling is like letting the terrorists win by inflicting fear to millions of tourists like me, causing significant economic loss to places where they spread terror. Instead, I let Faith, not Fear, guide me.
Before I sound like a preacher, I’d like to move on to the main subject of this blog. Hehe. Fourteen days, five major stops in the land of Turkey and I’ve only scratched the surface. Planning for this trip was overwhelming, but the trip itself was even more so. Too many places to see, too little time. I am simply blown away.
Here’s my take on Turkey
- Turkey is a many-splendored thing. Its environment is so diverse – mountains, surreal land formations, display of fine architecture in mosques and churches, ruins, turquoise blue water, city living and the countryside. After all, Turkey is in the middle of Asia and Europe.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Hagia Sophia, originally a Greek Christian Orthodox Church, turned imperial mosque, turned museum
Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Ruins of Hierapolis in Pamukkale
Hot springs and travertines of Pamukkale
The very charming Old Town Kaleiçi in Antalya
Life in Şirince, a mountain village in Izmir province which was once occupied by Greeks
Overlooking Istanbul from Galata Tower
Aegean coast in Kuşadası
A smaller waterfalls downstream of Duden’s main waterfall (Antalya, Turkey)
Jaw-dropping Red and Rose Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey
Unbelievable natural rock formations called fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, Turkey
Erosion-formed valleys of Cappadocia
Natural version of Singapore’s tree park (Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia)
- Turkish people are friendly and helpful. Even though most can’t speak English, they are ready to extend help the best way they can. In one instance, we just asked a local for directions on where we can take the dolmus (minivan). The man we asked could not speak English well so he showed us the direction by walking with us to the van stop, which is quite a distance from where we began.
- It is fitting to say that Turkish tea equals Turkish hospitality. “Would you like to drink tea?” is a common question you’ll hear wherever, whenever – arriving at your hotel, talking to the travel agent, dining , while walking busy streets when shop staff offers their products/services, in the market…Tea is always served in tulip-shaped clear glass and two cubes of sugar usually goes with the tea.
- In all the places we visited, there’s always the presence of the blue evil eye. Turkish people believe that persons can cast a curse on someone just by glaring at them, which can be done unknowingly on the receiving end. To counter the evil eye, they use the blue evil eye (yes, it’s an eye for an eye) as protection. You can commonly see the evil eye hanging on Turkish homes, placed as part of tiles, and chiefly in souvenir stalls as these has become popularly sold as souvenir item.
- Cats…they abound wherever we went in Turkey, indoors or outdoors, street cats or family pets, fat and furry, friendly and not-so-looking friendly. Only after the trip have I researched that being a predominantly Islam country, cats are revered based on an Islam story that the Prophet Muhammad was once saved by a cat from a poisonous snake.
- Turkey is literally full of color. But I find my eyes linger with a twinge of longing everytime I see the colorful Turkish lamps and the blue Iznik art on tiles/ceramics that can be found inside mosques, palace buildings and souvenir shops. I so like these that I dream of having those in my house.
Graffiti wall in Taksim area, Istanbul
Ahhh, those blue tiles
How I wish I could populate my room with these Turkish lamps
- Lastly, Turkey is bursting with history and culture. It’s just so overwhelming to take it all in – the ancient civilizations, the Greek gods, Alexander the Great, Persian empire, Roman empire, Byzantine empire, Ottoman empire, Christianity and Islam.
Being a Christian and being at the same place where some of the first apostles preached just took me to a new level of understanding my faith. And since Turkey is presently a predominantly Islam country albeit a secular one, I also came to appreciate and gain insights on Islam, as well.
Aspendos theater, they say, is the best-preserved Roman theater in the Mediterranean
Emperor busts kept at the Ephesus Archaeological Museum
Mosaic image of Jesus Christ inside the Chora Museum. Looked familiar, then I suddenly realized we have a cross-stitched frame of the same image at home.