4 years ago, I landed in Turkey. Morocco had been the original destination, but with the Arab Spring taking hold in places like Tunisia and Egypt, Turkey felt safer. So, I landed in Istanbul with a friend and nothing planned beyond 4 nights in this city of East meets West. We really didn’t know exactly what we were in for. I knew Turkey was a country that intrigued me, but what I didn’t know was how much I would fall in love with this huge, diverse, gorgeous country.
From the ginormous city of Istanbul with it’s mosques and markets to the ancient city of Ephesus to the turquoise seas of Bozburun to the wild ruins of Olympos to the crazy rock formations of Cappadocia, Turkey drew me in and captured my imagination. Its warm, proud, kind-hearted people grabbed my heart.
The Turks are some of the nicest people I have ever met. They are also quite proud of their history, their traditions, and Atatürk, the founder of modern day Turkey. If you tell them how much you love their country, they beam with pride. And if they offer you something to eat or drink, you must say yes. Their hospitality truly comes from the heart.
The food in Turkey was also a surprise – fresh, simple and delicious. One hotel owner told me, “Everything grows in Turkey – except coffee!” I adored the meze, the appetizers that come in cold and hot varieties and are mostly vegetarian. Turkish çay, or tea, is another traditional drink that I sipped with enthusiasm. The curved-shaped glasses just enhanced the aura of this drink that the Turks have at least twice a day.
Turkey is a land filled with big mountains, arid deserts, bustling cities and quiet villages. Its coast is extensive and there are loads of sandy coves where the turquoise waters invite you to jump in. There are ancient ruins everywhere – you are practically tripping over them.
I can’t believe it’s been 4 years since I first set foot in this incredible country. In some ways, with all that has happened over these past few years, it feels like a lifetime ago. When I left Turkey in late July 2011, I vowed to return. I remember crying when I left in late May – even though I had plans to come back in July! This country really did grab a hold of my heart. I think I was just surprised by how much I ended up loving it. In looking back at the photos and thinking of the wonderful memories, well, let’s just say, I think I need to keep that promise to myself to return. My mom always wanted to go with me to Karia Bel’ Hotel in Bozburun. It was a place I stayed three times, befriending the owner, Beliz. It’s truly a special place to me. I wish I could have taken her. She would have loved it! So, now that I can’t take her with me in the physical sense, I can take her memory with me – taking her in my heart. I guess I’ll have to get back to Turkey, and especially Bozburun, very soon…for mom.