Turkey, April 2013

Turkey, April 2013

Our trip to Turkey in April was the first time I had ever embarked on a group tour, and we chose On The Go. We toured the country for two weeks and got to see almost every major sight the country has to offer.

Overall, I would say that the group tour is not for me. While I had no issues with the people we were on the tour with, it wasn’t at the pace we wanted to go and the tour company stayed at hotels outside of the main city centers, not giving us the opportunity to explore very often on our own. We did what we could on the evenings where we could get a taxi, but many of the dinners were buffet-style at the hotel, which usually broke my heart.

It would have been difficult to travel the country on our own though, so we tried to take as much of it in stride as possible and enjoy the sights.

If you are curious about our itinerary, we took this tour from On the Go tours. 

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Topkapi Palace

The tulips were in full bloom while we were in Turkey, and they were absolutely gorgeous. The architecture of the buildings was otherworldly, which is what attracted me to Turkey in the first place. The intricate design, the beautiful domes, the bright colors…it was all exactly what I wanted to experience, and it definitely did not disappoint.

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The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia

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Different ruin sites and Ephesus

You can’t go to Turkey without seeing many many ruins. It was amazing how much survived the centuries, and it was interesting to get a glimpse into how ancient people lived. There was a bath house in Ephesus that had a room full of toilets (aka holes in some marble) where men would gather and do their business in a social manner. The mere thought of that horrifies me.

I can’t say that I would center another trip around going to ancient ruins. While interesting for a day trip or two, I wasn’t so interested that I’d make a whole trip out of it. Mike tells me that Greece is amazing though, so I’ll probably want to go there.

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A ravioli dish with yogurt and chili oil, fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, Turkish delight, Baklava

The food in Turkey was not quite as flavorful as we had anticipated. While a major area of the Silk Road where spices were traded, it was odd that many of those spices were not incorporated into their dishes. The lamb stews were very good in a tomato-based broth and we liked their little raviolis in yogurt sauce, and of course the plethora of Turkish delight was a must.

Most stops and stands sold freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juices, which were very nice and delicious.

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Turkish rugs (we almost bought one!), silkworm pods, a woman in process of weaving a rug. 

The Turkish rugs were beautiful. We stopped at a cooperative that helped women in the community by giving them skills and fair pay for their work. We learned how they took silkworm pods and made thread (an amazing process) then watched as women wove the rugs by hand with immaculate attention to detail.

After learning about the process, they took us to a showroom where they displayed rug after beautiful rug, with flair and music. They encouraged us to take off our shoes and walk on the carpets, which were incredibly soft. Mike and I were interested in a particular style of rug, which was blood red and just gorgeous. Noting our interest, they took us into a back room where they displayed more rugs and kept bringing down the price.

I was freaking out because I HATE bartering and I didn’t really want to buy a rug, but Mike thought it was fun and kept talking them down until they couldn’t go any lower. Then we had to finally turn it down, which made me feel awful and guilty and terrible. If we had gotten that rug, it would have been a wonderful piece to have, but with our dogs, I wouldn’t feel comfortable enough with them running around on it to make it worth it.

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Pamukkale, where there are natural hot springs leaving behind mineral deposits that are snow-white. It was absolutely insane and we wish we could have stayed here much longer. 

Pamukkale was a big attraction, bustling with people. We had to walk barefoot on the rock and through multiple pools to get to a point where there were less tourists. The bottoms of the pools were sharp, slippery, and felt AWFUL, but we stuck with it and got a whole pool to ourselves where the sand was much softer. It was worth it to keep going! There was one man who kept lingering by our backpack at the edge of the pool, so I stared him down and kept rolling video on him. He eventually went away, seeing that I wasn’t going to turn away from him, but be aware and keep an eye on your stuff.

I wish we could have stayed a day or two in Pamukkale, and unfortunately since it’s in the middle of the country, it’s not the most easily accessible place, so I’m not sure if we’ll ever find our way back on another trip in the future.

Then we went on to Cappadocia, where we took a hot air balloon ride and had possibly the most breathtakingly beautiful balloon.

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It was gorgeous, it was amazing. There were so many balloons in the air that it was mind-boggling. We saw a few bump into each other, and even heard a week or two after we left Turkey that two balloons ran into each other and a couple of people died. But for the time we were there, it was nothing but magic.

Also in Cappadocia, we saw a Whirling Dervish performance, where men came out and spun in circles for what felt like an hour, but was still probably 10-15 minutes. I don’t know how they didn’t fall over, but it was fascinating to watch.

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The last dancer pictured was a woman whose dress lit up and it looked like a spaceship. The performance had dancers perform cultural dances from each area of Turkey. It was mesmerizing and interesting, as dance seemed to be a large part of the ancient culture in Turkey, but our culture has nothing of the sort short of the chicken dance and the electric slide.

Overall, Turkey was a very interesting country. About a week or two after we left, rioting started in Istanbul. It’s interesting to see this country and culture on the brink of change and social upheaval. The headscarves were very noticeable, as was the role of women in that society. I tried not to pass judgement because it is their culture, not mine, but I certainly thought about how my life would be different had I been raised in their culture or a similar one. Despite all of that, the people were friendly and welcoming.

The land itself is one of the most consistently beautiful countries we had been to. The landscape was diverse: mountainous and lush, beaches, ancient ruins, hot springs, etc. To be totally honest though, it wasn’t one of our favorite trips. It could have been mostly attributed to the fact that we were a part of a tour and didn’t get to explore as we wanted to, but seeing how much ground we had to cover in two weeks, it would have been much more difficult to do it ourselves. We enjoyed ourselves, to be sure, but it’s just not the way we’d prefer to travel.

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