Turkey is receiving a lot of negative attention lately as the poster child for the issues (e.g., terrorism, refugee crisis) that the entire world are currently facing. These are real issues and certainly deserve the media’s attention. However, all of the negative attention takes its toll on the country’s reputation, thus decreasing tourism, which accounts for about 5% of the economy (source). Seeing Turkey in the news more frequently has me reminiscing about my incredible 9 day trip there in May 2012. With our Turkey flights, we were only able to hit Istanbul and the Bodrum area while we were there, but Turkey definitely put on a spectacular show and I would love to return to Turkey to further explore what this diverse nation has to offer (and let’s get real, to eat more delicious food).
Of course food is my number 1 reason to go to Turkey, as it is pretty much my number 1 reason to travel anywhere. Turkish cuisine is just a flavor lover’s paradise. For starters, there is the typical Turkish breakfast of cheeses, olives, bread, egg, tomato, cucumber, and spreads. Then, if you love meat, you can get it all in several delicious forms for lunch or dinner: from beef and chicken to goat and lamb and don’t the miss fish and mussels on the coast. It is always served up with delicious grilled vegetables like eggplant and bell pepper and let’s not forget the bread that always accompanies the meals. On top of all this food-baby-inducing goodness, there are usually cheeses and spreads to accompany your meal, too. Finally, let’s not forget to satisfy our sweet tooth with none other than Baklava for dessert.
There is something special about travel destinations where the people sincerely want to get to know you and talk to you. Turkey is one of these special places. I was shocked how many people were surprised that two American girls would be traveling Turkey. Why wouldn’t we be? The people were so accommodating and welcoming. Everyone you meet is an instant friend (even if they may be trying to sell you something). The people of Turkey are what make it so special. Fair warning: you will be drinking a lot of complementary tea during your time there.
Turkey opens up an entirely new shopping world and I am serious with my recommendation that you should probably show up with a near-empty suitcase. There are of course your normal brand stores, but then you have the markets and the markets are game changing. Many tourists know of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, but what you might not know is that these markets are every where across the country. You may also not expect that the shop owners will treat you like a guest, offering you tea and even food. In one leather store offering incredible purses and shoes, we were served mussels and cocktails on the beach behind the store, I kid you not. Turkey offers knock-offs of any brand you can possibly imagine and although the quality of the imitations varies, if you shop around you can find exact replicas. There are even entire independent stores dedicated to this cause. Before going shopping in Turkey, I suggest practicing your bargaining and always having a walk away point. The bargaining can be exhausting, but after a week in Turkey, we decided to turn it into a game. If the salesperson was not mad when you left, you did not get a good deal.
When it comes to landscape, Turkey has it all: the Mediterranean Coast, international city life in Istanbul, the Black Sea, and the unique landscapes of Cappodocia, mountains, and hot springs at Pamukkale. The country is a large country, twice the size of California, spanning two continents. You could spend a month and just skim the surface of what this country has to offer (but a month is a great place to start ;-))
Finally, Turkey is packed with history. In Istanbul alone, you have the Blue Mosque (est. 1609), Topkapi Palace (seat of the Ottoman Empire), and the Hagia Sophia (6th century). Then, once you venture outside of Istanbul, you encounter the ancient world with Ephesus, which was at its peak within the Roman Empire in 1 A.D. and is home to one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis. Heck, someone even thinks they found Noah’s Ark near Mount Ararat.
What do you (would you) love about Turkey?