I'm just back from my vacations in Turkey. Most Germans go there to beach resorts, but we travelled from the Black Sea to Hittie ruins to fairy chimneys to the Bosphorus strait, backpacker style. (I'd die of boredom if I had to stay in just one place, especially when there is so much to see all around). Turkey is amaaazing, and it feels weird to be back in Germany again and I have to bite my tongue to greeting people with Merhaba. Don't get me wrong: Deutschland is a great place to live, it's just not very exciting or colourful. Anyway, back to raving about Turkey: here is why I love it, in random order:
- The food. Probably the best I have tasted in my life. Fruit is delicious (autumn means watermelon! figs!). One hostel where I stayed had perfectly ripe grapes hanging off the roof of its terrace!! As a vegetarian I still had plenty of mouthwatering stuff to choose from, and I estimate that a vegan or raw foodie wouldn't starve either. Oh, and wait till I tell you about Turkish breakfasts.
- The people. Cheerful and friendly and heart-warmingly hospitable especially off the tourist track. We did get scammed a couple of times, but it was pretty tame compared to some experience in India. What stands out are the times we got invited by random strangers!
- Turks adore kids. If you have any, this is probably one of the best places to travel with them. My small guy was showered with hugs and pats from almost everyone (to his annoyance), and both got sweets and small gifts (to their delight). Even teenage boys couldnt resist patting the kids heads or calling out Mashallah as they passed by. The people are very tolerant to kids being a tad noisy or messy in and restaurants (and almost everywhere else), and in my opinion this more than makes up for the lack of stroller-friendly roads and baby changing tables.
- The toilets. All western-style toilets have a bidet attachment. Finally a hygienic country! I find using TP without water disgusting --- if you had poo on your face, would you wipe it of or wash it off?
- Back to nice topics -- the culture. They had everything from Hitties to Greeks to Romans to Byzatium and the Ottomans. Amazing archeological sites are all over the place, many of the so forgotten and empty than you can pretend you discovered them yourself.
- The Turkish Lira --- cheaper than the Euro.
- Free WiFi, almost everywhere. I really regretted not owning a laptop --- I could have blogged from hotel terraces while drinking cay. As it was, I was too lazy to search for an internet cafe.
- The charming little customs: Tea and snacks served (for free) on buses. The dab of fragrant liquid the waiter pours on people's hands when they leave the restaurant. The elegant tulip shaped cay glasses. The way the bill is served in little wooden boxes, so that you can tip discreetly.
- The sweets. I know that I have already written about food, but honey-drenched Baklava deserves it's own point. Interestingly, I didn't care much for Turkish delight, even though I ate quite a few free samples. But Baklava I'd kill for.
- Cappadocia. But more on that later.
To be fair, it wasn't always rosy. When out and about with my family I got nothing but politeness and respect, but when alone I had a couple of shop sellers trying their ridiculous flirting tactics. Luckily, I have some ingrained habits from my days in India that switched on automatically and kept any harassment away (poker face, formal coolly polite thanks to any compliment, not making unnecessary eye contact with men). Also, I was dressed pretty conservatively, which cannot be said about many other tourists I saw (seriously, what's the point of covering a strappy dress with a scarf that is completely transparent? Or when the neckline is cut low and the scarf is worn too high and cleavage is spilling out in between?)
BTW this tree on the photo on the top: I had seen it on several photographs and really wanted to see it live, but had only a vague idea that it was in Cappadocia. Luck had that a day tour brought me exactly there -- it was one of the several decorated trees at view point. I also saw some decorated with amphorae and another with plastic bags... what?
I really want to share a bit of my adventures with you guys, which include a visit to a Turkish bath, getting my coffee grounds read and getting invited to peek at archaeological excavations at a Hittie city. So stay tuned!