I had no idea what to expect from Turkey, it’s people, its food, transport and lodging. But my boyfriend and his family are from Turkey, and they’ve aided me in hard times more than anyone I can recall. Their incredible warmth and hospitality without question inevitably led me to believe that Turkey would be one of my favorite countries for its people more than anything else.
As I travelled through Turkey I experienced more kindness, openness, and humour than I’ve seen in most countries. That’s truly saying something. But it wasn’t just the people and the culture that captured me about Turkey. It was the magnificent spots… the beaches, the ancient ruins (seriously those are everywhere!!!!), the mountain of salt and the underground cities….
Here, are my favorite places in Turkey (in no particular order):
- Taksim – It’s just a buzz of activity, unique stores, handmade items, street performers and delicious food. It’s always busy and if you’re really good at finding some incredible places, then you may get lucky enough to see some great views from Taksim restaurants. You have to go to one like “Midpoint” that is on the top floor in the middle of Taksim. One of the best views of the Bosphorus if you ask me.
2. Turgetreis– Personally I was glad that when we went it was off season. We were there just before the tourists, when it was just locals preparing their shops, sipping on tea, attending the markets and tending to their cattle. We were able to ride around on the scooter with hardly anyone on the road, or sidewalks as we rode through the stone paths that lined the beaches and marinas. I got to know the locals on a personal basis as we strolled through the weekend bazaar and brought food to our neighbors and spoke with the kids running and playing through the streets.
As we walked around we bought eggs from the neighbor whose chickens just laid as we watched the other neighbour chase her kids laughing down the street as she carried a jug full of fresh milk from the farm next to our house.
We picked fruit and herbs out of the front yard and from what lined the streets, berries, lemons, olives, rosemary, etc.
It felt free. Freer than I had ever really felt. We didn’t have restrictions, there were no ads in our face, the cool breeze off the ocean and the most illustrious sunset. We watched the cattle and roosters, run around town all day only to return to the small farm next to our house, jump over the stone wall, and settle in as the sun began to set. There were street cats that came to our house every night to eat and we fed them scraps from cooking and any leftovers. The dogs would play in groups on the beach together. I never saw a single fight between any of them and believe me there are enough dogs and cats to start a war with. No, it seems that the restaurants and locals feed them so well that they don’t have anything to fight over. People pet them, feed them, give them affection and attention.
The Turkish government, throughout Turkey, for all strays-tags, neuters, and gives them vaccines and shots so they won’t spread diseases.
Because of this it creates an environment that is relaxed, committed to helping everyone and everything, as well as fostering affection and relieving stress in both humans and animals.
3. Bodrum– its castle is an all-day exploration. It’s probably the most intact and beautiful castle I’ve ever been in. But Bodrum is a tourist spot almost all year round, whereas Turgetreis is smaller. Still thousands of German, British, and Russian tourists come in droves every year to this tiny but beautiful coastal town looking out to the Greek Islands only a ferry ride away.
4. Pamukkale– Going to Pamukkale was the highlight of our expedition. We spent 9 hours on this mountain made of salt with historic ruins spanning the top of the mountain. An naturally heated and filtered swimming pool with floors made from broken columns and stones magnificently carved. We roamed around the ruins for 5 hours alone, then swam in the salt pools for the evening.
6. Ҫannakkale/ Galipoli– Just about every Turk and Australian knowns Gallipoli because of the thousands of Australian soldiers that died in the battle at Galipoli. Walking through the war memorial was cataclysmic. As we strolled one of the captains trotted over to practise his English only to delightfully give us a private tour of the whole property, including one of the ships.
7. Cappadocia– (In Turkey it’s Kapadokya- in the city of Gӧreme in the region of Anatolia)- Its hotels and homes made from caves and the hot air balloons drifting in the background. As we rode in by bus the sun was just rising. It cast a very surreal scene. The shadows playing on the peaks of the caves leading expectations of the experience we were to encounter here.
One thing I was dead set on here was going on a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. And damn was that such a good choice.We were picked up at the front of our hotel at 4am and brought to the meeting area for the company we were flying with. They fed us tea and pastries as we waited for everyone to arrive. As we went to get into the van to take us to the balloons we carried a cup of tea. The driver pleads in English, “no liquids, please”. To which, my boyfriend responds in Turkish, “But I’m Turkish”. The driver looks up quickly and casually says, “Okay you can have it”.
We arrived at the hot-air balloon loading area watching our magical floating capsule being filled, along with dozens surrounding us in the still dark sky. Our driver warmed his hands near the bursts of flames.The sky littered with colourful tear-drop shaped floating vehicles was breath- taking and romantic as the sun rose above the distant mountains.
8. The Ancient City of Troy– It was an off the beat location and hard to find without a tour if you aren’t with someone who knows how to get there. Which made it less of a tourist spot as I thought it would be. Maybe because it’s harder to get to than I thought it would be. We had to take a few buses and mini buses. We spent several hours walking through the blasted streets and unexcavated fields that are clearly hiding something in their soil. The tall and in tact walls, large vases and shards of buildings with designs and writing engraved in their stone.
9. Istanbul– The temples, Hamams, Palaces, walking along the Bosphorus, the immense array of food options, Galata tower, Taksim, The Grand Bazaar, the museums and gardens all the way to the beautifully hand crafted and ancient buildings updated with modernity in mind. I was blown away by the mixture of modern and old, bohemian and contemporary. Of course because of the luxury of being with someone who knows the city very well I was able to explore the city far more in depth than most tourists get to. I love this city, and its people.
10. The underground cities in Nevşehir– It was interesting to explore. While there are tours we opted out to explore at our own pace and time. Roaming through the small tunnels and unexpected homes. It was a gopro moment for sure.
While it doesn’t take a month to see everything on this list, I am glad I had that much time to take it all in. Turkey presented me with experiences that I never would have expected. The most amazing issue is that there is still so much that I haven’t seen there, but want to. Fetiye, where the Turkish Dead Sea beckons me, is among the top of my list for the next time I’m in Turkey.
If you know of places in Turkey I should visit, please comment below. I’m dying to see more of this country.