This summer my wife Kelly and I decided to take a vacation, just the two of us, while our children were away at camp. Recently Galactic has had some clients express interest in visiting Turkey, so I wanted to check it out for myself. While in Turkey we visited three very distinct regions - Istanbul, Cappadocia and Bodrum. Having never been to Turkey before we didn’t really know what to expect, other than what we had read in travel guides. We ended up having a great time, and I’d like to share some of the highlights.
We flew from the Dallas Fort Worth Airport to London Heathrow, and then from London Heathrow to Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport. It was about fourteen hours of flying time, so we didn’t really do much sightseeing our first day in Istanbul. We spent two full days in Istanbul where we visited famous sites like the Hagia Sopia, the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. We learned a lot about the local customs just from observing everyday life.
Since it is a predominantly Muslim country, they ring the prayer bell 5 times a day, and Kelly and I observed the Muslim customs when we visited the mosque. Kelly wore a head covering and we also had to remove our shoes inside the mosque. The Grand Bazaar was breathtaking. The sheer size was amazing and there were hundreds of different stands and booths, with everyone selling distinctive and mostly handmade items. Something else that I really enjoyed in Istanbul was the street food vendors. You could get fresh squeezed juice (many different fruits including some that we were not familiar with) and locally produced products, all very inexpensive.
I would compare our visit to Istanbul to someone from a foreign country visiting New York. Just because you’ve been to the big city in Turkey, doesn’t mean that you’ve “seen” the entire country – the regions are very different. The next stop in our trip was Cappadocia, which is located in central Turkey, and is known for its cave dwellings. The landscape here was like nothing I’d ever seen. Entire cities have been carved into caves from hardened volcanic ash. These ancient dwellings have been here since the 4th century and we saw everything from houses and churches to stables and wine-presses. It was truly amazing to think that some of these underground cities once held up to twelve thousand people. We were also lucky enough to see a performance of the Whirling Dervishes, a type of religious ceremony, at a 13th Century Caravanserai.
We spent the last leg of our trip in Bodrum, which I would say is the “Santa Barbara,” of Turkey. Located in the Aegean region of Turkey, it is the typical coastal area that most people picture when they think of the “Mediterranean.” Here, we spent the day on the sea, which was incredible. It was really unique to see the country from the ocean, as well as from the land. That night back on land, the lights from buildings lit up the night sky as we watched the sunset from our hotel. After our stay in Bodrum, we headed back to Istanbul to fly back to the USA.
Our trip to Turkey was fabulous – we could have easily spent a month touring the different parts of the country. My favorite part of the trip was that we visited 3 distinctly diverse parts of the country and saw so many different things. Tourism is a huge part of the economy and the locals were very friendly. A lot of the people that we came across spoke at least a little bit of English, so surprisingly we didn’t have very many communication problems. Turkey is unlike any other place in the world that I have visited. It is truly a unique destination, steeped in history, full of friendly people and rich in culture.