ADVENTURE LIVING NOW/TURKEY
When I travel I can only remember moments. I have been to over 50 countries and I do get frustrated I can’t remember more. I do know my trip to Turkey was one of the most extraordinary, exotic and relaxing trips I have ever made. I was there when there were hardly any Americans visiting. It was right after 9/11, in May of 2002. I remember the Turkish merchants; well known for their charm and ability to convince you to drink tea and eventually buy the whole store, were frustrated to say the least. They kept saying we love America. Why don’t they come? That happened when I spoke in English. At the time I was afraid to do so because of the Iraq war. I also choose to speak Spanish often on my trips so the locals won’t over charge me. Yes, they overcharge Americans almost everywhere I have been in the world. They think we are rich and we deserve to pay more.
In reality, Turks love everyone who buys their wares, but besides that, they are genuinely generous, welcoming and friendly. I never had any troubles. They were hospitable and respectful. Some of the merchants were obnoxious. They chase you around and it is hard to turn them away because they can be very charming, but when I would look at them perplexed and said I only spoke Check, They would back down. You see, Turkish merchants speak at least 5 to 10 languages. They make a living selling to tourists so they have to.
Some of the best moments I remember about Turkey happened in Cappadocia. The landscapes there are bizarre. They look like a conglomeration of phallic symbols! They are so extraordinary; these terrains make this place the most visited in the region. It was a kingdom 600 years before Christ, probably made out of a number of tribes. The exotic terrain allowed them to protect themselves, especially from the Persians. The Romans took it over in 17AD after Christ and Tiberius made it a Roman province. St. Paul visited here and apparently the Christians were so devoted in the region, it became a sort of capital for Monks of the Eastern rites. There are more than 1000 churches, sanctuaries and chapels here. The history of Cappadocia began about 30 million years ago, when three active volcanoes erupted and created these strange rock formations. Many say Star War producers got their ideas for many of their set designs from Cappadocia.
I also remember a subterranean city known as Derinkuyu, which at at time served as a hiding place for thousands of people. It was connected by tunnels and was built most probably by the Romans and later used by Christians.
Another memorable moment I had in Turkey happened when we were aboard a Gullet, unique boats which sail around the ancient sites of the Turkish coast, and they were playing Arabic dance music. I love to dance it so I was showing off to the group. Most of them were Australian and Kiwis (New Zealanders) I sure acted like I knew what I was doing until I met Didri, a Tunisian woman who lived in Italy and was travelling in Turkey on her own. She watched humbly as I made a fool of myself and then told me she taught Arabic dancing and showed me and everyone else the real dancing steps (nothing like mine, mind you). We laughed a lot. I must say, one of the things I love most about travelling is meeting strangers who become friends. She only spoke Italian and Arabic. My Italian is not very good but I sure can get my ideas across in almost any language when I want to.
I would probably never see her again, but the few days we were together, sharing the beauty, mystery and cuisine of Turkey, we really enjoyed each other’s company.
Another special moment took place in a carpet shop. I met a sales guy who would later become a friend and visit me with hundreds of rugs and goods on a van a year later in Houston. I loved learning the history of carpet weaving and the meaning of the colors, patterns and designs. I bought two wonderful rugs which I still show off today!
Then there was the visit to the Virgin Mary’s house in Ephesus. I am not a practicing Catholic but I am very devoted to the Virgin so this meant a lot to me. St John and St. Paul also walked these ancient city’s streets. Almost everyone has been through this city, the Ionians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Goths etc. That’s what happens when you last this long.
Turkey offered me a lot of lifetime memories besides these. I remember rafting
down a pristine river on tubes surrounded by beauty and laughter and filled with adventure. Walking inside one of the most beautiful mosques in the Muslim World, the Blue Mosque or the 1400-year-old Hagia Sophia, The church of sacred wisdom, A Byzantine jewel.
I can’t remember dates or specific historical facts. I just remember how I felt when I walked into these sacred spaces. I felt peace and gratitude these monuments were made. The beliefs in the divine had motivated, enlightened and empowered artists, architects, artisans, philanthropists and believers to create these wonders the rest of us can enjoy, hopefully, for eternity.
I give Turkey a thumbs up if you enjoy exotic, mysterious and an adventurous travel experience. Almost everyone speaks English and they are eagerly waiting for you to visit. Whatever you do, don’t try dance steps you don’t know. I learned that the hard way!