Damn we’re headed home. It was bound to happen eventually.
We caught a shuttle to the airport with a good amount of time. I feel like I’m in a game of crazy taxi. We had to use the last of our USD which left us with about $50 worth of lira, more than I wanted at this point, but as it turned out, not so bad. We had enough money to buy 2 bottles of raki (the local ouzo), and lunch, which as airport food goes, was one of the best.
For the flight we got broken up, each sitting on the other side of the aisle. It could have been worse though, I at least got the consolation prize of leg room (I got the better end of the deal). Some 14 hours later we landed in LA and breezed through immigration and customs. By the time we got home we had enough time to do laundry, go to the store, and pass out on the couch a bit before we were supposed to.
We’ve now been back for nearly 2 weeks, and Turkey is no longer the current but the past which is a bit depressing. I still get the question from people “why Turkey?” but I think those who have read my blog to this point understand now why Turkey.
It’s an interesting country, though I feel to really understand Turkey, much better than we did, you need to have the time to see the places that aren’t the sights. Turkey has long ago figured out what’s worth seeing and what isn’t, and the tourist industry is very mature. That means anywhere you want to go is dominated by a very smooth, and slick experience that is very isolating from the actual Turkish people. On top of that the language is hard to get a handle on, especially spoken. The written language has many cues on pronunciation, however when it’s spoken by the Turks, there isn’t clear enunciation and it all gets garbled together to my ear. The language does isolate a bit as English isn’t spoken as broadly as many parts of Europe. I felt like I really only got to see the real Turkey in little glimpses here and there.
The most interesting aspect of life to me during the trip was Islam. I expected it to be a lot more front and center, from even the most balanced portrayals in international media I was exposed to (BBC, Vice), I expected a more overtly pious country than I found. The legacy of Attaturk’s secularization is alive and strong, and I can’t help but wish some of that had passed onto the other peoples of the Ottoman Empire outside of Turkey. I honestly expected to see people stop what they were doing when the call to prayer went out and pray, and I never saw that once. Some women wear head scarves, though the vast majority doesn’t and most fast for Ramadan, but that’s the extent of what I saw. The media tends to show Erdoğan as pushing the country further and further to the right, especially religiously, but he is a much more complex person than that, and I can’t characteristically oppose him (though largely I don’t like his lust for control and religiosity), a lot of what he does I think he sees as being in a similar vein though different direction as Attaturk, who himself was a complex person not without his flaws. A lot of what I see here though is a direct analogue to back home and the mixing of the religious and the political in candidacy these days. I also don’t think I’d consider Turkey to be more pious or more fundamental than the US; there are far too many similarities for me to draw here.
One of my least favorite aspects of Turkey is traffic and road manners. I swear it must be the British influence when it comes to queuing that has made our drives so adamant about rules and staying in lanes, because it’s definitely not the prevailing behavior around the world. In Turkey how many lanes of cars there are has all to do with how many cars can fit side by side and not many painted lines there are. Openings are to be dive bombed as the last possible second. If there is space, use the shoulder to gain an advantage. All the chaos reminds me of what I observed in the Philippines a year and a half ago and in China before that. Chaos is not conducive to traffic flow.
It was also frustrating how much the banking system hurts tourism. Cash is king partly because of the crazy credit card usage rates vendors face, but also because of the long hold banks have on funds before releasing them. This might have protected them from some of the economic down turn we experienced a while back as credit seems tight regardless. However tourist facing industries should make an effort, it’s impossible to carry enough cash from the start, and ATMs charge quite a hefty amount and are limited in amount.
Our favorite place without a doubt is Cappadocia, though honestly I enjoyed the Med a fair bit too. Istanbul, a major highlight and often visited for a whole week by tourists, was interesting in the same way Paris is interesting, but sits a long way down our list. Probably at the bottom for us actually. Cappadocia has just so much natural beauty, a laid back feel, and much to do. It doesn’t help it also has our favorite restaurant of the trip by leagues.
I could really see myself chartering a boat one day and sailing along the cost of Turkey and Aegean Greece. The scenery is gorgeous, the waters protected and calm. I have a hard time thinking of anywhere I’d rather sail. We had such a nice relaxing time. It’s funny to me that in some way I was hoping this part of the trip would slake my desire to spend a month cruising the islands, but it hasn’t, if anything I want to far more than ever; to take my time and stop in at all of the little villages and anchorage. One day when I’m old and crotchety and looking for an easy trip. It’s definitely rejuvenated my interest in sailing again at the least and I can’t wait for the opportunity to buy a Laser or something and go sailing again.
All in all I’d call this trip a resounding success. We’ve come back with no injuries and plenty of great memories. We already have our next trip on the books as we’re going back to Belize early next year for our wedding!