‘Go-mance’ Courtship with Travel: Destination Turkey, Part 1

My go-mance started about 15 years ago when my friends Terri and Jay told me to stop talking about Turkey and actually take the leap and go.

So jump we did and the three of us signed up for Turkey’s Magical Hideaways with Overseas Adventure Travels (OAT).

At the time I had little interest in visiting England or France. I wanted to take the “road less traveled” and this was the beginning of my courtship with world travel.

Family and friends thought we were crazy, especially since we started our adventure to a lesser part of the world just six weeks after 9/11.

The long flight over was not so bad as there were very few fellow passengers, so we were able to sleep lying down on the plane. The airports in the United States were a mess with long lines, but when we arrive in Istanbul, the airport was almost empty. The expression of condolence from many Turkish people about the terrorist attacks was overwhelming. Although we never felt uncomfortable or unsafe, we also took reasonable safety measures wherever we went.

Despite our exhaustion we managed to get to our hotel, the Blue House, in the heart of the old city where the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque), the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace and the massive Grand Bazaar reside. Huge rock sea walls separated us from the Bosporus, a significant waterway dividing the European side of Istanbul from the Asian side.

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Tired as we were, instead of napping on arrival, we opted to go to a 300-year old hammam (Turkish bath). Its beauty was indescribable, and the warm water, hot steam and the encompassing arms of a very large Turkish woman nearly put me into a coma. Imagine the best massage you have ever had and multiply by 10. What a way to start the adventure.

My lovely room featured a huge window that I flung open to absorb the sights, all only a few hundred feet from the magnificent Blue Mosque. It has five domes and six minarets from where a muezzin (a man who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of a mosque) issues the call to prayer five times a day.

As I lay in bed I could see the mosque and the moon, while listening to the muezzin and dreaming with my eyes wide open.

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Of all the big cities I have visited, Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) stands out because it is the crossroads of numerous civilizations that are reflected by the diversity at every twist and turn in the cobblestone streets.

We visited a mosque, an Orthodox Church and a Jewish synagogue, all within a few hundred feet of one another. The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum had a huge array of artifacts including pottery, weavings, jewelry, clothing and paintings representing every juncture in the long history from the Anatolians to the Ottomans, reaching back many thousands of years before Christ.

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And just about when one becomes overwhelmed by spectacular structures, we entered the Grand Bazaar, which assaulted my eyes, ears and nose in a way I had never imagined.

This is not the Jolly Giant Flea Market! It is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and more than 3,000 shops that attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.

We spent many hours exploring the shops, buying gifts and spices to bring home. I even received an offer of marriage from a shop owner who was anxious to sell me a silk carpet. I bought the carpet but declined the offer even though it included two camels!

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If Istanbul was the appetizer for this “magical” trip, the city of Kayseri and the surrounding area of Cappadocia were the first course of this magnificent travel feast!

We saw fairy chimneys created by volcanic ash, underground cities, and Göreme, an ancient cluster of rooms tunneled out of rock between 1800-1500 B.C. The caves were initially used for protection from marauding armies, and later served as Christian churches. The walls are covered with magnificent wall art depicting early Bible stories.

A night of feasting and dancing with the locals in an underground cave dining room was the finale of a fantastic day of exploration and discovery.

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Hang onto your magic carpet and watch for Volume Two.

Note: Lynne Wonacott will give a presentation at 6 p.m. on Tues. March 29 in Redding where she will talk about travel opportunities with Overseas Travel Adventures. Click here for details.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~Mark Twain

Lynne Wonacott
Lynne Wonacott is a retired Project Manager for a civil engineering company but is always looking for new opportunities/adventures. She spent the last three years as the Project Manager for the OneSAFEPlace facility which is the culmination of the dreams of many to provide a safe place for victims of domestic violence. She is currently serving on the City of Redding Planning Commission and she loves to travel, garden and spend time outdoors. She was born and raised in California, has three children, seven grandchildren and one great granddaughter. She moved to Redding in 1992 and has developed wonderful, lasting friendships through work and play. She hopes to share her love of travel with others by telling stories about real places and real people to close the gap of misunderstanding one another worldwide. Lynne is an avid fan and unabashed ambassador of Overseas Adventure Travel, and is happy to share more about this travel tour organization with anyone who'll listen.
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27 Responses

  1. Randall R. Smith says:

    Significantly in these troubled times, Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938), modern Turkey’s first President, forbid religion mixing with government.  In the Muslim Middle East, this occurrence is as unique as it is wonderful for the people and the world.  Our visit to Turkey was in 1970.  We had taken an all night steam train from Greece. Judy got pinched because she was not wearing customary clothing for women living in Istanbul.  This labeled her as a harlot and fair game despite being a 26 year old tourist.

    We are glad we went when we did.  This includes many places where being aware and cautious are not enough.  As was said in “Dances With Wolves”, “It is hard to make a good impression when you have become a target.”

    • it is unfortunate that the media has given such a negative spin on travel conditions in Turkey.  I  have friends who have been there within the last year and found it to be as intriguing and wonderful as did I.  They even traveled to the eastern part of the country near the Syrian border and felt safe under the guidance of Overseas Adventure Travels.

  2. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    Turkey is on my list of places to visit. Loved the photographs and your stories.

  3. Bob Ferrari says:

    I love traveling in Turkey. Istanbul is a most interesting place. I climbed Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey too.

  4. A. Jacoby says:

    Love the Mark Twin quote. When my daughter came home from living in Vienna for a year when she was 17, she declared that EVERY high school student should live outside their home country for at least six months. I think her feelings were in total concurrence with Mr. Twin’s . . . and I heartily agree!.

    As I was enjoying your article, the old 1950s song kept running through my mind:

    Istanbul was Constantinople,

    Now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople.

    Why did Constantinople get the works? That’s nobody’s business but the Turks.

    This article makes me so sad that some parts of our world have become so very dangerous.

     

    • Loved your reference to the song!!  The world can be dangerous; even in our own backyard.  I choose to live my life looking for the positive and possible and will not be deterred by the negative media.  I am by nature a cautious person but that is different than being fearful and not trying new things or going new places.  I selected my travel group carefully and know they always have my back!

    • name says:

      totally agree that every high school student should live in a foreign country, at least a month or more, and preferably an underdeveloped/3rd world country.  And not at a fancy resort or hotel – they need to interact with the common people.  For most, it should change their lives, or at least they’d appreciate the USA quite a bit more.

  5. Kirsten says:

    This brought memories back to me! Travelling by car from Tehran through Turkey to Beirut in 1958! And the Mark Twain quote is so right on. I can think of a few people, I would like to send travelling………

  6. Check out my ad in the News Cafe for a Travel Presentation on March 29.

  7. Emily Applekamp says:

    Yes! I’m always so thrilled to hear of other people who are enamored with Turkey – I studied abroad in Istanbul in 2006/07 and absolutely fell in love with the country. I definitely had a few friends and family who questioned why a 22-yr old woman would choose Istanbul, of all places, to jet off to, but I found the Turks to be incredibly friendly, helpful and eager to show off their country.  The amount of history layered within the city is unlike any other place in the world. Te?ekkür ederim for the photos that spurred a trip down memory lane!

  8. K. Beck says:

    Where do I find your ad?

  9. Barbara Stone says:

    Of all the places I’ve been in the world, I had the most fun adventure in Istanbul. It was 1976 and it was my year abroad. I was studying in Italy and my girlfriend and I decided on a whim to take the train to Istanbul over one of the breaks. Everything you described brought back clear memories of that trip…so thanks!

  10. Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    Your whole article is about history and amazing art and unbelievable architecture and friendly people.  I suddenly realized that all I know about most countries has to do with wars.  That’s what typical history books and the media cover.  I know all about the Ottoman Empire, but I know nothing about the art and people of Turkey.  Thank you for this great article.

  11. Lorraine McConnell says:

    This is wonderful, Lynne!  I can’t wait for the next installment.

    • thanks!  it is exciting (and scary that it might not live up to someone’s expectations) when others are looking forward to more travel.

      • K. Beck says:

        “But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well

        You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself”

        — Rick Nelson

        Tell us what you loved, you will never please everyone! Looking forward to your event!

  12. Judy DeMallie says:

    Love, love , love the quote by Mark Twain. Wish there was a way of getting everyone out of their own little corner.

    Traveling is such an amazing experience. It feeds the soul long after you return home.

     

     

  13. Penelope Joy says:

    Looking forward to Lynne’s next column!!

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