Not to be confused with “Turkey Wrap.” That’s a sandwich.
Our last morning in Turkey was straightforward. We woke up with enough time to get our stuff together. I just kind of threw everything into my bag. That’ll be fun to deal with tomorrow.
I also had a little time to kill between finishing packing and going to breakfast, so I returned to the gift shop I’d gone to the day prior and bought a headscarf so I could spend the last of my lira.
We had one last breakfast with our pretty view, enjoying our fruit and feta and bread and breakfast French fries. And within a half an hour, we’d boarded our transfer to the airport. Our driver was from our hotel, and he was nice. Though we wish he’d have turned on the air conditioning rather than just rolled the windows down. And we think he overcharged a little bit. But whatever, we made it in one piece, with a couple pretty views along the way.
We made it to the airport just in time to board our first flight, a little hop from Antalya to Istanbul, before our long leg home to Boston. Unfortunately that short flight sat on the tarmac for an extra 25 minutes before taking off, so we were behind schedule.
We only had about an hour to make it to our intercontinental flight before it left us in Turkey. We were unpleasantly surprised by the fact that we had to go through outbound customs as well as another security checkpoint before being allowed out to the international gates. Our time was ticking by and we were stressed.
To make matters more exciting, we’d been dropped off at terminal H, and our next flight was at Terminal A which was, you guessed it, on the other side of the airport. So we got to spend our afternoon powerwalking through IST. No time for bathroom. No time for food. No time for Starbucks. Just had to get to the gate. But I did have time for an action shot.
We made it to the gate just in time for boarding, but had to go through three more security checkpoints AT THE GATE, featuring a good ole fashioned pat-down. We’re still not sure what the deal was there. I don’t know if it was coming from the American side of things rather than the Turkish? We’d had plenty of flights in Turkey at that point and had yet to experience that level of security.
But the most important thing was that we made it, in the nick of time, and were able to take our seats for the long flight home.
And that takes me up to this very moment. Here I am, speed-writing the rest of these blogs on my ten-hour flight home from Turkey because I have nothing better to do. I mean, granted Sarah and I did watch a really crappy Nancy Drew movie, and I took a nap.
I did better staying on pace with these posts than I did in Ecuador. Obviously I’m a few days behind—and probably still will be with posting them, honestly, but hey, I caught up on the writing part before I made it home. I’ll call that a success.
Turkey Turkey Turkey. What is there to say? Sarah and I have discussed a couple of things. First, what will we miss about Turkey when we go home? And second, what will we say about Turkey when people ask how it was? My answer to the second question is always “read the blog.” I’m really bad at condensing my adventures into a sound byte, which is one of the reasons why I write these things. Also when people ask “how was it?” they generally want a sentence and not a monologue.
But anyways, with these questions in mind, I’ve come up with a couple of impressions I’ve had about Turkey. In no particular order:
-Turkey is an absolute fashion clinic. With so many cultures and backgrounds of people, you see so many cool different ways to dress. Women with hijabs know how to rock them in a bunch of amazing ways. I’m impressed.
-When you’re at a restaurant and you ask for orange juice, they’re probably going to squeeze a whole orange into a cup and hand it to you. And it tastes amazing.
-Turkey’s pretty damn cheap. You go to a lot of European destinations expecting to spend more on a meal or a souvenir than you would in the states. Turkey’s the opposite, everything’s just a little bit cheaper than back home.
-Every toilet has a bidet in it. Every. One. Even gross ones in the back of weird restaurants. This needs to be a thing everywhere. Not to be gross, but like. Good job, Turkey.
-Technically Turkey’s in Asia, but I’m not counting it as having visited Asia. It was definitely “Middle East.” Not that that’s a continent, but it is a region all its own.
-Sarah’s French came in handy a bunch of times. If someone didn’t speak English, they probably knew a little French. It seemed everyone in Turkey was bilingual to some degree, but not necessarily with English, so it was nice to have options.
-Turkey smells amazing. Most of the people wear nice perfume or cologne. The flowers are super fragrant. Even most of the neighborhoods had a nice smell. I mean occasionally we got a whiff of trash or plumbing, but most of the time it was really pleasant. We called the country “the variety pack” of smells.
-Aggressive doesn’t equate to mean. Turkish people are aggressively friendly. They’ll stop you in your path to ask you where you’re from. I mean they’re also probably trying to get your business, but also sometimes they just want to say hi. But yeah, they are not shy.
-The entire country of Turkey is run by stray cats. They like chicken.
-The food is gooooood. Not just the “Turkish” specialties like doner and kebabs, but their takes on other cuisines are on point as well. Probably because it’s less processed and more fresh. 10/10.
-Turkey does not know how to make a proper mixed drink. It’s either too sweet, 90% alcohol, or just weird. If you’re gonna drink, stick to beer.
-If you go hiking in Turkey in summer, you probably need to bring a gallon of water and a bunch of snacks if you don’t want to die.
-Five minutes means ten minutes. “Noon” means “sometime after noon.” Wait times are flexible, and everyone kind of decides arbitrarily when they’re ready to do something. Punctuality is an American trait.
-Turkish Airlines has amazing smelling hand towels and they had cologne in the bathroom. This is a weird thing to make note of, but the world needs to know.
-Don’t drive in Turkey. If you go, you may be tempted to rent a car for convenience.. Don’t do it. You will die.
-Similarly, the traffic lines on the road are just there for decoration.
-I’ve mentioned it before. The gender norms and expectations are all over the place. In one trip I’ve been kicked out of a mosque courtyard for not covering my elbows, and then also naked in a room with a dude. Turkey, explain.
-Turkey loves its flag. It’s everywhere. You can’t look in a direction without seeing a billowing red rectangle. The one place you didn’t see them? Gift shops. I had to order mine on Amazon.
-I not once felt unsafe in Turkey. The US State Department has Turkey labeled as “Reconsider Travel,” like we’d be targeted for violence or something. I felt safer walking around Istanbul at night than I would walking around Manchester or Boston. People are everywhere. Families. Other women. And people were usually nicer to us when they realized we were American, so that was a positive factor rather than negative. So yeah. Not sure where all those travel warnings came from. I know that there have been terrorist attacks in Turkey before. But where else do those happen? France. Germany. The United States itself. I’m glad I didn’t let the stigma stop me from going. I would have definitely missed out.
I’m so happy I went to Turkey. I was a little nervous because the Middle East definitely has a dangerous stigma attached to it, especially for American female tourism. But it was beautiful, friendly, adventurous, and generally magical.
Sarah, thanks so much for coming along on this crazy jaunt with me. I know I asked you a thousand times to come with me until I wore you down into booking a ticket. I wouldn’t have wanted to go on this adventure with anyone else, and I’m thankful for your companionship. And your ability to not hate me when I make fun of you on blog posts. And your ability to make fun of me back so I don’t feel like a jerk. You’re always invited to come with me in the future if you can. Love you baby. *Insert Six Flags Song here so this paragraph is less sentimental and more weird.*
Country #23 is in the books. Another adventure, another set of stories, more pictures than my phone can handle. My next trip will be with students, to the UK. After that…I’m looking at you, Southeast Asia…