Exploring Turkey through Leila’s Eyes

Every time I visit a new place, I get to see the world through new eyes. I’ve been to a few cool places in my lifetime, but it wasn’t until recently that I started to really take the time out to actually see where I was. I would go to these beautiful places with friends, we’d camp out at the beach/pool at the hotel and see not much else. Now I’ve come and gone to those places without really having had the chance to learn anything new, which is my one regret. I wish I was wise enough to actually take it all in and learn the experience. I’m 30, and in the last year just stared to really get motivated to go out and see the world. I often wonder how different I would be now if I had started really traveling (the correct way) 10 years ago. Travel broadens the mind, there’s no doubt about that. I find it hard to believe that anyone can visit the many places I’ve been with such rich histories and not be affected in some way. On my last trip to Turkey I visited three different regions and got a little bit of everything. Desert, beach, city.

image11st stop: Kapadokya. We stayed in Goreme, which is a small town in Kapadokya in the Nevshehir Province. We specifically went to Kapadokya to do one thing. Hot air ballooning! We took an hour long balloon ride. It was a large balloon that could fit about 16 people. It was about 130 Euro per person…pricey, yes. But well worth it! Hot air ballooning over one of the most beautiful and oldest parts of the world, witnessing the beauty of the natural wonders this place holds was amazing. We passed over vast desert area with beautiful mountains and rock formations like Aktepe (“White Hill”) which seems to stretch on and on for miles and the old fairy chimney rock formations along with pigeon houses carved into the vast rocks which once served as homes for the people who lived there long ago. All of this was set against a gorgeous sunrise to create an even more amazing atmosphere. I definitely plan to do this again next time I visit.


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2nd stop: Kusadasi. A small, beautiful beach town on the western coast overlooking the Aegean Sea. The weather was perfect and we didn’t do much but lay by the pool and walk around this charming beach town admiring the bright red and white Turkish flags hanging all over the place (literally everywhere you go, there are Turkish flags—these people are extremely patriotic.) Amidst the vibrant display, we also noticed the occasional Christian Flag waving gently in the coastal breeze. When we finally got to the beach, the water was AMAZING. The perfect mixture of cool and warm water depending on where you float around! I didn’t want to get out of the water. I could have stayed floating around in the sea all day long.

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image63rd stop: Istanbul (always my favorite!) Istanbul is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. I went three times last year and each time I saw and learned something new that I hadn’t before. The culture reminds me of my own, as Persian and Turkish cultures are so similar and I think that’s why I have always had a strong desire to keep going back. It has a little bit of everything you need when you go on vacation. Each neighborhood is different. You have the artsy neighborhoods like Chihangir, which is where we stayed this time around. It is definitely my favorite. It has a Parisian feel to it, with cobblestone streets and beautiful cafés where you can sit and sip your coffee. Chihangir is about an 8 minute walk to Taksim, another fun and lively neighbored, which is famous for its Taksim Square and Istiklal Street where you can walk around and shop or stop at fun bakeries or restaurants.

image4The people are warm and friendly (aside from the occasional street hustlers who try to sell you everything, I was waiting for one of them to try and sell me a kidney) and I’ve made lifelong friends during my travels there, and for that I am so grateful. They love to talk about the history of their country which is great. You can get a short history lesson from almost anyone you come into contact with! The culture is very distinct. The first time I visited, I was caught off guard by the sound of the beautifully startling war prayers that go off in the city 3 times a day via loudspeaker, but it makes you stop and realize how seriously they take their religion and how important it is to them. The first timeimage7 I heard it, I was with a group of Turkish friends. We were laughing and talking and once the prayers started, they all suddenly became quiet. I asked one of them what waswrong. He smiled at me, looked outside, pointed to the loudspeaker and said “Shhhhhh…. Respect.” It is pretty powerful and beautiful to see how much they respect this practice. The history…. the beautiful history of this city in itself is enough to make me want to wander around and see and learn everything! The palaces are gorgeous and you find yourself wondering how they ever could have built these things so many years ago. My favorites are Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Basillica Cistern, and Topkapi Palace. They are must-sees!

I’m so grateful for all the trips I’ve taken to this beautiful country. This place changed my view of how and why I travel and made me realize how important it is to get out and see the world. Every trip I take forces me to see things differently and appreciate things and people in a way I had never thought about before. It forced me to stop and look up, look at everything and learn about everything I see. From the history of where I am to the people who are so kind and welcoming. I meet people that are different from myself and it sparks that curiosity which makes me want to learn everything I can about them. It proves a need in me to learn about people and who they are, the place they come from, their culture, their history. To connect. It’s all important. If we understand them we understand in some way a little bit better how the world works.


‘Till my next trip……

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