A couple weeks ago I cashed in my white privilege check for a one month European vacation. I spent the first week travelling through Turkey and Amsterdam with my Mother and Sister. It is up there as one of the best travelling weeks of my life. Turkey had amazing food, incredible hiking, fascinating history and very friendly people. A must see destination spot for any world traveller.
Just to give you a quick taste to inspire your jealousy, here are the top two journal entries.
I arrived in Istanbul at 2pm and was picked up by a car service who gave me a tour of the old city on the way to meet my Mom and Sister at the hotel. I was struck by the contrast of his prayer beads and humorous outgoing persona that included rolling down the window and cat calling women. Once at the hotel I took a quick shower before cramming as much of Istanbul as physically possible into a 6 hour frame. I was left in awe by the physical beauty and intricate detail of the blue mosque. I actually found it very easy to connect with God while inside. I stopped for some roasted chest nuts in the city square before soaking in the 600 year history of Hagia Sophia.
For dinner we crossed the hippodrome that used to host chariot races during roman rule. It still hosts two obelisks from Constantine and the Ottomon empire (500ad and 500bc). I ate Fresh Pide Bread and a mixed plate of beef, lamb and chicken kebabs at Bushara 93 while overlooking the sea at dusk and listening to live local music from the tea garden across the street.
After dinner, we went to the tea gardin for desert, hookah and apple tea. We relaxed for an hour playing back gammin and watching a dancing demonstration by a durbish monk. All in all, a perfect start to my exploration of Turkey.
We woke up at 4:30 to go on a sunrise hot air balloon tour of Cappadocia. The views were by far the most spectacular thing I have ever seen. The landscape is so beautiful that I proclaimed to my mom that here is the overwhelming proof in the existence of God and she had to agree. We returned to the hotel for a quick nap (3hrs) and a breakfast of fresh fruits and breads. Then the owner of the Hotel, Sergio, took us on a personal tour of the local area. We saw an ancient cave palace, a pottery demonstration at Avanos, the ancient fortress, the local wine vineyard for free samples and the highest point in the area for a postcard view of Mushroom valley (a valley of rock formations that look like giant penises).
After a late lunch, Sergio dropped us off for a 6 km hike through Rose valley. It was the most scenic hike I have ever done (keep in mind that I grew up in the Northwest). I would have loved to explore all of the hidden caves and trails, but a thunderstorm was following us and we were hiking through 50mph winds.
That night we grabbed dinner with the lonely, but friendly hotel attendant Mustafah. He was so happy to have company that he thanked us with a bottle of Raki, a local hard alcohol that tastes like licorice, but is stronger than any whiskey I have ever had.
Pictures and more stories to follow.