Truly Turkish!

The Eurasian country of Turkey is a potpourri of all things East and West. The beautiful nation is perched on two continents and captivates everyone with its rich culture, history, food, and people. Among those recently enchanted by this country was the young Aruna Sahithi from Hyderabad. Aruna, who tells us she feels more at home while travelling than when she’s actually at home, recounts her fabulous 25-day trip to Turkey.

Our first city on the list was Cappadocia, and it more than just amazed me. The quaint old towns, hot-air balloon rides over stunning landscapes at sunrise, lovely fairy chimneys, and incredible rocky structures from a million years ago made the city a perfect first stop. Another thing that astonished me was the whopping eight levels of organised underground cities which people built so long ago to escape the plunder and attacks. Next were the coastal towns of Kas and Fethiye. The Turkish Riviera embodies natural beauty, and its coastline made up of rugged hills, lush pine forests, and richly-hued blue waters were a sight for sore eyes. I spent the evening here visiting the Amyntas rock tombs on the mountain sides where the Lycians kept their dead in olden times. I then explored the interesting fish markets of Fethiye, where I could purchase the fish of our choice and have it cooked at the restaurants around the market. I ate here and drank the traditional drink, Raki, which was so strong that it could easily pass as a prescription-free medicine for broken hearts! (Laughs)

The bravest thing I did here was paragliding. The most horrifying part was not even the one where I jumped off a mountain; it was when I helplessly saw that the ground was way, way below me and anything could happen. But I got to see the majestic landscapes of the blue coastline, and distant images of where sky met the sea. I could feel the cool breeze sweeping me while nature put up a great show of a splendid sunrise. It was truly a spectacular experience! I then hopped onto a bus to reach a small town called Pamukkale to see the blinding white travertine terraces which were formed over millennia from limestone deposited by hot springs. I also witnessed the 2,000-year-old ruins of the Greek–Roman Spa city of Hierapolis.

The next day I went off the planned path to discover the beautiful little town of Alacati that had cobbled streets lined with cosy cafés, quirky antique and souvenir stores, spice markets, and homes with pastel window shutters. Next in line was the ancient city of Ephesus, which houses the best-preserved Greek-Roman cities from 3,000 years ago.

Finally, I reached the famous and much-loved city of Istanbul – the financial and cultural centre of Turkey. The city is home to breath-taking wonders of architecture, like the famous Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and other Byzantine churches with beautiful mosaics and frescoes. The food was delectable and the city’s history was rather interesting because of its geographical location, as it sits on two continents; the western half is situated in Europe and the eastern half in Asia.

Turkey is a unique country, rich in history, and it stuns you at every turn with its gorgeous coastlines, refreshing Turkish tea that is served in unique curved glasses, the whirling dervishes, and incredibly delicious food. The kebabs, Tavuk Göğsü (a dessert made of chicken), Simit bread, Meat Casseroles, Turkish Omelettes (Menemen), and Baklava, are some of the mouth-watering dishes available here.

The best experience of all was meeting people from different walks of life. I met a young Chinese mother of two who was travelling alone for the love of travel, and a waiter who has read Geetanjali by Rabindranath Tagore and has learnt various languages by talking to guests who dine at his restaurant. There was also an old shop owner who learned Hindi from Bollywood movies and who lovingly pinned an evil-eye protection charm onto my shirt, and a guy from Mexico who shared his travails about coming out to his parents. Sharing stories about each other’s countries, laughing into the night and falling off to sleep feeling grateful of meeting each one of them for they had touched my heart – my trip was complete.

–Aruna Sahithi