Turkey described in a single word - Fresh!
Scents of spicy pepper, citrus notes, and rose oil sprinkle the City, coming off a 3 day excursion to get here, I couldn't sleep. Although I was exhausted, I rolled over in bed to tell Eda it was no use. We dressed and went out for the ol' classic Turkish breakfast at 8am. Down the alley, cross the busy street, dodge the cars, and land at a cafe serving fresh house deserts, breads, tea, and more. Wafts of coffee and cigarettes from the surrounding tables. Here comes a spread of farm fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, perfectly ripe olives, freshly made cheese, honey with the comb, and Turkish tea served by a young, freshly shaved, stylish eyewear and a pressed shirt man. Yep, this is it. I made it.
Acclimating quickly, we took a cab into downtown to explore one of the oldest bazaars in the country, this outdoor marketplace is alleys of jewelry, spice, apparel, fruits, fish, cafes, hotel entrances, courtyards, and dancing gypsies in the main food hall. Getting grounded, I browsed. Taking frequent breaks for Turkish coffee, which is always served in a neatly decorated tiny cup with a matching saucer, and has a completely different taste and texture.
We explored attractions like Ephesus, house of the Virgin Mary, and Agean Sea coastal towns like Çesme, Urla, and Sirince. We drove all over with Eda's brother, her being the translator, him being the guide to all his favorite hang outs while her cousin rode shotgun taking pics and desperately trying to remember her English lessons she supposedly aced haha. The best possible experience is always with locals, and made better with family! This afforded me great insight into life here because I could ask the hard questions and get an honest answer, judgment free, and with thoughtful explanation. I thoroughly enjoyed this because talking politics is fascinating to me, and unfortunately with many young Americans you can't. Too many take things personally, judge you if your opinion isn't theirs, and label you unworthy. Although freedom of speech exists, it can be your demise.
that resides in this country is astounding, ancient, complicated, and overlapping in unpredictable ways. I learned so much, gained a lot of appreciation, and really felt the frustration of young Turks who are still trying to forge a strong and modern nation. Perhaps the most impactful thing was the fear of failing. In Turkey, becoming an entrepreneur is extremely risky. It can take up to two months to obtain a business license and can be quite costly (for comparison, in the US, you can register a business in literally 5 minutes). The Government reaches into extended family, so if your business fails, your siblings, aunts, grandparents are liable for your debts for an undisclosed amount of time. Conversely, in America, if you fail, the following day you can start again, go get a job, or collect unemployment until you figure out your next move. The point is, once again, I am grateful to be American. I've got options, and failure is not one.
Izmir was exponentially different in comparison to Istanbul.
Izmir is a city of all ages, forward thinking, modern, and takes patriotism to new heights. Turks would say Izmir leans left politically, but in comparison to America it more closely aligns as moderately conservative (of course this is my own perceived takeaway). Turks continuously give praise and celebration to Ataturk. The founding father of Turkey, First President of the Nation, and who has since passed nearly 100 years ago, still reigns as Turkey's hero. His handsome photo can be seen draped on banners, flags, original art, plates, tee shirts, and billboards across the City, extending in all directions. It's almost impossible to not see his face at any given moment. Ataturk brought democracy, removing Islamic religion from public education, giving women the right to vote and mandatory schooling for girls. His noble policies freed the Nation and gave them a powerful independence and ownership of a land and culture historically colonized by various Empires throughout time. His art deco personal style and swagger still oozes out of his portraits. The man was, and still is, idolized as the ultimate legend.
Istanbul on the other hand had a different vibe. Ataturk's presence runs more underground, tourists from neighboring countries arrive in burkas while their husbands dress in diamond studs, flamboyant shirts with matching sneakers. Muslim influence runs deeper here and how you dress practically portrays your political identity. In this world, fashion expresses much more than your personality, and it is felt. My outfit choices became more intentional, and because I was traveling with a long time true Turk, my confidence for dressing like myself was illuminated. I felt like I had to, in order to practice and exercise my freedoms.
Of course amongst all that I was taking in everyday, I found that Turks are incredibly kind, stylish, accommodating, educated, and loyal to the future and success of Turkey. Thoroughly enjoyed my time here, a totally wild and different corner of the earth I previously had no real conception of. Shopping here was amazing. I can best describe my experience when browsing rugs. Sitting in a what felt like a cave in an inside corner entrance of the Old Bazaar, a small window let in light from the roof with carpets draped amongst chest height folded piles of rugs. Sipping Turkish coffee, my friends next to me smoking Turk tobacco, while I used hand motions to show him the YES pile, NO pile, and the MAYBES as he stood on another pile opening up rugs one by one. He was never pushy, just wanted to create the best possible experience for his customers. And it was! Shopping jewelry was the same, wonderfully easy with no pressure and gratefulness on both sides. If you ever make it to Turkey, definitely make the time to shop in Izmir, my preferred location! This includes boutique shopping as well!
Standing in the mirror in the Miami Airport, horror struck.
Rewind 10 hours and I had just come off a 12hr flight, arriving at 6am. I rented a car and drove to South Beach, supposedly where alluring people come to roller blade and lay out. Floating in the sea and taking in the sunshine, I relaxed, killing time the way Turks do; with coffee and a big fresh breakfast with many small plates.
I showered at the beach, changing out of my suit in the back seat of the car and drove back to the airport. Finding a quiet bathroom, I straightened up and prepared for another 13hrs of travel ahead. When I went to floss, my heart fell. I had a grayed out bottom tooth, and the other front three weren't far behind! The dark one even felt loose! I panicked, cursing my age. I had even experienced a difficult time reading the small print on the menu board earlier. What the hell is this?! I'm 33 years old, my eyes are going bad and my teeth are falling out. I called the dentist as soon as they opened after landing in Seattle and explained the situation. The next morning I lay in the chair getting an X-ray. The dentist rolled in, gloves on, looking anxious. It looked bad, real bad. But within seconds was laughing. Too much Turkish coffee and tea had stained my bottom teeth beyond recognition! After a few minutes of polishing, crisis averted. Holy shit haha. Back in the States with all my teeth, purchases, and a wealth of knowledge, I made it home.
Highly recommend a lengthy stay in Turkey, particularly near the Agean Coast :)
Shop the Collection