Some Thoughts About Turkey

My favorite picture I took was of this guy selling flags in Istanbul. I wonder if there's someone's blog somewhere with a picture of me.
My favorite picture I took was of this guy selling flags in Istanbul. I wonder if there’s someone’s blog somewhere with a picture of me.


Yes, I went to Turkey. That’s sort of why I’ve disappeared from the internet, though that may have as much to do with the fact that I’ve also simply stopped sleeping. People keep asking if I’m jet lagged and if that’s why I look so terrible. But, I’m pretty sure I’ve been back for a quite a few days. I think it’s more the lack of sleeping.

Turkey is an interesting place. I don’t have a ton of insight into it, since I was only there for a week and we mostly were on a strict schedule of five-hour dinners and hitting all the highlights. There’s a lot of history, including a bunch I didn’t know, and a pretty big cultural divide I think between eastern and western Turkey. I think. Because there really was no way I was going to the south-east border to confirm that suspicion. I don’t know if you know this, but I’m super American. I basically can be spotted for American from across a packed crowd. I think it’s the hair and the clothes and the accent and the attitude. After some time in Morocco (back in the day), I’d get mistaken for Belgian occassionally, but that was only after I got a lot quieter and collapsed in on myself from the months of misunderstandings and general wearing down of being a woman traveling by yourself. So.

"Come, spend your money here."
“Come, spend your money here.” And other things shouted as we walked by.


Here are some Turkish observations:

– Istanbul is really crowded. There are 15 million people there and I’m pretty sure not a single one of them gives a rat’s ass about not walking in front of moving cars.
– Izmir was my favorite of the places we went.
– In Izmir, a bunch of teenagers (or tiny college kids, who knows) hung out in the big square at night to roller-blade.
– There were also leeches for sale at the bazaar/market. And wedding dresses. And tupperware. And scuba gear.
– Stray kitten were everywhere. Not cats, kittens, even baby kittens. They were like the rats of Turkey, but cuter. See:

History cats.
History cats.

– People don’t seem to run outside much. At first, I thought maybe they just aren’t that into the whole fitness thing fills up nearly every large American park on weekends. But, on closer inspection, the gyms were full. (I even walked in on a cycling class in the hallway of the hotel gym full of local, very attractive and very made-up yuppie Turkish women, and a DJ.) But, I did not see a single woman, besides me, getting her sweat on outside. Evidently, though, there was a Northface ultra in Cappadocia, which I totally should have done if I had known about it beforehand, and there were women who finished it. So, who knows. Maybe I’m completely wrong.
– They are into their swimming though. Nice pools.
– I saw one person in spandex riding a road bike — through the insane Istanbul traffic. That’s got to be rough.
– If you are interested in working out not indoors, head to the waterfront. There are really nice paths in most of the coastal towns and crazy big palaces that have now been turned into hotels. And, it’s a worthwhile way to see things and people you wouldn’t usually see.
– Of all the tourist sites — and Turkey has a lot, because it has a lot of history — Ephesus was the one that was totally worth it.
– Do the tourist places, yes, because they’re impressive, but wander around some too. Turkey strikes me as a place that can’t be known without wandering, and I don’t feel like I did enough of it.

As someone who hates tourists on principle (and also because they're The Worst in Marin), it was quite hard being one.
As someone who hates tourists on principle (and also because they’re The Worst in Marin), it was quite hard being one.

– For somewhat understandable reasons, Americans aren’t that in to going to Turkey right now. I get that. But, in the Western big cities and along the coast I don’t think you have a ton to worry about. It’s a total cross between Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and you should mix right in just fine, unless you’re an idiot. Obviously, there’s no guarantee that nothing would happen, but it seems ok. I would, though, probably stay a decent amount away from the Syrian border.
– I went to Turkey as part of a media press trip for travel writers with Trafalgar Tours. And, they were all totally nice and 96% of the people were cool. And, if tour groups are your thing, they seem to do a very solid job. But, groups (or, really, people in general) are not my thing and I was so, so, so tired.
– Also, I overate beluga caviar at one point. I think that sums things up.

Selfies in the Hagia Sophia.