Turkish Trails

Trip Start Sep 15, 2010
Trip End Jul 23, 2011

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Turkey ... a country of cross roads for continents, cultures and religions.  A place where my head is starting to spin ...

Perhaps it's the sheer size of Istanbul (population 18 million) or it was just a bad experience, but the first few hours in Turkey did not make for an easy adjustment.  While coming into the city on a crowded airport tram, a man standing six inches in front of me slid his hands down his pants and started masturbating.  Having completely lost my voice while in Greece and unable to move or speak any Turkish, I just turned my head away and slowly started to cry.

I then spent 45 minutes in the rain trying to find a hostel while dozens of men asked if I needed help or wanted an umbrella.  I finally got directions from a Turkish-American business owner who proceeded to give me a lecture about being careful or it costing my life.  "Welcome to Turkey," I thought.

Sometimes the good thing about bad experiences is that you can only go up from there.  It's taken me at least a week to fully come back around, but I've learned at least one good lesson from that day.  It may be completely against my nature, but I have now mastered the art making no eye contact, keeping my jaw shut and walking straight ahead.  Of course sometimes I walk right past my hostel, but for the most part no one bothers me.

After three days in Istanbul, I took a 12 hour bus ride to Cappadocia.  This magical place is located in central Anatolia and consists of unusual lava rock formations and fairy chimney houses.  It is also were the first Christians settled while escaping persecution from the Roman Empire.  On the first day I explored the valleys until sunset with two nice Dutch guys.  I also slept like a rock in my cave hostel. ;) 

After Cappadocia, I took a quick trip off the beaten tourist trail to the conservative business city of Kayseri.  This is were the U.S. embassy houses one of it's "American Corners."  These corners are designed to be resource centers for local residents wanting to learn about American culture, history and politics.  Since I wrote my thesis on public diplomacy and religious freedom in the Middle East I want to see first-hand how these centers operate and what kind of information is available (thanks to our tax dollars, no less).

Despite the website saying the center was "Open to the Public," I showed up only to find it closed.  I knew I might run this risk but I also wanted to know what an ordinary Turkish person might encounter.  I asked a security guard for assistance and he found a friendly English teacher to let me in the room.  It was a pretty bare bones office with four bookshelves, a dozen DVDs  and two computers.  I talked with the teacher for 20 minutes and she had a very positive view of U.S.-Turkish relations.  I found this encouraging, however when I chatted with a young student helping me find my way back to the bus station she said relations between the U.S. and Turkey are poor, especially because of our policies in Israel.  I inquired if the American Corner is a place where people would even go and she just scrunched her face and said "not really."  Analyzing these two viewpoints may be somewhat trivial, but it does makes me look forward to visiting more American Corners and spending the next six weeks in Israel.
After two more overnight buses, I was happy to spend my final days meeting six friends of friends in Istanbul.  I enjoyed rich Turkish cuisine, burned it off with a belly dancing class and asked so many questions about head scarves, political freedoms and E.U. membership that my face might as well have turned Bosphorus blue. 

All in all, my time in Turkey was slightly challenging but also rewarding.  I find the less I try to plan things and the more I allow the Spirit to lead me the better the journey unfolds.
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RA on

Turkey!!!! You are a few steps closer to Egypt! YAY. I can't wait for you to be there, FINALLY. I have always wanted to go to Turkey though.

Kevin Gilbert on

I was sure a year long trip couldn't be all good. But if that is the worst of it, I think you'll be ok!

I wish I couild have met such a super dog!

Thanks for sharing your stories. They make my day (even the ones that aren't all good news)

Susan Carr on

Thank you for sharing. I was in Turkey some 35 years ago. You can only imagine what it was like then. Very memorable for me too. We went out into the Sea of Marmara (I think that is it) and then coming back, landed on Asiatic side of Instanbul where no one spoke any English and I spoke no Turkish. It is a most interesting country. What a grand tour! Susan

Caroline House-Freeman on

Sending you a big hug and surrounding you with much love and protection.
Love you ,

Rob on

Glad to hear that things improved after the shaky start!

We will pray some smiles your way :)

Lisa-Joy on

Hello Crystal! I am now all caught up on your blog and what a wonderful way to spend some time this morning--traveling with you, virtually, at least! Your entries are wonderful--colorful, touching and real! I look forward to reading each and every detail of your glorious adventure. Stay safe! XO --Lisa-Joy

Catherine Shaw on

A cave hostel, how wonderful! Yes, letting the spirit lead works so well, enjoy!!

Caitlin on

Hey love - I was just turned on to this site by another traveler - you may find it useful: http://www.indagare.com/

Sorry your first day in Turkey was so challenging. You're right - it can only go uphill from there! Looking forward to your posts from Israel. Love you!

Hüseyin Seyfi on

People of the world is different,bad and good, all come together; travelers should be ready for it.
Turks are hospitable and helpful. However traditional behavior is changing, but slowly.Turkey is a very large country. There is so much sightseeing and to see, that each one beautiful than other. I hope you come again.

Debra on

Hi Crystal
Just caught up with the reading. Sorry for your experience. Traveling is like that, some good some bad, it will make you a stronger person.
Much love to you, be safe!

Lisa Schultz on

I also had an 'interesting' time in Turkey. We will have to exchange stories when you get back. Hope you are enjoying your adventure. I miss my traveling days...

seniye on

Dear Ms, I was wondering why you had a negative attitude about the American Corner..I guess the expression "open to poublic" does not mean "open 24 hours", and I would suggest you to be more constructive when criticising a place taht you have seen only once! And, if the Corner is a bare bone office, would you consider donating some more equipment?? Thank you!

seniye on

Additionally, as a person who has finished her masters, I am sure you know that 1 person's PERSONAL opinion is not enough to make such a harsh criticism. You need to have enough data to write about this on a blog; otherwise, your finding lacks validity!

crystalwaitekus on

Thanks for your feedback, "Seniye." We haven't met before, but your point is well taken. This blog is not meant to serve as an academic or professional analysis, but rather a simple and personal account of my own observations and experiences.

Seniye on

No doubt of that, Crystal! What I was trying to say was, is writing only about your negative perceptions fair- especially if you have experienced these things only once? Maybe you should talk to more people regarding people's thoughts about Turkey-US relationships to give people sounder information through your blog entry.

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