1 October 2023
It is near impossible to adequately summarize a country. All I can fairly do is highlight my impressions – some good and some bad. Having a professional archaeologist as my guide, I have learned so much about Turkey. Traveling some 3800 miles through western and central Anatolia, I have several takeaways:
Turkish Drivers Be Crazy
Roads are generally very good. Many require paying tolls. Broad, well maintained roads go up mountains, around curves, down mountains. Speeds feel higher than necessary. Tailgating is an art. Village streets and parking requires a Master of Driving degree. Driving a bus requires a PhD. While I would not hesitate to drive the major roads, no way would I want to enter a picturesque village and hope to retain my patience or sanity. Car side mirrors beware!
Gulets and the Aegean Turquoise Coast
No sailing – just sweating
It sounded romantic, relaxing, and cool. It was hot, uncomfortable and busy. The boat did not use sails nor any air conditioning though it had evidence of both. It motored, in total over three nights and two days, maybe 50 miles. Food was good. Cabins were so hot the only way to get sleep was bunking atop the cabins under the stars. Most on board rethought any ideas of romance on the seas and decided one sailing was enough.
Cats and Dogs
Turks love cats and dogs. The furry ones can believe in confidence they will be fed and watered, mostly. However, cats will go through their 9 lives rather quickly. I see a multitude of young cats, generally 6-7 months old. It is common to see very young 6-8 week old kittens, parentless and on their own. There are not so many mature cats. There were few cities where I saw dogs or cats that were neutered. The average mature cat can have 3 litters with a total of 12 kittens per year. Out of those litters of kittens, about 4.7 of them are females. In 7 years, a single pair of cats and their offspring could produce a jaw-dropping total of 420,000 kittens! Turkey needs to get their furry act together and start a serious neutering program.
Rocks and Ruins Packed with Tourists
Tourist are overrunning many sites. Istanbul, Ephesus, Mt Nemrut, and Cappadocia were elbow to elbow. Istanbul on weekends is awful. Many Turks are traveling to see their own country, especially Istanbul. But sites are deluged by huge buses and hoards of selfie-takers. Perhaps more will need to be done to protect sites from damage. I did notice a change just over the last year with the addition of security measures at all sites, including bag scanners.
Trash and More Trash
There is plastic and aluminum cans littered everywhere. It looks like the US roadsides in 1970 before recycling and redemption programs became popular. And if not plastic water bottles, it is cigarette butts. It appears all Turks smoke – a lot! Cigarette butts are thrown everywhere. I note that I see little dog poop in the streets, but everywhere there are cigarette butts.
If one is traveling and visiting several museums around Turkey, the Museum Pass will probably be of great savings. We used it at almost every site visited over our three weeks here. It saved time and money.
Türkiye is a Youngster
I have witnessed the ubiquitous presence of Türkiye’s national flag. Find a tall hill or building, there will be a red flag proudly flying – usually a really big flag. Many streets and businesses fly the national flag. Moreover, the figure of Mustafa Kemel Atüturk is everywhere. I now understand why.
Türkiye is a youngster. The infamous Ottoman Empire did not come to an end until 1923, following the termination of the Ottoman Caliphate (religious authority), giving birth to the Republic of Turkey. The modern red flag of Türkiye, featuring a white star and crescent, had been in use since 1844 but was not officially adopted until 5 June 1936.
It took General Mustafa Kemel Atüturk to drag the empire into a more modern and westernized world. Atüturk, with strong military backing, accomplished this by force. As with all peoples, it was hard for his countrymen to give up old ways and accept the new. Atüturk’s determination was remarkable. Today, he is revered for his tireless efforts and recognized as the father of modern Türkiye. The presence of the national flag is a powerful symbol of this newfound unity as a nation.
Asia Minor is built on ancient rocks
I was attracted to travel in Turkey twice in a year’s time because of its ancient sites and history. It is an amazing country. I was blessed to tour Anatolia with an archaeologist and history major as my guide. Turkey is a historical and archaeological paradise. Damla did an amazing job of explaining the continuity of man and his influences upon the long, long history of this region. I’ll never look at a rounded hill the same. I will always question: what man passed this way and what can his artifacts tell us about his early life?
Touring Turkey and it’s plethora of ancient sites and villages is a wonderful experience. It has been unseasonably hot and humid and air conditioning is not the most dependable. However, the people are kind and friendly, food is good, sweets are excellent, and the beer and wine perfect at the end of the day.
It required visiting Ephesus to realize their beer, Efes, is named after this ancient site. I needed to reread Homer’s Iliad to bring Troy and all those Greek and Roman gods alive. It took my visit to Aphrodisias to realize that so much more remains to be unearthed in Turkey. Moreover, it took all the stories of the Euphrates Basin and the visit to Göbeklitepe to learn that when it comes to Man and our early development, we have just scratched the surface of understanding.