I am at your Ataturk International Airport as I write this, waiting to board my Turkish Airlines flight back to India. You have welcomed me with arms wide open, charmed me with your beauty, and overwhelmed me with the kindness of your people. In the last 20 days, I have picked up pieces of your language, learned to maneuver your territory, indulged my taste buds in your food, and in a moment I didn’t anticipate, I have come to know you as my home in another part of the world. I quickly built my first impressions of you when I got here, and if there is one thing I would change of them, it is that you are more beautiful and your people more hospitable than I could have imagined.
Oh Turkey, how can I begin to describe your countryside, with its lush green rolling plains, sub-alpine meadows littered with purple, red and yellow colors, and hills dotted with needle-pine forests. Or capture the charm of your ancient Ottoman architecture, whose wooden facades and intricate domes have stood the test of time. Or illustrate in words, the colors of your coastal towns, deep blue during the day and deep red at sunset. Or pay my homage to your beautiful mosques and minarets in their location amid small hillside village clusters. Or paint the vast barren landscapes and their sparkling lakes at your centre. Or portray life as it once were in your underground cave cities, now only circled by bats at dusk. Or capture the essence of the city that is Istanbul, modern, traditional, European, Asian, all at the same time.
Turkey, I’m leaving you with a heavy heart, etched with the magnanimity of your people.
No one told me that a kind lady in the small town of Safranbolu will open her doors to me on a late rainy afternoon, to feed my vegetarian self a special meal of Peruhi (Turkish pasta) and Pasta (cake in Turkish) prepared for a family gathering.
That an old man from a bakery store in Ordu will give me a ride in his truck to the town’s chocolate factory, after I walked 5 km and stumbled into his shop for directions for the remaining 3 km.
That a family living in an isolated hut on Boztepe Hill will invite me in for a meal of home grown aubergine.
That a blacksmith who found me admiring his creations will invite me in for çay and proclaim his eternal love for Hindistan even though he’s never been there.
That a young otel (hotel) owner in Cide will go out of her way to ensure that I board the right connecting buses to my next destination without losing money or time.
That a cafe owner in the small town of Ordu, where I impulsively got off the bus on my way to Trabzone without a hotel booking or so much as a google search, would treat me to delicious Turkish coffee made with a secret family recipe, then ferry me & my backpack in his car to a lovely boutique hotel which I couldn’t have located myself without speaking Turkish, let aside get the negotiated price he got me.
That the airport guy at Istanbul airport who ferries groceries would give me a chocolate seeing me struggling to find small change to make a phone call.
That a restaurant manager would offer me a whirlwind tour of Guzelyurt after I decided his restaurant was too pricey for me to eat there.
That an English teacher in a small village in Kapadokya would confide in me on how much she misses her mother and tell me everything I know about the Turkish education system.
That so many people would offer me rides to my destinations along the Black Sea, and indulge me in conversations without much of a common language (after first trying to converse in Arabic), and treat me to Turkish tea at the drop of a hat.
You have been good to me, Turkey, and I hope to see you again someday. So long.
PS: This post is by no means, the end of my travelogues from Turkey. Lots of stories, travelogues & recommendations are waiting to be penned!
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Read more about my adventures in Turkey.