Tremendous Turkey

Now its just about April and I head back to London where I do some more visiting before heading down to Turkey. Now just for the record, I could probably write an entire book about Turkey. I really loved it there. But for the sake of brevity and to keep myself on point, I will give you a summary. But do know that this is one place I highly recommend.

The first few weeks I spent traveling with Melanie, a young lady from New Jersey I had met a few years ago on a cruiseship. We wandered around Istanbul for the first week eating a lot of Ficcin (yummiest restaurant paired with amazing staff at unheardof prices), ogling the architecture (mosques), going to the markets and spas (hammam) then stuffing our faces with baklava. We then jumped on a train to Cappadocia where the fairy chimneys are. This very unique landscape had me captivated from the moment I stepped off the bus.

I loved everything about this place…how it looked, how it felt, and the people. Another must see. We were lucky enough to have some locals show us around educating us all the while. I really didn’t expect to be that interested in the whole history and story behind this very unique place but I couldn’t help but get completely fascinated by the elaborate underground cities, the caves that these people lived in for years while in hiding from persecution, and the endearing nature of these humble people. Loved it. I was crawling into holes and exploring tunnels that I don’t think I was supposed to but I just couldn’t help my curiosity.

After we left Cappadocia, Melanie and I headed down to Antalya which is in the southern coast of Turkey. I met up with some friends I was referred to by some other friends I had been referred to in Istanbul by some Turkish guys I had met in Croatia. Well that is really how it is with the Turks. Everyone seems to know someone in the place you are heading and is more than happy to arrange a meeting. It really is one of, if not the, most hospitable country I have visited thus far. I kept getting passed from family to family and they really couldn’t do enough for me feeding me, showing me around, giving me language and history lessons, and generally treating me like one of their own.

Melanie and I ended up heading to Fethiye to see Emre’s (our host in Antalya) sweet mom and then chilled out on the beach for a few days until we were to part ways. She flew back to New York and I was able to get back into my groove. I reset myself by staying put at this heavenly hotel I had discovered which had not only the most peaceful and serene environment but the kindest owners. Again, treating me like one of their own. I felt so comfortable and happy here, I decided to attempt a ten day water fast. It was a detox/cleanse I had been considering for sometime and this just seemed like the right place and time.

It was hard. Seriously. I didn’t do much of anything but I sure did appreciate the unfettered nature that surrounded me and the support of the family who ran the place. It was probably the only reason I made it through. At the end of the fast I gradually began refeeding on their homemade organic fare prepared fresh everyday and man, food had never tasted so good. I loved Yonka Lodge and plan to go back there in the future, perhaps to take someone special. It’s that kind of place. When I was leaving I couldn’t thank them enough. I remarked how amazing it felt to be treated so genuinely like family. Out came the best reply: You make it easy.

Next I visited a lovely woman called Belgin a short bus ride north and we bonded for a few days in her new flat. Then I gradually made my way back down the coast to Olympos where I would discover my true Turkish family waited for me. I can’t really even describe how lovely my  time was with them. I really felt at home and it was one of the only times I cried when I have had to leave a place. Cengiz made me feel right at home and his daughter Ezgi and I bonded instantly. As a family, we played with the new born kittens, swam in the ocean, explored the ruins, broke bread together, and enjoyed sharing our souls into the early hours of the morning in front of the fire.

When it was finally time for me to leave Olympos, I couldn’t hold back the tears. I really felt like I belonged here. I knew I would miss them but this was pretty strange for me to get so attached so quickly. In any case, I knew that I would return. Turkey had quickly taken its place in my top three countries. And the best part? It didn’t even have to try.

I hitchhiked back up to Antalya again to stay with a fellow couch surfer Turker who treated me to a yummy Turkish style ravioli and my favorite coconut popsicles. Finally he delivered me to the airport shuttle where I proceeded to catch my middle of the night flight. On the other side of the one hour jaunt, Burak was waiting for me to host me for my remaining two days in Istanbul. We spent the next day doing everything I wanted to do, going where I wanted and it was generally a very successful Carmella Day. I was somewhat surprised how easily this came to my new friend…had  he heard of this unique holiday before? He was so unbelievably generous that I had to do something to bring some balance. I ended up buying him some pretty red flowers from one of the gypsy vendors on the side of the street. He seemed very surprised and shocked (once he actually let me perform the act of kindness) and I realized no one had ever bought him flowers before. I guess there are lots of guys out there who have never received flowers…sadly.

Early the next morning I was delivered to the airport shuttle not before having my last stuffing of savory Turkish breakfast pastries. Honestly, I have gained 20 plus pounds in the time I spent in Turkey  and I know that I will pay for that once I get back to Canada for the summer. There is no way I will fit into my shorts if I don’t make a serious change in my habits. So the plan is to head back home, get my eating under control and hit the gym.

But first a couple more stops including Aberdeen Scotland where I visited a fellow Canadian friend. Then down to see Sonya and her kidlettes one last time before jetting back to Canada. It was good to wind down my trip with a hug from good friends. I can honestly say I am pretty ready to go home for a while.

Grateful for extreme hospitality.


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