When I was in my late teens in Boston there was a “pioneering” eight screen slide show called “Where’s Boston?” that provided an introduction of the city’s neighborhoods and culture to visitors. As Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played in the background, the slides would dissolve in and out as voices of a variety of Bostonians talked about their neighborhoods, traditions, seasonal changes, family gatherings, the traffic, their long suffering dedication to the Red Sox and many other uniquely Boston tales. My favorite quote was toward the end where an older lady with a thick Boston accent declares, “I was bawn heah and I’ll die heah”.
After spending 5 weeks in Turkey, I couldn’t possibly provide enough depth to present a true “Where’s Turkey” but I can say that as a newcomer to this country, much like the first time visitors to Boston, I found at least eight screens worth of multi-faceted, hardworking, welcoming and beautiful diversity. It is a land that found us one day swimming in the Aegean and the next day walking through strange pools of hot springs that came out of a white rock formation like nothing we’d ever seen. We’ve seen posh restaurants and back alley lokanta diners that could have been your grandmother’s kitchen with a few extra tables. We rode on a yacht and forged through 5000 year old ruins in the hot sun. We’ve bargained with shop owners in the Grand Bazaar and shopped at downtown malls that were similar to those in Minneapolis. We’ve been shoulder to shoulder with tourists of all shapes, sizes and nationalities and we’ve been alone with our own thoughts on the bus, strolling down the sidewalk or on a park bench. We have had interesting conversations with local Turks, some of whom don’t really like the US and some who opened their homes up and fed us as though we were VIPs. Like Boston, Turkey is many different “locations” and because it is a melting pot of so many lands, visitors will never be able to pigeon-hole it into any one category. Where’s Turkey? It is east, west, north and south. It is hot and dry as well as wet and misty. It is Muslim-heavy, Muslim-lite and every level in between. It is logical discussion; it is passionately arguing conservatives versus liberals. It is the noise and excitement of Istanbul and the lovely, quiet, chunkily-cobblestoned streets with chickens, dogs and kittens winding their way through the town of Zeytinli. It is mountains and flatlands, fertile and dusty, ancient and modern. Pictures can speak a thousand words but that wouldn’t be enough to present Turkey to someone who has never experienced walking, ferrying, riding the bus, tram or subway through the cities, towns, shores and countryside. I wasn’t born here and I likely won’t die here but I’ll share a few pictures in a weak attempt to share what we’ve experienced during our unique search for Turkey: