Light rain and gloom greeted us as we made the drive from the airport to our hotel. Tired from a long day of travel, I could barely keep my heavy eyes open as our heated van made its way into Göreme, one of the hubs of fairy chimney country. But Göreme is anything but bustling. Upon stepping out of our van once we arrived to Divan Cave House, one of Cappadocia’s many boutique hotels, we were immediately enveloped by peace and quiet. I knew then that our stay was going to be the perfect place to pause from our busy travels through Turkey. More
Istanbul’s a city that’s seen it all. Since its founding 600 years before Christ and in the centuries since, the Romans, Byzantines, Latins, and Ottomans have each deemed Istanbul a suitable capital for their respective empires. Throughout the years, the city’s geography has worked in its favor. Straddling the Asian and European continents hasn’t been without its advantages as the city has attracted merchants from all corners of the globe to its shores in hopes of trading their spices, textiles, and wares.
There’s a seaside town along the Aegean coast where people traveling by land and sea converge. This is Kuşadasi – the gateway to Ephesus, a city once claimed by the Greeks and later by the Romans and that was one of the seven churches of Asia referenced in the Book of Revelation. Kuşadasi is a bustling port city that welcomes cruise ships carrying passengers from all corners of the globe and from all walks of life. More
When you get off the tram line at Sultanahmet, walk past the Hippodrome, once the center of Constantinople’s (Istanbul) political and athletic life. As you walk through the Hippodrome you’ll pass the Obelisk of Thutmosis and the Serpent Column, an ancient Greek sacrificial tripod that was originally housed in Delphi. You can’t miss the Serpent Column since it’s right in front of the Blue Mosque on your left and is surrounded by fencing. On your right, you’ll see a hotel with an inviting restaurant in front of it. That’s not the hotel you’re staying at, but your Istanbul hotel is nearby. Keep walking.
Our host introduces her, but I don’t remember her name. She doesn’t pause to crack a smile or to look up from work. Indeed, she’s very busy – busy making a living. As she works in silence, slightly hunched over, he tells us a bit about her and the other women like her that work in this factory. How they commute here from their villages each day to earn a living making the rugs that her people pray and rest on and those that sit neatly beneath our coffee tables in our American homes. He explains that if she wasn’t weaving for a living, tradition would nevertheless require her to learn this art as rural Turkish girls are taught to weave in order to make gifts for their dowries. More
Most people rave about Paris, Amsterdam, London, and New York. And don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love those cities too. But I’ve said it once before, and I’ll say it again – I’m madly in love with Istanbul. It’s probably one of my favorite urban destinations in the world to date, if not my favorite. The streets of Istanbul are flooded with history, and it seems that every corner houses a site of historical or religious significance. More
We’d spent the entire day discovering Cappadocia from every possible angle. The morning found us exploring deep below its volcanic terrain in Derinkuyu, and the afternoon took us on a long hike through the verdant Ihlara Valley where at every turn we encountered postcard worthy scenes of a quietly rushing river, leaves in every shade of autumn, and hillside caves that people once lived and worshiped in. More
During one of our volunteer vacations a few years ago, I traveled to Turkey with my husband Jave, my brother Aaron, my nephew, and a few family friends. To help us meet our volunteer goal for the trip, a former school teacher in Istanbul named Emrah arranged for us to teach an English lesson to some local school children there.
Our guide points to a crescent-shaped nook that’s been carved out of the rock with an entry and an exit for people to walk through.
“The idea is that they could enter through one point of the passageway and come out through the other end…,” I hear our guide explain, not really understanding what the residents who lived here thousands of years ago used this passageway for. Still, our group of about twenty lines up to enter and exit as instructed.
I’m within the tight walls of the nook with my brother Aaron in front of me, Jave behind me, and several people both in front of and behind us. Standing upright is not an option within the walls, and sharing the space with so many people means that ventilation is poor. More
When most people think of Istanbul, they think of its rich history and culture. An important part of the city’s evolving culture is its street food scene. In Istanbul, there’s no shortage of street food vendors selling a variety of snacks and meals including roasted chestnuts, roasted corn, simit, traditional Ottoman taffy candy, ice cream, and so much more!
One of the things I was most looking forward to trying while in Istanbul were the fish sandwiches sold from boats on the western side of the Galata Bridge in Eminönü. These ornate boats are called balik-ekmek, and they’re tied to the quay which means that you’ll usually find them rocking and rolling with the tide. More