Turkey for Thanksgiving
On the day before Thanksgiving I decided to devote my post to Turkey, I mean the country. (Ha-ha, get the joke?) But seriously, Turkey is a very beautiful country with a rich historical heritage. It incorporates unique features of Mediterranean culture, as well as famous Asian hospitality. Stretching across Eurasia, Turkey perfectly combines European modernism and traditional Islamic values. Everything about this country—its character, history, food, music and nature—has a mysterious touch to it.
I’ve been to Turkey about seven times, usually during my summer school vacations. The balance of quality and price Turkey’s hospitality industry can offer, makes it very attractive as a vacation spot for many price-conscious travelers, especially in Europe due to the country’s proximity and cheap flights.
Before traveling to Turkey, you really have to do your research, as there are so many amazing resorts that are likely to satisfy the preferences of all kinds of tourist personas. And here I am with my own tips. Because Turkey is an especially popular destination among students (talking about price constraints), some of the places are just not as appropriate for families with kids.
For example, Marmaris is the city located on the Mediterranean coast of southwest Turkey, and is notorious for being a top spot for younger audiences who crave parties and alcohol. So if you are one of those, I’d definitely recommend checking it out. It features a mile-long street with numerous bars and night clubs that are famous for their foam parties. I went there when I was 19, so I did find it awesome, but I would definitely not come back when I am 25.
Other Turkish cities such as Antalya, Alanya, Belek, Bodrum, Kemer and Kusadasi, also offer all kinds of tourist entertainment, including varied nightlife, but to a much more moderate extent, which definitely works for me now. Belek is the city of the most luxurious hotels and beautiful sandy beaches. Most of the Turkish resorts here offer an all-included system, which allows eating and drinking as much as you want. Now imagine how dangerous it is. When I stayed at the Gloria Golf Resort, absolutely everything was included in the initial price of the tourist package—food, drinks and even some SPA procedures. And there is something about human nature that just won’t stop us from taking advantage of freebies. So we ate and drank a lot, which inevitably resulted in some fitting-into-clothes complications. Other than that, the service, activities and the weather made that vacation really nice.
Kemer is a different story. Its main distinction from other Turkish resorts are pebble beaches that make the sea look more azure and breathtaking pine forests with a magnificent aroma that spreads throughout the entire city. Kemer’s resorts are perfect for family vacation, as well as for other audiences. But I give my personal preference to the place called Kusadasi (Birds’ Island), which is located on the Aegean coast of west Turkey.
I generally think the Aegean Sea is cleaner and a little colder, which definitely works for me, because I like to spend some time frying under the sun and then dip my steaming body into the coolness of smooth salty water. It’s very refreshing and energizing. Kusadasi’s most popular spot is a night club Kustur situated on top of the rock that dangerously hangs at 100 feet above the sea. The club consists of several bars, a dance floor and a chill-out zone, featuring a ceiling but no walls. Therefore, the view that opens from there is just incredible—an enormous starry sky, a carved coastline that stretches for miles, and the bright lights of the city contribute to the romantic atmosphere of the place.
The old town of Kusadasi is also very entertaining. It features hundreds of street merchants offering all kinds of goods. Wandering around the artisan shops will give you the impression of transferring to a real ancient market, with all its imaginary colors, exotic spices, expensive silks, and of course, loud merchants promoting their goods. It’s really hard not to fall for buying another useless but beautiful knick-knack—that’s how convincing they are.
During that trip we went on to explore Efes, aka Ephesus, an ancient Greek city that is now situated in Turkish territory and is most famous for being home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the acknowledged Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It also features interesting an architectural complex—Turkish bathhouses, also known as hamam. Speaking of which, I highly recommend checking it out. Basically, hamam is a large steam room with marble benches, where first you’re supposed to warm up your body for about 10-15 minutes, and then expose yourself to a professional foam massage, which gives you this incredible feeling of relaxation. Another fascinating touch of history in Efes is the House of Virgin Mary, which according to the legend, was her last home. This place is very popular among Christian pilgrims and is considered sacred.
My favorite excursion in Turkey was going to Pamukkale, a unique natural phenomenon featuring layered cascades of white mineral sediments filled with hot carbonated water. Not far from it, there is an ancient Greek temple buried under the hot mineral water that wells out from the very depth of the earth. It’s so nice to immerse your body into the hot water (100F) and feel how it slowly envelops your body and pinches it from time to time. The resonance between the inside and outside temperatures also makes it heavenly pleasant.
One day we decided to explore authentic Turkish cuisine (as opposed to more international buffet offered at the resort) at a local village, located in the mountains, 100 miles away from our hotel, and it was so worth it. That trip was a pure adventure. We were invited by one of the managers of the Kustur Club who apparently especially appreciated Russian beauty. We absolutely had no idea of what to expect from that trip, but when we got to our destination and saw the amount of food prepared specifically for our party, we gasped in anticipation and excitement. For starters we had lamb and beef kabobs with yogurt sauce and grilled lavash filled with home-made cheese and fresh herbs. And then we were presented with a roasted whole lamb that could feed about 20 people. It was roasted with rosemary and garlic, and the aromatic soft, juicy meat was so seductive that our company of ten finished the whole thing. Complemented by fine house red wine, that food fest was unforgettable.
One of the reasons I especially value that trip is because I met one of my best friends there. Olga now lives in London, and we don’t see each other that often. But we went through so many things together throughout our 12-year-old friendship that the distance doesn’t really matter to us.
I hope you liked my Turkish adventures and will come back for the recipes of the savory Turkish cuisine, which I am going to post shortly.