Admittedly when Turkey was thrown onto our list of possible trips late last year, I was a bit reluctant to vote for it. There are still so many “basic” place I haven’t yet visited, like, um, Italy! Anyway, after much debate my friends and I selected seven cities across the Turkish landscape for our (much needed) 12 day holiday.
From the second we landed to the hour we departed — my experience in Turkey, with all of its magnanimously-hospitable people, deeply-diverse culture, beautifully-varied landscapes and hundreds of eggplant dishes (and some others as well :), blew my expectations out of the water. The country, which straddles both Europe and Asia, is filled with a patchwork of cultural influences due to cross-continental invasions including Greek, Persian, Celts, Romans, Macedonians, Arabs, Mongols (you get the idea..). So Turkish culture today is an unexpected (at least for me) blend of Greek and Turkish, Muslim and Christian elements.
Like a Turkish hamam, Istanbul’s ancient, older and new cultures expose layers of time. For example the Hagia Sofia mosque was the world’s largest Catholic cathedral for a thousand years until the 16th century when it was plastered, built over as a mosque. Today, the peeled layers of plaster in this mosque-turned-museum reveal the story of the Holy Trinity laid out in mosaic tiles (see photo 5-8 in the above gallery or click here). It was ironic and amazing to see these two deeply historic religions, in perpetually holy-warring circumstances, coexist as a timeless and unified work of art.
That is just one example of Turkey’s beautifully complex culture. Istanbul itself contains many many many more mind-boggling artifacts, relics, museums that layer on its rich and multifaceted mix of histories, of which I hope you’ll take the time out to see!
Ciragan Palace Kempinski
Ciragan Caddesi 32
+90 212 326 4646