Having spent a week in Turkey, I can vouch for the wonderful experience anyone will have who visits the country. It has something special that can’t be described in words. From the lesser known Izmir to mysterious Cappadocia to busy Istanbul, there is something to offer everywhere. Here are my 11 random experiences/observations in Turkey that can give you some insight into life in Turkey.
1. The first 30 seconds in country made the mark itself. This was my best experience so far at immigration. Officer just looked at visa, didn’t even check my name or verified face, handed over the passport back with a big smile and said “Welcome to Turkey”.
2. A lot of Turkish people love Indians. They greeted me with joy as soon as they came to know that I am from ‘Hindistan’. A captain of boat company even offered me a free ride in ferry just because I was from Hindistan and said hello to him. It was a pleasant surprise to know that most of the people especially older generation refer to India as Hindistan which is not in practice in India itself. I proudly used to say each and every time that I am coming from Hindistan :).
3. Turkish people are known for their hospitality and I had the same experience. I met a university student Arif in a domestic flight to Izmir and when he realized I will be taking a metro from airport, he offered to guide me as he was going in same direction. When I went to collect my luggage and it took some time, I thought he must have left by now. To my utter surprise I found him waiting outside the airport even after 20 minutes to make sure I catch the correct train. How many of us would do it for a stranger ?
In another incident when I boarded an overnight bus in super rush (more on that later), I was trying to confirm with fellow passengers and driver whether I am on correct bus. A girl Inzi who was the only english speaking person on bus realized the problem and came forward immediately to offer help. She not only assured me that I am on correct bus but also made sure that I catch the correct shuttle bus next morning.
4. Turkey is really a mix of east and west. It’s a very liberal country but has maintained its own culture. They are modern but at the same time they don’t forget simple things like taking out shoes while entering homes.
5. Bollywood movies are popular in Turkey. Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan and Katrina Kaif are some of the actors liked by people there.
6. Public transport in Turkey is very organized in cities. I didn’t have to take taxi even once during entire trip. Even in a city like Izmir where not many people spoke English, I was able to commute on public transport on my own without any trouble.
7. Overall I felt very safe in Turkey and welcomed. Everyone addressed me as ‘My Friend’ instead of ‘Sir’ or ‘Mr.’ and that made a remarkable difference in comfort level in new country. Of course like any other city in the world, there are some scams and some risky areas but in general there is no major threat at all (applicable to places I visited).
8. Tavla is a very popular board game in Turkey. I could see people playing it everywhere from restaurants to streets to my hotel. They play it very fast and its very difficult to follow. I tried to learn from my hotel owner in Cappadocia but couldn’t understand much :).
9. As it was summer, daylight used to be there till 9 PM. It was completely new experience for me. On the first evening, I came out of hotel at 7:30 in evening and found sun shining enough to make me wear sun glasses. For the first time I had dinner near seaside in an open air restaurant with sun setting behind me :). The time when this picture was taken – 8:45 PM
10. Bread is served complimentary with any dish in restaurants. That is very cost-effective if you are eating alone.
11. Services in buses between cities is either similar or sometimes better than flights. Every bus has an attendant serving snacks, tea or cold drinks. Every seat has a tv in front and buses make stops around every 2 hours.
8 days is very less time to explore such a big country and I just got an introduction of it. I normally think of exploring new regions every time but Turkey is one country where I would like to go back again. After all there are beaches of mediterranean sea, unknown places in black sea-coast and eastern Turkey yet to be explored. Turkey is my new favorite 🙂