8 Things I learned while living in Turkey

 

Language is not a barrier

This goes for any country in the world, in my opinion.

 

I had the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people from Turkey before actually visiting the country. The general image in my head was that Turkish people don’t speak English. And that didn’t really change after visiting Turkey 🙂

 
However, I didn’t face any communication barriers. Yes, I had to write down H2O to a young waiter when asking for water, and yes, I got a bouquet of flowers instead of bathrobes from the hotel staff, but these are situations that make me smile if I think about them (rather than judgmental or irritated).

 
Oh, the vendors in bazaars– they surely are my favorite! I always had the impression that they could talk in any spoken language in the world- especially the ones in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul 🙂 They even wanted to sell us something using Hungarian- which, let’s face it, is not a really popular language.

 
The only thing I found a bit bothering is the lack of English in the description of food products. Not that I’m a picky or #paleonosugarvegan person, but sometimes it would have been nice to know what was I buying (especially for the products that are specifically Turkish).

 
Instead of getting mad, just smile and use sign language 🙂 Smile is the best currency in the world- and with the undoubted kindness of Turkish people, you’ll be fine. (Also, water is su in Turkish).

 

 

 

I have nothing to be afraid of

 

 

Turkey has faced several terrorist attacks in the past year, and I noticed that people tend to avoid this country because of the ongoing negative image the media is providing currently about it.

 

I arrived last year for the first time in Istanbul exactly the day when the Turkish coup started. It was not a traveler’s dream to see the roads blocked ahead of us by soldiers, or hearing the helicopters flying above us, or waking up at night in the hostel hearing gunshots. Actually, it was terrifying.

 

We had no idea what was going on, we were in the car looking for our hostel, and having some armed soldiers turning us back in the narrow streets of Istanbul was not how I imagined my first hours in Turkey.

 

After a really long night and constantly checking the news we decided that we are not going to let a coup ruin our stay in Istanbul 😀 The hostel owner was a really calm fellow, and with his advice of “you’ll be fine, just don’t go to the areas where you hear gunshots”, we headed to see some of Istanbul’s main attractions (to my parent’s horror 😀 ).

 

During the coup in Turkey, I was afraid. I can’t deny that. Even the thought of people being killed while I’m enjoying the stunning beauty of the Blue Mosque still gives me the chills.

 

Since then I spent five months in Turkey, and there was not a single time I was afraid. A lot of people kept asking me if I was afraid of a terrorist attack or who-knows-what. And I’m not: honestly, the chances of a terrorist attack in Turkey are as high as in any other European country.

 

Turkish tea is better than Turkish coffee

 

Turkish people drink A LOT of tea. A LOT. And if you think Turkish coffee is more popular, you are really wrong: they serve tea (çay) anywhere: at restaurants, bazaars, breakfast, hotels- anywhere. The Turkish tea is always served in a unique little glass with sugar, and you can also choose if you want it to be stronger or lighter (by adding hot water to it).

 

I met an amazing lady from Turkey in Latvia who sure made a very good and tasty Turkish coffee– she even told my fortune from the coffee grains! I had huge expectations from Turkish coffee, really, and I was disappointed 🙁

 

I don’t like Turkish coffee. I’m sorry, I just don’t. I love the serving of it, the little coffee pots they serve it, and that it always comes with a small glass of water (su 🙂 ), but I don’t find it strong enough, and I really hate swallowing coffee grounds.

 

Please, please, if you know a good cafe in Istanbul, let me know, I would be happy to try it 🙂

 

 

 

I am no longer surprised by anything

 

 

I am from Transylvania, and growing up in a Balkan region has its flaws and beauty (translation: I am not surprised if I see horse carriages on our 50-kilometer long highway).

 

Yet, Turkey surprised me in so many ways that I can now say that I am immune to any cultural shock 😀 (Dear Universe, please prove me wrong!).

 

Turkey has it all: colorful markets, unbelievable traffic, unusual habits, patriotism, the boy who cleaned our car while we were having lunch, a rich history and culture, the Atatürk-cult, an unimaginable number of Turkish flags, crazy drivers, amazing food and great hospitality.

 

 

The food is amazing

 

 

The Turkish cuisine is amazing, I seriously can’t think of anything that I ate that wasn’t delicious.

 

From the Iskender kebab to the famous ciger (fried liver) in Edirne, from the salty yogurt (Ayran) to the Turkish pizza or the rich Turkish breakfast- everything is divine.

 

And I didn’t even mention the sweets: the Turkish delights, the baklava, the halva.

 

And pistachios. And street food. And any type of kebab. And köfte. *drooling already*

 

If there is one reason why you should visit Turkey– it’s because of the amazing FOOD.

 

 

The traffic is crazy

 

We took several road trips around Turkey during our stay here, and I was always amazed by the traffic.

 

Drivers tend to forget to use the turn signals. Roundabouts are still something mysterious for many drivers. It is very common to drive a motorcycle without a helmet (at crazy speeds).

 

I still don’t know how do people end up in the middle of the highway, far from any city selling water during a traffic jam. (One of our theory was that they intentionally create a traffic jam just to stop and sell water 😀 ).  

 

I can proudly say that I am no longer afraid to cross a street 😀 (Who needs traffic lights, anyway?)

 

 

Turkish people are proud patriots

 

Turkish people are very patriotic. I was really amazed by it. I can’t blame them, they live in an amazing country. They are very passionate about their country and the founder of the country, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is considered a role model for many Turks.

 

They have a strong respect for the Turkish flag also: it is considered very rude to be disrespectful to the flag by throwing it on the ground or sitting on it. You can spot a Turkish flag everywhere, except printed on items or souvenirs (you can find some, but they are very rare). They really respect it!

 

 

 

Turkey is still an “undiscovered” country

 

 

There are so many amazing cities and landscapes that tend to be forgotten by a foreign tourist. Turkey has so much more to offer!

 

Besides Istanbul and Cappadocia I never really saw any foreigners in the amazing cities we’ve visited. Cities like Edirne or Bursa where you can experience the authentic Ottoman culture.  

 

The Black sea is also an “untouched territory”: we’ve been to a few spectacular beaches with only a handful of people.

 

Next time you are visiting Turkey, make sure to visit more cities: you will be amazed by the culture, architecture, people and a true Turkish experience.

What other places have you visited in Turkey? Tell me about them! 🙂 

And let’s get lost in Turkey! 🙂

11 Comments

  • Emily Hines says:

    Love this post!! I spent a month in Turkey back in 2011 and was blown away. The food is incredible and the people so lovely. Would love to go back and explore more.

  • Sara says:

    Ah this is amazing. I have been dying to go to Turkey and was planning a trip for October but some life altering plans have happened and I had to quit planning it. I would love to be able to go some day and experience all this!

  • Ellis says:

    I visited the notheasytern part of Turkey and it was very beautiful. I was stunned by the beauty of it.And it felt indeed undiscovered. I was the only tourist in town and nobody spoke english. Google Translate can bring you quite far. I am glad you are also writing about security. It is sad people stop visiting TUrkey because of that So I am glad to read articles giving an up to date perspective. Great job.

    • Brigitta says:

      Thank you for your kind words!
      I haven’t been in the Eastern part of Turkey, but I assume is as beautiful like the Western area.
      I really love “undiscovered” places. I hope to change that negative image that Turkey has. It such a wonderful country.
      Google Translate was my best friend many times 🙂

  • Karin says:

    It´s so refreshing to read your article! I have been in Turkey for the past seven months and find the country far more beautiful than what it is given credit for! I always considered it to be this place full of resorts, but there are actually so many amazing natural places like Lycian way and Kemer and I´m really sad I can´t continue traveling more due to my health, my visa won´t be enough for me to recover AND travel. But I´ll be back for sure.

    • Brigitta says:

      Yes, you are so right! Turkey is so much more than the Istanbul-Cappadocia-Antalya triangle 🙂
      I’m sorry to hear about your health- but hey, you can always come back 🙂

  • If you come from a country where espresso is the major coffee everybody drinks, it may be hard to like the Turkish coffee. I live in Bulgaria, where we drink both espresso and Turkish coffee (although you usually boil Turkish coffee at home, it’s not so easy to find it in a cafe). I like both and I can tell the fortune after looking at the grains at the bottom of the cup. 🙂 I don’t think you HAVE to like Turkish coffee 🙂

  • Marvin says:

    Love this post and we love Turkey, too! The people are wonderful and generous….and the food is awesome!

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