Most memorable in 2012

A new year gifts us with many opportunities, one of which is a reminder to reflect on the past. For me, this includes reminiscing on the place I cherish most from my travels in 2012: Turkey. I traveled to this magical land twice in the last 14 months because after my first visit I became obsessed with its tangible history–Turkey houses more ancient ruins per square mile than any other country in the world; its lush vegetation–imagine endless amounts of voluptuous pomegranates, ripe grapes, tangy oranges, lemons, figs, olives, you name it; its immense countryside and chaotic metropolises. The Turkish people have also etched an indelible mark in my travel memories. The inhabitants of many of the small pastoral villages possess genuine warmth and unwavering kindness. Despite a language barrier, I had poignant and memorable interactions with Turkish village folk who, time and time again bent over backwards to offer up their hospitality and appreciation for foreign visitors.

Late one night in Geyikbeyiri, a rock climbing mecca in southern Turkey, I was hunting for a restaurant on a shadowy street. The owner of a small red brick eatery had already closed his doors and was relaxing in a chair on the sidewalk. When he realized I was looking for a meal, he reopened his restaurant and him and his wife began busily cooking in the kitchen. They started a crackling fire and brought out dish after dish and beer and beer. The warm crusty pita bread and pickled cabbage and carrots followed by kofte–savory Turkish meat patties made with cumin, garlic, allspice, mint and parsley, comprised one of the best meals I had during my trip. The warmth and hospitality that evening was palpable and looking back, I can’t recall another time where I’ve been the recipient of such earnest neighborliness during my travels, or at home.

From Istanbul’s fabulous chaos to the antiquated Mediterranean village of Cirali, Turkey is a destination bursting with heart and mind-blowing history. Traveling to this ancient, storied land has inspired me to replicate the kindness I experienced when addressing visitors in the little tourist town that I call home.

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