“I love colors and I love animals,” exclaimed Amon as he flashed a toothless smile.
The quiet cobblestone streets of Antalya, located in southern Turkey along the Mediterranean.
Another view of a peaceful Antalya avenue.
Turkey is flooded with rug-makers and rug shops.
A tea merchant molds his powdery delights into pyramids.
The southern turquoise shores of Antalya.
Stopping for fresh-pressed pomengranate juice on the way to Cappadocia.
Investigating one of the many cave formations in Cappadocia. Apparently people were a bit smaller back then…
Plucking Cappadocian grapes from the vine.
Perfectly lit fairy chimneys.
Mighty Mt. Erciyes in the distance.
This phallic display is called “the valley of love.”
Peering out onto the Goreme valley.
An ancient underground city where Christians took refuge during times of persecution.
Another rough day for the elder Turkish men.
A road block on the way back from Cappadocia.
Heading out of a small village after a cold night in a deserted little inn.
A still night in Geyikbeyiri after rock climbing all day.
An intimate goat experience at the climbing wall in Geyikbeyiri.
Lovely discoveries in the forest near Geyikbeyiri
Ancient castle ruins on the shores of Cirali
After a 10-mile trek, this became our camp spot for the evening.
And just around the corner…
And just down the hill…
On the way “home” after our trek.
Ancient Lycian ruins
The famed Blue Mosque, Istanbul.
The Turks know how to indulge.
Some of the best baclava in the world
I reccomend the pistachio variety
Sipping a Turkish beer while a band plays country songs that spark a pub-wide sing-a-long
Spotted on a side street in Istanbul.
A gift from the French to the Turks in the early 1900s.
Old bricks that once paved ancient palaces.
A Roman tomb remarkably preserved.
A close encounter with some sleek ancient tombs.
A lively night in Istanbul.
OK, but just one more piece.
On the ferry crossing the Bosphorous Strait.
Fishers compete for the catch of the day.
Smoked, spiced and wrapped in warm pita.
Istanbul at dawn–the only time of day the city sleeps.
A former church that was transformed into a mosque when the Ottoman Empire came into power, the Hagia Sophia is an amalgam of both Christian and Muslim faith.
In front of the Blue Mosque.
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.