Turkey…. teşekkür ederim!

As the bus drove in the Cappadocia region I was totally blown away by the amazing rock formations. This place is vast and freaking amazing. I have never seen anything like it before. It was inhabited by Christians as far back as biblical times and is actually mentioned in the bible (1 Peter 1:1 and Acts 2:9 for those who are interested). The inhabitants created homes and churches in the volcanic rock formations which still exist today. The Seljuk Turks took the area over in the 11th and 12th century with the last Christians migrating out of the area in 1924-26. Muslims and Christians were cohabitants in the regions of 8 centuries before that. Now, the area is totally Muslim, as is the rest of Turkey (well, 99.8% according to government statistics).

I was staying in Uçhisar with a view of the Uçhisar Castle which is magnificent and can be seen from most places in this spectacular area. There were not many international tourists in Uçhisar as there was in Göreme so I was glad I ended up there. On the second day I caught a public bus to Göreme and walked to the Göreme Outdoor Museum which was pretty amazing (and very full of tourists!) and then walked back through the rock formations. Another day I walked from my hotel through Pigeon Valley where I ended back in Göreme. To explore anywhere else, one needs transport as there are no public buses and it is too far to walk. So it’s either a tour bus (no thanks), a taxi (expensive!) or hiring your own wheels. I was going to hire a scooter however there were storms predicted (which actually didn’t occur that day) so I hired a car and drove around to see Fairy Chimneys, Zelve Outdoor Museum, Devrent Valley, Twin Fairies and the Underground City. It was all rather spectacular! Although I definitely don’t do well in confined spaces like the underground city. It took a lot for me not to run away and I ended up twisting my ankle and probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I could have. I actually didn’t realise how uncomfortable I am in small confined spaces until then. Give me light and air, preferably the outdoors, and I am a very happy vegemite!

While I was there I met some people… men of course as for some reason it is not as easy to talk to women. There was a tour operator in Göreme who, when I arrived in the bus from Konya, followed up with the hotel and ended up driving me there. He wanted to take me places to see stuff and I went with him the see Love Valley. He said that he loves Australians as they have a great sense of humour. I suppose I do. I didn’t end up hanging out with him after that but I appreciated his hospitality. Then there was a lovely young man who was working at the hotel during his university break. He is from Afghanistan and moved to Turkey 8 years ago. We chatted a lot about life, the universe and everything. I think he probably thinks I’m a bit crazy however he seemed to appreciate a little craziness in his life. And then there is the guy who became my wine drinking buddy. We talked a lot about politics and the problems with the system…and about music. My favourite subjects! He was very cool to hang out with and was probably crazier than me which was great! Once again, I hung out with the locals (more or less) which is something I really do enjoy.

After 6 days of exploring this magnificent countryside and chatting to these 2 beautiful men, I headed back to Istanbul. I stayed in this very cute little self contained apartment above a gift shop near Galata Tower. It’s a pretty cool part of Istanbul. I wandered around and then walked over the bridge to Sultanahmet. I couldn’t believe the difference from when I was in Istanbul before heading south! There were so many tourists! When I was in Istanbul prior to this it was Ramadan and there were few tourists and even the locals were pretty low key. It felt a lot more manageable! I actually missed the mosques while I was in Cappadocia and it was lovely to see the skyline of Istanbul with its multiple mosques. I ended up spending the afternoon and evening with STG (refer to past post) and his brother and nephew who also works in the carpet shop. I actually really enjoyed hanging out with STGs nephew chatting and being slaughtered in some Turkish game he loves playing (which cost me an expensive ice cream desert and tea). He is in his early 20’s with a lot of clarity in relation to his values and what’s important to him. However, he will always be the salesman as he has had the benefit of his uncles as teachers.

As I say farewell to Turkey, I reflect on what gems of wisdom this part of my journey has imparted to me. Turkey is an amazingly diverse country with beautiful cities and even more beautiful natural phenomenon and historical significance. I know that there is so much more to see, so you never know, maybe I will return one day. The people are interesting and generally incredibly helpful, regardless of me not speaking Turkish (nor them English). I didn’t really get to know any women as they seem to be less ‘out there’ than the men and the men are definitely ‘out there’. As with everywhere and everyone, they have an agenda which can be very direct or not so clear however, once again, it is about being aware of agendas and understanding how they impact on you. I have probably fallen a little short on this while in Turkey, however, once again the repercussions of this are not as significant as they could have been. In saying that, this part of the journey has taught me more about my strength and my ability to bounce back when I feel like I have fucked up or lost my motivation…. and my ability to smile and laugh regardless.

In Australia I have generally felt invisible as a woman, however my experiences in Turkey have made me feel vibrant and at 58 years old I feel more attractive than I have ever felt in my life. My ego has definitely been stroked which is a fleeting and shallow feeling and to be perceived as attractive is not that important but this is bigger than that. And I’m not just talking about the men who hit on every female tourist they see. I’m talking about those who also commented and reacted to me smiling, being friendly and maybe being a little crazy in a positive way. Those who appreciated these facets of my personality. I intend to embrace the beauty and positive energy that Turkish men (and women) have seen in me and to exude the confidence that comes from that rather than continuously putting myself down and attempting to hide (although I have never been that successful in hiding I have definitely felt the need to). Turkey has taught me that it is ok to be who I am… every aspect of me. So I’m not going to attempt to tone down or change who I am to please anyone again (unless necessary from my perspective). I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, however, I am who I am – flaws, fuck ups and all – and that’s ok.

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