Awaken the Senses

6 August, 2016 Turkey

Of all the places I have travelled to, none has left me more pleasantly surprised than Turkey. Stories I heard before venturing here comprised predominantly of holiday resorts, people to be wary of and prior to my trip in September 2015 the rumblings of severe political unrest – not the greatest of recipes. Coming from a country that was once torn in two by unnecessary political hatred I took it with a pinch of salt knowing there must be much more to Turkey than this – my intuition did not let me down. The path my two friends and I followed stayed away from beach resorts; we wanted to engage with both the country and the locals as much as possible.

We decided to divide our time equally between the traditional western town of Selçuk and Istanbul. Our base in Selçuk was an idyllic villa style farming hotel set high on the hills overlooking the town. Every day we awoke to the sound of calls to prayer echoing across the land and the sight of a shepherd leading his flock from the slopes while we sat in the morning sun with our fresh breakfast and planned our day.

The milky turquoise pools stepped down the hillside sparkling in the sun with veins of white limestone creating hypnotic patterns through them

From here we paid visits to the UNESCO protected Pamukkale mineral springs and the ancient city of Ephesus. At Pamukkale I sank into the calcium rich waters naturally heated by the rolling sun in the sky overhead and felt myself melt into the travertine stone behind me. Any stress I had floated out of my body. The milky turquoise pools stepped down the hillside sparkling in the sun with veins of white limestone creating hypnotic patterns through them. Right here on a secluded hillside lies a piece of paradise. The following day wandering through Ephesus was taking a step back through the ages. Intricate columns, archways and stunning amphitheatres where you can literally hear a penny drop gave an insight into how far advanced design was in this corner of the world hundreds of years ago.

Strolling back through Selçuk sweet figs grew in abundance on trees lining the streets and food could be seen laid out to dry in the heat. Every corner turned offered a splash of colour and a glimpse into daily life. Evenings were spent by the pool with our accommodation owners often chatting about Turkey’s current situation from the perspective of those living there. Day to day the people could not have been nicer, I found a welcoming nature about them that translates itself perfectly to a photo, no words are required.

After leaving the slower pace of life in Selçuk I embraced the chaos and adrenaline of Istanbul. It is a city for the senses. First stop was to a traditional Turkish bath to detox and get scrubbed up! A wander through the streets found us lost and mesmerised in the Aladdin’s Cave that is the Grand Bazaar – be prepared to haggle for colourful and beautiful pieces and be a plámáser as much as a plámásee! A stroll through the Spice Bazaar will leave your mouth watering and your eyes in awe as the sight and aromas of stall upon stall of herbal teas, vivid spices and Turkish delight entice you.

Visit the Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern and as you marvel you will not for a second doubt how this place once stood as one of the world’s most powerful empires while our ancestors were living in mud huts and wielding spears. As for food, I urge you to try everything on the menu and get your fill of sweet apple tea while you are there! The locals are generous with a good sense of humour, embrace this and you will enjoy your stay all the more.

This country is amongst the richest you will find in culture, history, experiences and people. For now, 90% of its media press is negative but don’t let that blind you to the reality of the destination as a whole. As with most places once you get there and explore it for yourself you soon realise 90% of it is truly spectacular.