A friend of mine, a 1st generation Turkish American, recently took a trip to Turkey to show her 12 year old daughter their ancestral homeland. Her daughter was curious about her heritage and her grandfather wanted to treat her to this opportunity. I interviewed this Turkish beauty about her very meaningful summer trip.
Why did you visit Turkey this summer and had you ever been before?
I have been to Cyprus and Turkey before. My dad lives in Turkey half the year. He has a summer home in Cesme which is a seasonal place for Turkish people. It’s in the Aegean Sea. My daughter is 12 years old and we wanted her to see the place of her heritage. 12 years old is a good age for this because I think if she had gone any earlier, she wouldn’t be able to appreciate it.
What were your itinerary highlights? What do you recommend that people do and see in Turkey?
Cesme is a wonderful place. There’s a variety of things to do there from windsurfing to seeing historical places. Cesme is one of the top two places in the world for windsurfing! There is a place on the bay where they served good food. Bodrum was also one of my favorite places. It’s beautiful and reminds me of the pictures you see of Greece. We hired a driver (which is a common thing to do in Turkey) to take us to Bodrum and Ephesus. In Ephesus, we went up a winding road to the house of the Virgin Mary. We lit candles to make a prayer. It was a very spiritual experience.
Istanbul was my #1 favorite place. The Blue Mosque is impressive. The Basilica Cistern, near the Blue Mosque, is an ancient water system where they have found two columns held up by Medusa heads.
Topkapi Palace was wonderful. Istanbul had the grand bazaar which had approximately 4,000 stores. Purses, gold, silver, home decor, clothes, etc……There were back stores that they took us, too. It was interesting to see how they spoke to us once they knew we were Turkish. They suddenly offered us discounts.
Bosphorus, which is the strait that divides Asia and Europe, is a recommended place to go. It connects the two continents. We ate a meal there at nice restaurant. It is especially nice at night. Bosphorus is pretty amazing. A lot of weddings happen at a restaurant on the Bosphorus, next to the river. There was a Mosque next to us and every few minutes, they let out these pretty lanterns that had a candlelight flame in the air that would fly up and then disintegrate. The restaurant is called Feriye Lokantasi.
If you could describe the perfect Turkish meal, what would it be?
Doner kebab which is the Turkish “gyro”. The fish is prepared differently there and it was very good. They always serve Turkish coffee after every meal and they also serve Raki (a Turkish alcoholic drink). Turkish meals are big. Borek is a pastry with cheese that we had at a darling garden restaurant that we enjoyed. They had it at the bazaar in an adorable outside garden restaurant where they are made fresh!
Describe your Turkish heritage and what it means to you? Are you fluent in Turkish and are you full-Turkish?
I am 100% Turkish….my whole family is. Yes, I’m fluent. I was so impressed with the hospitality in Turkey. For example, a friend of my parents, who didn’t even know me, was so hospitable to me and my daughter! She took us to the Izmir textiles and treated us so well, simply because she was friends with my parents! We drove to Bodrum to see my 90 year old great uncle and his daughter (my cousin). He is the only one alive on my grandfather’s side of the family. They were so open and generous…..so excited to see us.
Are there any Turkish customs you learned on your trip that you’ve incorporated in your routine back home?
What was the flight like to Turkey?
It was 12-14 hours I think. We flew to Houston, Istanbul, Izmir and then took a car to Cesme.
Any hotel recommendations?
Conrad Hotel in Istanbul had great security! They even checked under the car!
How did this trip enrich your life?
The hospitality was impressive. I was very proud of the palaces and mosques there. We don’t have the roots here where I live and many of my ancestors are no longer alive so it was important for me to show my daughter how amazing her culture is.