During the Thanksgiving break of 2005, my family and I went to Istanbul, Turkey, to visit relatives we hadn’t seen in years. The plane ride there was a grueling 11 hours long, and the seats only reclined about an inch or two, so it was definitely an experience. Anyway, I was really surprised when mealtime came around on the plane and everyone’s plates had little cards informing us that pork would not be served during the flight. In Islam, Turkey’s primary religion, the consumption of pork is strictly forbidden, so Turkish Airlines made it clear that they would abide by these rules.
Once we landed, my cousin whom I had never seen before greeted us and drove us in a very rusty car to the hotel we were staying at. Upon entering, we were immediately bombarded by hugs, kisses and tears as our relatives hugged us for the first time in over 10 years. Once the celebration calmed down, we entered our “four star” hotel room. Let me tell you something, that room wasn’t even worthy of 1 star. Or even star dust, for that matter. The hallway was dark and eerie, the room reeked of smoke (from the cleaning ladies), the beds were stiff and uncomfortable, and worst of all, the shower area was just the shower head aimed at a drain that was surrounded by an inch of raised tile. A mere inch acts nothing like the bath tubs we were accustomed to, so every time we showered the bathroom became a swimming pool.
Aside from the hotel, Turkey turned out to be an amazingly beautiful place full of culture, good food, and LOTS OF SMOKE. I didn’t realize it then, but looking back I notice that EVERYONE smoked in Turkey, and they did it everywhere. The streets of Istanbul were loud with crazy drivers, and constantly smelled of cigarettes and car exhaust. But despite this, and the extremely cold and rainy weather we had, I had a great time.
My family and I would wake up every morning and head down to an unusual breakfast that contained soft-boiled eggs, toast (with jam and butter), and freshly cut tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheese. We would then adventure into the city and visit the local bazaars, which were so interesting and definitely a must-see. Clothes, shoes, handbags, gifts and food were sold at the bazaars, and the air was filled with boisterous people bargaining for a better deal on an item.
We also did some sightseeing, and visited the Hagia Sophia, one of the most famous mosques. This mosque is a beautiful reddish color that compliments sunsets, and is definitely a good place to visit. Our next stop was the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (a.k.a. Blue Mosque) which was HUGE!!! It’s an amazing mosque where the inside is adorned with blue tiles, and the outside courtyard is a great place to stop and taking billions of family pictures.
Turkey is an extremely cool place to visit, for both parents and teens. I was so excited to go, and honestly, my expectations were met. I enjoyed the rich food, the bazaars,the sightseeing, and of course my family. If anything, I wish I stayed for more than a few days and got to experience even more of Istanbul’s culture.