Turkey is a country of wonderful scenery for tourism and it has a fascinating history, intricate architecture, diverse culture, friendly people, and one of the best shopping places in all of Europe. I have been to Turkey recently to participate in an international competition, and by chance, I visited two magnificent cities during my trip. The purpose of my trip was my participation in the International Olympiad in Antalya. I and three other students from my school were selected to represent our country in this Olympiad.
I felt a little bit agitated, but not only because of the Olympiad. Since it was my first trip abroad without family; I was realizing how much I would miss them, although I would only leave for one week. Nevertheless, I had packed my suitcase, and early in the morning, we arrived at the airport. We were flying with our headmaster, and in the fact, he turned out to be not so serious as he was at school, even friendly.
Finally, we arrived in Istanbul after nearly four grueling hours. As I stepped out of the airplane, the heat hit me. You can always feel it straight away when you go to some warm place. Anyway, I began walking towards our bus, pushing my suitcase trolley along with a squeak every time the front right wheel made a complete turn.
As we had to stay in Istanbul for only six hours, we decided to visit the city’s most famous buildings, that are in Sultanahmet, the center of old Istanbul.
The Sultanahmet District is the biggest tourist area in the city and country. The most interesting things that can be seen in this city are located within the same square – the grandiose Hagia Sophia, the graceful Blue Mosque, ancient Greek columns, the Egyptian obelisk, a magnificent fountain presented to the Turkish Sultan by the German Chancellor in the 20th century, and much more.
At first, we visited the Hagia Sophia. My first glimpse of the Hagia Sophia let me open-mouthed and unable to stop clicking photos-it was truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Walking around I could evidence of the building’s many incarnations – it was first constructed as a Byzantine basilica, then briefly transformed into a Roman Catholic cathedral, then served as an imperial mosque for almost 500 years, and now exists as a museum. What I loved most about the Hagia Sophia was the fusion of two architectural styles so different: the almost Corinthian marble pillars, the gigantic placards emblazoned with Arabic script, and the golden mosaics of Christ and Mary all blended in such a memorable way. Of all the things I have been lucky enough to see in my life, this was one of the most beautiful. For the rest of a few hours, we visited the Grand Bazaar, walked along the streets, and tasted the famous Turkish coffee in the local café.
An oriental fairy tale, inconceivable without a bazaar filled with noise, laughter, vibrant colorful goods, aromas of oriental spices, and unforgettable emotions, came to life and is in the very center of Istanbul, in the Sultanahmet district, about a kilometer from Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. This is the famous Grand Bazaar, a real eastern market, which is a huge area, spread over many quarters of the city, covered with arches, roofs, etc. When I first saw it, I was literately astounded by its splendor and size. I guess this is the perfect place to end your visit by shopping for some souvenirs for beloved ones back home.
The world-famous handmade carpets and kilims of Turkey, some of the most beautiful examples of Turkish silver art, souvenirs and decorations made of copper and bronze, and high-quality ceramics, onyx are for sale. In the jewelers’ shops, filled with gold, silver, and precious stones, you can find all sorts of valuable handicraft accessories, from antique jewelry to modern pendants. A walk through the Bazaar is a journey amidst enchanting scents of spices, dazzling colors, hypnotizing sounds, beautiful handicrafts, and of course the tempting smell of Turkish coffee. That was the most sparkling shopping experience, I’ve ever had in my life.
One of the things I loved, while I was in Istanbul are the paths that lead through the streets, doorways into Turkish homes, and windows. It’s romantic in a way, but I think the character of each of these places tells such a special story. While we were walking along these charming streets, we met up at a quite pretty café, as we were feeling peckish, we decided to stay for dinner. The café looked stunning with its exceptional beautification. Everything was decorated in a crafty manner. The seating arrangement, foods, beverages, and other services were adorable. The café sold various types of light and street foods and coffee. I loved the mini burger with the combination of Turkish coffee. The coffee was bitter and hot it blistered my tongue, but I liked it. I am sure that the coffee maker was an experienced person and knew his job well. As I later discovered, Turkish coffee, which is strong enough to wake the dead, comes from the Arabic word “kawa”, which one Turkish man told me means “to enjoy”. And, to say the truth, I’ve enjoyed it while drinking it. I liked the café for several reasons. First, I am in love with the inner decoration and seating arrangement. The service is also fine and most importantly, it sells fresh foods. There are no rotten or wastes are sold. Considering everything, I like it very much.
I loved the Sultanahmet Area and Istanbul from what I saw. Turkish Airlines is smart to have these layovers so people can come into the city and fall in love with it. There is so much more to the Sultanahmet District, Istanbul, and Turkey than the main spots I visited during my layover. I could have spent days just hanging out and checking out the cobblestone streets and interesting cafes and shops. I only had six hours, but what I saw inspired me to want to return and spend more time.
Transferring from Istanbul, we arrived in Antalya, Turkey, late in the evening. When we came out of the airport, we were greeted by amusing guys who were volunteering in this Olympiad. Thereafter, we got on the bus and had a long trip to our hotel. Though the rood took a lot of time, as I gazed upon the hotel with the shape of a boat, I was overwhelmed with its ingenuity. It was the first time I stepped into such a luxurious hotel. We stepped into that lavish hall. Now, more than ever, the interior design is both modern and minimalistic. The use of wood is so natural and light creating a warm and silent atmosphere. Even the people looked so pretty and stylish. Their dressing style matches that perfect interior. And I loved it.
Meanwhile, I got busy capturing that beauty, I did not see other Olympiad participants from different countries. When I kept my eyes on these guys, they also looked curious and captured by their beauty. After we had registered, we met two lovely girls. Mohlaroy and Karima were from Uzbekistan. They both were brunettes with dark brown eyes and looked cheerful and adventurous. We hit it off and agreed to walk around the local area.
After a tiring, but pleasant day, we finally got to the hotel room. Our room was very elegant and spacious. It had a large single-bed and two single beds, a refrigerator, a large sofa, and plasma television. But I’ve mostly loved its balcony and the scenery around it.
Before going to bed, I unpacked my suitcase, and put my clothes and other stuff away. Even though I was excited about the next day and my new acquaintance, I fell asleep soon as I was tired.
The following morning, I woke in my modest hotel to a traditional Turkish breakfast. I am a keen bread enthusiast but soon discovered that even this enthusiasm was not ample enough to truly embrace Turkish cuisine. My breakfast consisted of bread with honey, bread with jam, bread with cheese, bread with olives, bread with a boiled egg, and bread with bread on top it. For lunch, I was warmly invited to join some of the staff for bread with dip, bread with ham, and bread with butter. And finally, in the evening, I indulged in a chicken kebab, also known as bread with meat. Bread in a myriad of styles is an absolute staple of the Turkish diet.
That same morning, we and our new friends walked through the main strip of the city around the port side area. This largely tourist-centric area is replete with a gift, clothes, and food stores with a slew of restaurants lining the waterfront. All of which had large billboards outside, proudly showing off their menus and special offers. These would usually be accompanied by one of their employees gainfully beckoning passersby in.
Some of the restaurants were taking seaside dining very literally with tables placed outside on the beaches. I would guess that, when approaching high tide, any outdoor furniture would hastily be moved inside. The width of these beaches is very thin which means you can, just about, walk happily around them. However, you may at points, unwittingly become a mood killer when shuffling past one of the dining tables on the beach, where a couple is otherwise predisposed by experiencing a romantic rekindling on holiday.
For all these 6 weeks, we’ve visited many different places, but my favorite one that I loved in such a short time is the historic city center of Antalya, Kaleici.
As the morning sun rose above the old cobblestone paths in Kaleici, Antalya — the old section of town in the Turkish city — I walked alongside the Roman Emperor Hadrian as he made his grand entrance under the Roman gate that bore his name. Hadrian’s Gate signals the beginning of Kaleici, with its rabbit warren of little stone streets that wind through the neighborhood like wispy smoke streams of history.
Once past Hadrian’s Gate, it’s easy to get lost along the orange tree-lined streets, with their spice markets, each filled with piles of tea and sunset-colored saffron strands. Open-air cafes and coffee houses, each selling the gloriously thick and strong Turkish coffee and all flavors of gelato, line these paths too, between Meerschaum pipe artists and ceramic shops blooming with hand-painted bowls as colorful as Turkish gardens.
For one day in Kaleici, we traveled back in time with old Roman rulers, the happy little street cats as our guides. I couldn’t fail to try the local tea, either.
“Here, here, pretty ladies! Try this tea!” A bald spice hawker called us from his shop of wicker baskets full of every spice known to humankind. He beckoned, holding out a mug of steaming liquid, and said: “This tea is good for digestion, for colds, for joint pain, to help fight cancer….It cures everything.” So, I sipped the tea, which hinted at anise, clove, cinnamon, and rose, and was instantly sold.
While we were walking around its places, I mentioned that some parts of the old town have quite open spaces. Whilst others are very narrow and filled with blossoming flowers and plants.
I’ve loved how these Ottoman-style, houses blend in with the nature around them. They look a lot like what I imagine the Terrace houses at Ephesus would look like, built with uneven heights of floors and raised patios. It’s also obvious that the locals have tried to paint their houses in suitable yet different colors from each other, the only color they share in common is red, for the roof tiles.
At the end of the day, I was in love… deeply, madly in love with Kaleici and its wild felines and its ghosts of Roman conquerors. I fell in love with cobblestones, spice markets and its people.
As I previously mentioned, I participated in the International Olympiad at the English competition among students from fifteen different countries. The results were announced on the day of our departure in a large and delightful hall where I was awarded a golden medal for though 1st place. I was just really excited and proud of myself. This news made my travel even better.
Late in the evening, we arrived at the airport. I was very sad to part with this place even I’ve missed my family, I wanted to stay in Turkey for prolonged periods.
Suffice to say that traveling to Turkey was the best and the most memorable experience in my life. I am just enjoying remembering every second of spending time in Turkey, and I really hope to see these places and once again take a walk along its fabulous streets and enjoy astonishing dishes.