“Why are you going to Turkey?” sneered the saleswoman I was chatting up in the store in the week before my trip. “There’s not much there, plus it’s really dangerous, and also oppressive to women.”
“Ms. Marshall!” yelled one of my seventh grade students when he learned I would be taking the next four days off of teaching to fly to Istanbul, “Don’t go. It’s a war zone over there!”
Readers, let me assure you: After the wonderful week I just spent in Turkey, that saleswoman and student were wrong, wrong, wrong!
I just got home from the most unbelievable week of travel of my life. Along with a small group of top travel bloggers, I was invited on a complimentary tour of Turkey by the gracious people at Turkish Airlines. Why is it in the airline’s interest to spread the word about all the positive aspects of Turkey?
Just scroll up to the previous paragraph for a reminder of the upsetting misinformation that is preventing people from experiencing one of the most fascinating, beautiful, and important countries in the world.
I learned so much about Turkey in my week there, that after my 10 hour flight home, I battled bludgeoning jet lag long enough to compile my best photos into a presentation for my students: from Hagia Sophia to the Blue Mosque and Ephesus, Turkey.
Today, I had a delicious day of teaching with this lesson. First, I showed the photos of the Istanbul skyline that you see here. I had snapped these photos from the rooftop restaurant where Turkish Airlines threw our welcome party.
“What do you notice about these photos of Istanbul?” I asked my students today.
“I’m really surprised,” each class replied. “I thought Turkey was all raggedy and desert-like. But it’s really big, and pretty, and modern! And Turkish street food looks good, too.”
“Exactly,” I exclaimed. “Did you know that Istanbul has a population of 17 MILLION people? That’s double the population of New York City, and 28 times the size of Boston!”
My students were particularly enthralled with the fact that Turkey lies in both Europe and Asia, and that the city of Istanbul has a half in each continent, neatly divided by the Bosphorus waterway. When they found out that we took a boat cruise through the Bosphorus our second night, they squealed.
That boat ride was a highlight of our visit, and if you ever find yourself in Istanbul (which, boy oh boy, I recommend you do), absolutely do the boat thing. There are a number of different options for all budget ranges, including a cheap commuter ferry (which we took later in the week to get famous yogurt on the Asia side).
The boat in these photos, however, was a luxurious affair decked out with dinner and a sound system. As the sun slowly set, you should have seen all us bloggers racing around the ship to snap photos!
These liminal photos — halfway between Europe and Asia — demonstrate the geographic importance of Turkey. With one foot in each continent, and just a short plane ride from Africa, Turkey occupies a massively important geopolitical position. It is the Gateway to the West, or the Gateway to the East, depending on your point of entry.
As such, Turkey has the potential to be the bridge that connects battling regions and bring peace. Perhaps this is why I felt such passion for the brightly-lit bridges across the Bosphorus: The are a glistening symbol of Turkey’s possibility.
Here’s a fact I had no idea about until I read the in-flight magazine (and subsequently did follow-up research): Did you know that Turkey has one of the fastest growing economies in the world? Pair this with the country’s geographical and religious “bridge” position, and you begin to see why Turkey is a rising star.
In my class, we’ve been learning about GDPs or Gross Domestic Products as a measure of a country’s wealth, and today when I projected Turkey’s GDP per capita onto the board, there was a collective: “Ooh!” at the graph’s skateboard ramp shape.
“Their economy is growing mad fast!” one girl aptly gasped.
Let us move away from Economics and towards dance parties. This week-long trip was the longest I’ve been away from my baby since he was born. Though I missed him and my husband in a deep ache, I knew Devi was being very well taken care of by Colin, and so for the first time in a while, I was able to experience some nightlife again! Here is a photo of the dance party getting started on our Bosphorus boat.
I hope you enjoyed these first photos and facts from fabulous Istanbul! Stay tuned for the 15 Turkey articles I have planned out, which will be alternated with the remaining 9 articles scheduled from our Ireland trip. This melange is based on feedback from a discussion on my Facebook page, where readers said they preferred a mix of destinations versus strict chronology, as several people have Turkey trips planned for this year already! Now if you’ll excuse me, my still-in-Turkey brain that thinks it is 4:32am needs to plop into bed. More soon!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!