Sumela Monestary: South of Trabzon, this monastery hangs off the rock walls, overlooking a forest. It was founded in the Byzantine times and abandoned in the 1920s at the founding of the Turkish republic
Safranbolu: An UNESCO World Heritage site, this old Ottoman village is located in the middle of a valley in the center of Turkey. The beautiful Ottoman buildings and the old city center have been perfectly restored, making this town a perfect retreat.
Mount Nemrut: The natural treasure of eastern Turkey, this mountain offers more than scenic views and a beautiful natural landscape. At the top of the mountain lies pre-Roman statues and tombs of a local King and the gods he worshiped To add to the mystique, it was not discovered until 1881, when the Ottoman Empire commissioned a German engineer to explore alternative trade routes.
When reviewing the alphabet in my Kindergarten phonics lesson last year, I once had a student volunteer the word ‘God’ as we attempted to brainstorm words that started with ‘g’. I was shocked that this English word was familiar to 5-year-old Turkish students. So, I asked my students to define it. One of my favorite students-charming, precocious and wickedly smart-blasted his arm into the air. I could not resist. I had to call on him. His definition?! ‘Ataturk’.
While this may offend or surprise some, it stuck with me. To this 5-year old, Ataturk was the most important person, figure and symbol he has ever encountered. As the founder of the modern Turkish state, his vision transformed the people, the land and the nation of Turkey. He introduced reforms that promoted the arts and education. He empowered women as equals in society and gave them the right to vote. He oversaw the introduction of the Latin alphabet and established the modern Turkish language. There are very few other examples in history, where one man’s vision and actions shaped an entire nation (or to my 5-year old student…his world)
Located on a hill overlooking the city of Ankara, this impressive monument celebrates the life, accomplishments and vision of Ataturk. Admittedly, I am a fan of monuments and museums, especially those that are particularly nostalgic and ambitious in their efforts to establish the legacy of whatever they attempt to memorialize. I was not disappointed.
Anit Kabir presents Ataturk’s vision and fight for a modern Turkish state. At the entrance, three men and three women stand equally to greet visitors. Intellectuals , democratic ideals and youth are presented as the face and future of the nation. This monument houses the body of Ataturk, but also the vision. It serves as a regular meeting place to celebrate the country’s progress and potential. It features stone from every corner of the country and showcases the sculpture and design of Turkish artists. Read the rest of this entry →
We went to Ankara for the weekend to see family and explore the city. Located in the middle of Turkey, Ankara is the geographical and political heart of the country. It is also the second largest city in Turkey. This astounds me considering it was a small village just 100 years ago. When Turkey was founded in the 1920s, Ankara was established as the political capital of the country. However, it is somewhat cursed by history. The country developed in the 50s, 60s and 70s…a very unkind period of time in the history of architecture. As a result, large cement blocks line the tree-covered European boulevards.
Istanbullians joke the best view of Ankara can be found on the train ride home, a rather pretentious opinion that admittedly was difficult to shake off. Ankara lacks the culture, history and Bosphorus view that makes Istanbul so enchanting. It is more conservative and in many ways does not feel as modern, dynamic and culturally rich as other capital cities. However, it has traces of a strong vision for the modern Turkish state and its capital city. There is an efficient metro system. There are parks and trees everywhere you look. The streets are clean. People are friendly. There are wonderful museums (The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and Ataturk’s Mausoleum). Embassies have a prominent role in the city’s design and functionality. The president’s residence sits atop a hill overlooking the city. The parliament building stretches across a city block in the heart of the city.
As you may know, Cihangir is home to many cozy, charming and lively cafes that offer wonderful breakfasts. One of my favorite weekend activities is a breakfast date in Cihangir. As a result, over the past year I have written rave reviews about several different breakfast places in Cihangir. But, if you only have one morning in Cihangir, you must go to Van Kahvalti Evi.
This place is the star of the Cihangir breakfast scene. There are lines of young hipsters and expats along the sidewalk, awaiting a coveted seat in this bustling cafe. The staff runs around delivering one glass of tea after another and work harder than any other wait staff I have ever seen. Several minutes after you place your order, numerous small plates cover the table. Unfamiliar delicacies await you. They include a ground walnut paste with honey, a hearty mixture of wheat and egg and the best tahini you wil ever sample. Additionally, a wide variety of incredibly fresh cheeses, the juiciest tomatoes, fresh kaymak (clotted cream) and homemade honey. Read the rest of this entry →
One of my close friends returned to the United States this week. He was my Turkish study partner, as well as our neighbor. Before he left, we had the opportunity to celebrate with him and his roommates. We spent last Saturday on the Golden Horn.
One of the best things about Istanbul is the numerous opportunities to celebrate along the Bosphorus. I have spent evenings in terrace bars and hotels with 180 degree views of the Bosphorus. I have enjoyed glorious nights hanging off the Bosphorus at seaside bars and restaurants. And, this week we explored the Golden Horn in a small little boat with 12 interesting people who were all in Istanbul for different reasons. We had a Copy Editor for the Turkish Daily News, a Spanish translator who translates Ottoman maritime texts into English, a Turkish lawyer and an aspiring pastry chef. Read the rest of this entry →