Tag Archives: Turkish holidays

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August 30th is a major holiday in Turkey. It commemorates the victory of the Turkish forces at the final battle in Dumlupınar. This victory is significant because it ended the Turkish Independence War in 1922 and resulted in the founding of the Turkish Republic. This year it became a 4-day weekend for many. I had the unique opportunity to wander the streets in the morning and observe some of the festivities.

Like most Turkish holidays, flags covered each and every building, bus and monument. Each neighborhood had special banners to commemorate the event. For this holiday, naval and army troops gathered at the monument in Taksim Square for a special ceremony. Beautiful Navy ships covered the Bosphorus. And, to my surprise, a band of leather jacket wearing men with Turkish flags on their backs rode their motorcycles through Besiktas as their crew formed for the afternoon parade. It was a wonderful spectacle and celebration.

August 30th: Honoring the Forces and Celebrating Turkish Independence

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Yesterday afternoon we were invited into the boat of a Bodrum local. We spent 45 minutes paddling around the Gundogan shore, discussing politics, the US mission to Mars, and Gundogan as we sipped beer in the warm sun, surrounded by sparkling blue water. All around us people were laughing, swimming and lounging.

Gundogan is a small town in the Bodrum Peninsula, which for me has come to epitomize Turkish summers, family gatherings and the very best life has to offer. Since I first moved to Istanbul, we have escaped to Gundogan for Seker Bayram each year. On Seker Bayram, the entire country comes together to be with family. Many families celebrate the end of Ramadan. My family celebrates summer and uses it as an excuse to be together, lounge in the sun, swim in the sea and indulge in the most amazing of meals, together. Read the rest of this entry

Gundogan: My Bodrum Paradise

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                                          Photo Credit: The Guardian 

While it is accurate to report that it is the first day of Ramadan, it is important to note that the festivities began at 2:30 AM in our neighborhood. We awoke to the sound of a loud drum below us as a Ramadan drummer attempted to alert the practicing Muslims in the neighborhood that it was time to wake-up.  Dating back to Ottoman times, a ceremonious drummer was designated in each neighborhood to ensure everyone woke up in time to prepare their last meal before their fasting must begin. In some neighborhoods they ring door bells, others simply use a drum with occasional chants and songs to accompany the announcement that there is only a little time left to prepare and enjoy a meal before sunrise.

The sunrise occurred at 5:45 this morning, and the sun will not set until 8:30 PM. From sunrise to sunset, a period of more than 14 hours, people will refrain from anything passing through their lips. This means they will not eat food, drink water, or even use chewing gum and cigarettes.  By making these sacrifices in the next 30 days, many people hope to examine their lives and renew their commitment to the tenants  and values of Islam. I have infinite respect towards anyone attempting to fast this Ramadan and hope everyone has a safe and rejuvenating fast.

The First Day of Ramadan

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After the wedding, we ran away to Bodrum, which is quite possibly one of my favorite places in the world. White houses line the hillsides. Vibrant purple and pink bourgainvillea flow with the wind. Restaurants unfold on to the beach. The tangerine orange moon lights up the  night sky. Sailboats and yachts cover the water  and music fills the air. Each morning we awake to a huge Turkish Breakfast, full of lively chatter and numerous rounds of tea. By 1 pm, we were in a car off to a new seaside village to explore and beach to indulge upon. Our days were full of swimming, ice cream, reading, kayaking and relaxation. It was perfect.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have simply seek with our eyes open.”–Jawaharial Nehru

Bodrum State-of-Mind

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Today is Youth and Sports Day, but the holiday was established to commemorate the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence. On May 19, 1919, Atatürk arrived in Samsun to rally his troops to challenge the Allied powers, and their efforts to carve what remained of the Ottoman Empire between themselves.

This day is also widely recognized as Atatürk’s birthday. While his exact birthday is unknown, he famously declared that he deeply resonated with the spirit of May 19th and felt this day could be his birthday. Thus, May 19th has great cultural and historical significance, as well as contemporary relevance. On this day, Turkey comes together to remember the achievements of their great leader, and celebrate the athletic accomplishments of the next generation of Turks.

May 19th: Youth and Sports Day

Lycia Tour: Day 3 and 4

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While it has been over a week since we returned from our trip, it has taken me this long to sit down and conclude my efforts to document our trip. Back in the fast paced world of Istanbul, with the daily dramas and intensity of work, traffic and the early darkness that descends upon the city, I have found it difficult to sit down and reclaim the joy and excitement of each experience. After a big breakfast and two cups of strong coffee, I have finally found the energy to do so.

Our third day of the tour was spent in Fethiye. In the morning we drove to the elaborate tombs that sit above the city. Fethiye was established on top of the ancient city of Telemessos. Telemessos was the son of Apollo. Much of the ancient city is underground, below the modern city that now stands. At different times in history, it was a Greek, Lycian and Byzantine city. The ancient temples and theater that once stood have been significantly damaged by the numerous earthquakes that have plagued this region throughout history. The tombs were strategically placed on the eastern side of the ancient city’s acropolis. We hiked up a steep set of stairs that criss-cross through the steep hillside above modern Fethiye to see the tomb of Amyntas up close. It is modelled after a temple of the Ionic order as a means of paying respect and showcasing the prominence of the King that once ruled over the city. It was pretty spectacular to see up close, but sad to see the damages to each and every tomb and sarcophagi throughout the city. As civilization upon civilization conquered these lands, every tomb was raided in efforts to find the wealth and treasures buried with the dead.

After hiking up and exploring the tomb, we hiked down again and headed towards the waterfront to board the boat for our tour of the surrounding islands off the coast of Fethiye. Memories of the untouched islands and caves, and the turquoise waters of Croatia rushed into my mind.  The vivid blues and greens of the water, and the warm sunshine bewitched me and gave me a taste of summer (that many do not have the opportunity to experience in November). We spent the day laying on the top of the boat, reading and chatting. Every 45 minutes we would dock in a new abandoned harbour and dive into the cool water (yes! We swam in November!). We saw wild rabbits and chickens, we feasted on fish and we sipped beer, as the day passed in perfect harmony and ease. The beauty of these islands linger with me, and the tranquility of their inviting bays and beaches stay in my mind. We left at 10 am and did not return until 5 pm. It was an extraordinary day.

Day 4 exceeded all expectations. We started in Oludeniz,  a beautiful beach and national park along the coast.  Afterwards, we drove through windy roads that maneuver through farmland and greenhouses, small villages and mountains, we stumbled upon the ancient city of Tlos, that sits neat the top of a rocky hillside, seemingly hidden from the rest of the world. There is record of this city as early as 1200 BC, and it was still inhabited throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman period. The ancient city consists of an arena, a theater, numerous tombs, ancient Roman streets, the foundation of Roman baths and an old aqueduct. There is a Byzantine fortress and church built on top of the ancient Lycian city. Farmers led their goats through the ruins. It was amazing to see how the ancient city sat frozen in time as village life moved slowly around it.

After wandering through Tlos, we went to an amazing restaurant situated in the hillside, surrounded by trees. It is called Yaka Park. It has water flowing all around you. There are tree houses situated above everyone and everything. There is a large trout pond, and ducks wandering around. The leaves were green, red, orange, brown and yellow. There was a buffet of salads and other treats awaiting us. We sat on a small elevated deck covered with pillows and ate our lunch. It was absolutely beautiful.

After lunch, we boarded our bus to see Sakli Kent. This was one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen. It is the second largest canyon in Europe and has been shaped by the rapids and streams that pass through it. There is a pedestrian foot bridge that hangs along the opening of the canyon. The canyon is 18 kilometers long and 600 meters high. It contains 16 caves. Several old tools have been discovered  which suggest that man took refuge in Sakli Kent in prehistoric times. While the rapids were to strong, and the water was too cold to go very far, I am determined to go back. In the summer people can hike into the canyon as far as they have the courage to go. I have been told that at times the water reaches your neck, at other times you must swim under or over certain rock barriers. It sounds exciting, and it is now on my list of things I must attempt before I die….

Our trip ended with the ancient city of Xantos. It was the capital of the Lycian League, and known for its noble battle against the Persians. There is a black layer in the foundation of the city which proves that the entire city was burned down sometime between 475 and 450 BC, only to be rebuilt again. The city was rich in history. Brutus, Alexander the Great and Mark Anthony all had ties to Xantos. The city was built and rebuilt after various wars and battles. In 1838, the city was discovered by an Englishman named Sir Charles Fellow. The rich historic treasures of the ancient city of Xantos were sent to London on a war ship, and many important structures from the city are showcased in the Lycian room of the British Museum. This is obviously a point of great tension with the Turks, and the Turkish government is currently in negotiations with archaeology museums around the world in efforts to bring everything back to the historical sites in the country. I will leave that for another post…

Lycia means ‘Illuminated Nation’. While the civilization thrived over 2000 years ago, its tenets of democracy, order and honor still shape nations and societies today. We wandered through the ancient ruins of 3 major Lycian cities, in a region that once contained around 40 cities that came together to form a republic. The natural beauty of the coast, the mountains, and the small towns captivated me, and will certainly lure me back in the future. I hope everyone seizes the opportunity to explore Southwestern Turkey, and the ancient land of the Lycians.

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Turkish Independence Day

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Today is Turkish Independence Day (29 Ekim Cumhuriyet Bayramı). While the land of Turkey is rich in history and tradition, the modern Turkish republic is very young. Modern Turkey was founded on October 29th, 1923. Today marks the nation’s 88th birthday.

 In honor of this holiday, large and small Turkish flags hang from the windows of most apartment and office buildings. Most schools open their doors for special celebrations (my school had a special assembly yesterday). Normally, this is a lively celebration that can be observed throughout the country. However, due to the recent earthquake, the marches, firework shows and other city-sponsored events have been cancelled to allow the country to mourn the loss of life in the Van region, following the earthquake. The bliss and excitement that usually accompanies this holiday has been replaced by a silent melancholy throughout Istanbul.

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