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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Turkish Holiday

Recently I received emails from two separate people in Romania who went to Turkey for the first time and wanted to share some of their experiences with me.

Journals of Discovery

Sanda Vladescu and Nadia Bolbol went to different parts of Turkey, but both their stories converge on the same point.

"Istanbul is more than a great city for me, it's become a part of my heart and mind. I lived some unique times in Istanbul," Nadia writes about her September trip to the Turkish cultural capital, while Sanda reminisces about her Turkish Aegean trip by remarking, "I went to discover a world, and I discovered my past and myself. My body is at home, my soul is still there. Friends asked me what souvenirs I bought. My answer is - none! You buy souvenirs from places you leave. I never left".

In Sanda's case, in searching for the truth, it seemed she also found a piece to herself.

"I went to discover a world I knew only from books and web sites" she says of the reasons for her visit. "I tried each moment to compare what I knew with what I was seeing, what I have home with what I found there. It was a journey full of surprises. I had once again the confirmation that history has two faces and the truth is somewhere in the middle."

Differences Disappear

It is clear that these two very different people with different mindsets - Nadia was excited to be achieving a dream while Sanda had always been "insanely afraid" to go to Turkey - came to be in full agreement towards the conclusion of their stay in Turkey.

Another area which also met in agreement was food.

"In Turkey you can buy your fish and take it to the restaurant so they will cook it for you," Nadia explains, going on to write, "The fish market was the first one I'd ever seen, a collection of colors and smells. At the restaurant with our chosen fish the meal was delicious, it was the best fish I've ever tasted..most of the food was spicy, but sweetened by our conversations and warm smiles."

On the same theme, Sanda details the diversity of her culinary experience by explaining that she "tasted at least 15 kinds of savoury rice and about 7-8 kinds of bread at each meal. There I learnt to eat bread and confectionery, too (usually I cannot eat them)." She also documents similarities between Romanian and Turkish cuisine, revealing that Ottoman taste had influenced their "traditional Christmas and wedding dishes and a national and popular dish for picnics.

"Food is the result of human hands," Sanda adds. "It's obvious that such good things could only emerge from the hands of very fine people. And people are the most pleasant discovery I made. I've read all over the Internet that they grab you to convince you to buy something. Well, it's not true, at least for me. They politely say hello and invite you in their shop. If you answer with a "Hello! No, thank you" nothing will happen. But if you choose to exchange a few words you'll always discover a nice friend.

"Wherever you go, whenever you cross them, they are always fresh and well dressed. They always try to help you learn their language, English people don't do that, nor French. They are not attentive only with themselves but with the environment, too. There are only 36 countries that fully implemented the Blue Flag Program and Turkey is one of them."

Nadia's travelogue on the other hand, perhaps not surprisingly, tracks the scenic concepts of her stay in Istanbul.

"Since we were in Istanbul, it would have been a shame not to travel at least once by boat! The trip lasted about an hour and a half, during which time we were enchanted by the sight of castles, palaces, luxurious hotels and many villas on the both sides of the Bosphorus. I was surprised to see that there was a "Galatasaray Island". It was the first time I'd seen an artificial island! Another unique experience was when I visited a real island for the first time, Büyük Ada. After riding a horse and carriage and exploring all the wonders of the zone (ships, villas, panoramas), on our way back, the breeze, the seagulls and the sunset...made me feel that Istanbul is really a romantic city indeed."

Another interesting perspective that the two ladies show is the religious one, in that Turkey bridges both the Christian and Muslim facets of God.

Sanda mentions she "visited the House of the Virgin Mary" and learnt that Muslims go to pray there, too.

"Odd?" she asks. "Not at all - for Muslims, Jesus was one of the great prophets, along with Moses and Muhammad, and Mary is cherished for being His mother."

Meanwhile, Nadia describes her fascination with the Islamic Ottoman touches of Istanbul, which "offered wonderful feelings of joy.

"And in the mornings when I was awoken by the call to prayer, for my heart it sounded as the most delicate sound in the world."

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