In summer of 2013, I traveled to Turkey for a month-long trip with a friend. It was a great experience and such a fascinating country to travel through. It is a country with a long and complex history, beautiful scenery and a diverse and friendly culture. Of all the places I have traveled, it is certainly one of the most friendly. Turkey became one of my favorite travel destinations, and I have advocated for friends and acquaintances to travel there.
However, since 2013, Turkey has been in the news for many troubling world issues impacting not only the Middle East and Europe, but the world. From a military coup to several terrorist attacks, and a crisis spilling over from its neighbor Syria, the news has made Turkey out to be a much more dangerous place than when I traveled there in 2013. Even in 2013, though, Turkey was not particularly the the bastion of stability. In the spring and summer of 2013, major protests were taking place, protesting then prime minister and now president, Erdogan. (I witnessed some of these protests on my trip.) Although the State Department does advise Americans traveling to Turkey to be vigilant, and even consider delaying travel plans until later, I hope that this will not deter Americans at some point traveling to and getting to know this fantastic place.
With the current events taking place here in the US, with talks of travel bans and anti-Muslim rhetoric, I decided to re-blog my posts on my Turkey trip. (They originally were posted on my old blog Svetopolis in 2013.) I decided to do this to help not only other travelers interested in going to Turkey at some point, but also to help educate Americans. I believe that travel breaks down barriers. Travel helps one see how misguided words that incite hate and violence have no place in our world. I believe that more Americans need to challenge hateful rhetoric and the double speak being spouted from our leaders and even from each other. Americans need to fight back against hate, fight against the evils of the world, with friendship, love and compassion.
Let me quote George W. Bush from a speech he gave right after the 9-11 attacks in 2001: “(L)et me quote from the Koran, itself: ‘In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.’ The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace… When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race — out of every race. America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”
Islamic culture, whether in Turkey or elsewhere, is not a one of hate. It is like all other cultures, one that embraces the values and spirit that even Americans sometimes forget to remember: love, friendship, empathy, compassion. Yes, no culture is perfect, even American, and there are those who manipulate and take the extremes that become dangerous. Some live in Turkey, others in Syria, but even here in America we have those who kill for ideology and bigotry. I hope that Americans can come together and unite in love and not hate.
Please enjoy the next few weeks of my blog posts as I re-post on my “Turkey Trot” from 2013. During this trip I traveled to Istanbul, Ephesus, Fethiye, Olympos, Antalya, Cappadocia, Ankara, Safranbolu and back to Istanbul.