Andy & Bev Fraser's Travel World

34 years of our "UnTour" Adventures
Content cat in Ephesus
Our journeys are as close as we can come to a good old fashioned no rushing, relaxed time with good companions. This is our 35th year of doing it our way. Hope you can join us. Andy & Bev
15th century decor in Grand Bazaar
Turkish Tulip design
Turkey trimmings

How we ‘discovered’ Turkey...

We had never considered visiting Turkey until the day Bev answered a phone call from the owner of an incoming tour operator in Istanbul. Having seen our ad in the Globe and Mail Newspaper (back in the days when we could afford the ad rates), he wanted to know if we had ever considered Turkey as a travel destination. “No” was Bev’s simple answer. In any case, Erkan Karpuz, who has since become a good friend, asked if he could send us some material on his company’s program. Bev agreed thinking it would soon go in the bin. And so here we are.

Turkey is a land that has constantly surprised and delighted us. And while it’s obvious there is so much to see and do, from the delights of Istanbul to the stark beauty of the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia to the ancient Greek sights on the Aegean, there are other, little personal and surprising things that hold a special place in our memories.

On our first tours er spent a fair bit of time wandering about saying: ‘I didn’t know that’ so always willing to share what we didn’t know...

Did you know that...

Corn on the Cob is one of the most popular street vendor foods in Istanbul. Don’t really know why but you’ll see them wherever street food vendors hang out. Can’t think of a more messy meal to eat on the go but it sure goes over big.

...Istanbul is the only city in the world built on two continents. The Bosphorus Strait divides European Istanbul from Asian Istanbul. Three suspension bridges and a heck of a lot of ferries connect the two sides. We found it fascinating to stand on the one side of the water looking across to the rest of the city in another continent.

...Turkish people have a ‘thing’ for pets – especially cats. You’ll see dishes of dog and cat food for the strays outside many shops and houses. Walking back from the Grand Bazaar on a very busy street we came across a friendly old dog sound asleep in the middle of the road. As the cars slowed down to get around him creating quite a traffic problem this old veteran would happily wag his tail. Nothing wrong with the dog but all of Istanbul was his home and cars were his friend (though the drivers of said vehicles may not have felt as pleased). Many shops have little pens set up where they will feed and take care of these strays.And they are not ‘wild’ or ‘feral’, but just like your ordinary house pets. Not many people are pet owners, but they sure take care of these homeless creatures.

......That one of the Sultans had tulips embroidered on his underwear? That was a bit of a surprise. Mind you, the Tulip which originated in the hilly Anatolia region of Turkey is the National Flower of Turkey. Dutch traders took the bulbs back to the Netherlands in the 17th century. The name ‘Tulip’ comes from ‘Tuliband’ – the word for ‘Turban’. We should add that Turkey, just like Holland, has a large Tulip Festival each April. You’ll discover the tulip motif in carpet designs, on clothing in Mosques – just about everywhere.

...Turkey has a big jazz festival each year; they have a thriving Basketball League with a number of players in the NBA; McDonalds and Burger King have taken root in Turkey – and are, not surprisingly, quite popular. We find this latter a bit difficult to understand when you consider Turkish food is incredibly good.

...That in this overwhelmingly Muslim country there are a number of stores that sell whisky, beer - Effes is a good one - wine and other alcoholic drinks. In fact, Turkey is the fourth largest producer of grapes for wine in the world.

...There are more ancient Greek ruins on the Turkish side of the Aegean Sea than there are in Greece.

...The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is the oldest and largest indoor market in the world dating from 1461 with 61 streets, over 4,000 shops and anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 visitors a day. At the end of one of our shopping visits (everything is here from carpets to jewelry, to arts, clothing and things to protect you from the evil eye of which we have one on our door, we heard a shopkeeper shouting “Hey, Lady” in our direction. We thought it was just an eager vendor but when he caught up to us, it was a vendor ,but he was chasing us down near the end of the day to say ‘thanks’ for stopping earlier and making a small purchase.

To sum up our first impressions...

It’s hard to say what struck us ‘most’. For Bev, one of the lasting highlights was being in the 25,000 seat ampitheatre in Ephesus where Paul preached to the Ephesians. To be in that place and to discover the reality of that particular Bible story brought a new life to what had always been just a Sunday School story when she was growing up.

So many things surprised us. The friendliness of everyone, the cleanliness of the streets, the shops, the

restaurants and the discovery of a residential section of wooden frame houses that reminded us of Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island. And that was not that far from the remains of the Hippodrome where the Romans had their chariot races more than a few years ago.

On the day we visited Mary’s House near Ephesus, we were more than a bit shocked to discover the number of Turkish followers of Islam sitting quietly in the house. The surprise continued when we found out Mary is mentioned more times in the Quaran than in the New Testament. It is thought that John, following Jesus’ instructions, took care of Mary and brought her with him to Ephesus and built her a home there where she died.

Just about everything in Turkey surprised us especially after all the negatives we have been constant fed about ‘them’. Not only was it a learning, and fun, experience but again made us realize how little we know of the rest of this great old world.

Andy & Bev Fraser