Six of my favourite experiences while getting lost in the magical world of Turkey!

Published: December 16, 2013
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I was truly awed by the remarkable wonders of nature and history that exist in Turkey. PHOTO: FARWA AAMER

In my earlier blog, I wrote about the influx of Turkish dramas on Pakistani television channels. Ever since Urdu 1’s Ishq-e-Mamnoon shot to fame there has been no looking back. In fact, the Pakistani audience has been literally swept off their feet.

For me, this was followed by a desire to appreciate the wonderful Turkish culture in person. While making travel plans with four of my friends we unanimously agreed on Turkey as our vacation destination. Our plan was to have an adventurous backpacking sort of trip for nine days and we set out with our ambitious itinerary.

I am glad to say that our trip turned out to be nothing short of what we expected.

Our hectic tour consisted of eight flights, four train journeys, several shuttles and a night spent at the airport but we successfully managed to see some of the most spectacular places on earth.

Turkey offers a myriad of cultural and sacred experiences, from the ancient Greek city of Ephesus to the glorious history of Topkapi Sarayi (Palace) and from the Virgin Mary’s last abode to the iconic Blue Mosque.

Inside the grand Blue Mosque. Photo: Farwa Aamer

The region literally encapsulates the best of what the world has seen over the decades.

I was truly awed by the remarkable wonders of nature that exist in the country, particularly the travertines of Pamukale and the colossal cave city of Cappadocia. I had been told that I would lose my mind at these two sites, but trust me this was an understatement. In spite of having seen so much, I still feel that there is a lot left to be explored, discovered and admired.

In addition to indulging in all the touristy activities, my friends and I embarked on a different journey – one that offered us a deeper insight into the daily life of the Turkish. It took me no time to get smitten by the whirling dervish, the aromatic kahve (tea) houses and the mouth-watering baklava, but besides the basic allure of Turkey, I have my very own list of the ‘Best of Turkey’:

  • Cay

Served in tiny tubular cups, Turkish tea is a customary favourite. Brewed in uniquely styled kettles, it is consumed numerous times during the day and also serves as a symbol of hospitality.

Turkish tea is a must-have the next time you are in Turkey. Photo: Farwa Aamer

  • Grand bazaar

How I loved this place! It is a shopper’s paradise where bargaining is the order of the day. You will find it next to impossible to resist the beautiful ceramics and the blazing glass lamps. Of course, the shopping experience here is enhanced by the harmless and occasional flirting that the vendors indulge in, not to mention the opportunity it creates for you to score a good deal!

Looking for ceramics, lamps, clothes and spices? The Grand Bazaar is the place to go! Photo: Farwa Aamer

  • Bosphorous

Istanbul and its’ beauty owes a lot to this stunning piece of nature, with its gentle waves and wide expanse. A ferry ride across this strait is not to be missed.

A cruise on the Bosphorus. Photo: Farwa Aamer

  • Simet and chestnuts

These are the traditional street foods which you must munch-on while strolling around the sites and squares of Turkey. Simet, which looks like a pretzel is a delightfully crunchy and chewy twisted ring studded with a generous topping of sesame seeds. Vendors sell it for a lira and it is the local favourite.

Enjoy some Simet as you get lost in the history of Turkey. Photo: Farwa Aamer

Chestnuts are another local favourite snack and are sold roasted and warm.

Roasted chestnuts are easily available in Turkey and are wonderful to munch on while you stroll through the cobbled streets. Photo: Farwa Aamer

  • Taksim

Connected to Istiklal Avenue, Taksim Square gives you a taste of modern Turkey and the area boasts fashion and food. With several international high street brands, this square is a gastronome’s heaven of Turkish delicacies and it is not surprising that Taksim is known to be a celebrity hot spot.

Tourists and shoppers on Istiklal Street. Photo: Farwa Aamer

I especially love the fancy little trams that run between the streets.

A tram weaving its way through Istiklal Street. Photo: Farwa Aamer

  • People

The most admirable thing about Turkey, without a doubt is its people. Hospitality, generosity and warmth are at the core of their personalities and they can befriend anyone. In spite of language barriers, they try their best to help you out and make you feel at home in their country.

I can go on and on about the marvels of Turkey but for now, you will have to be content with this excerpt from my travel diary. Those nine days are etched in my memory and I cannot wait to be back to see more of what Turkey has to offer!

So people, you know where to plan your next escapade. But a word of caution – avoid planning a vacation in Turkey during winters. They are harsh! But beautiful. The rest is up to you!

Bon voyage!

Farwa Aamer

Farwa Aamer

A final year undergraduate at University College London studying BSc economics. A passionate writer, traveller and loves living life. She tweets @faamer (twitter.com/faamer)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.