Saturday, 17 July 2010


A snapshot of the country that connects two cultures...
Your gender and hair colour have a great affect on how people respond to you in Turkey. Being a blonde female is both good and get a lot of gifts, you're self esteem will go through the roof, and by the end of three weeks you will give up being polite and just ignore all men completely.
Apart from this aspect the people are generally very friendly and hospitable and generous. Spend a bit of time talking to the waiter in any cafe and you will most probably end up at their house for dinner, or at least out in a tea house with them for a conversation that will involve varying degrees of charades (depending on their English skills).
You will come to love Turkish tea, especially if you are a man...sitting and chatting in tea houses for hours on end is a major part of the male culture here. The women are all behind the scenes working of course.
Although this is a predominantly Muslim country- I think 97%- there is certainly a division between east and west Turkey. The west has been influenced by Europe and welcomed the decision of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the founder of the Turkish Republic) to westernize the country and turn Turkey into a secular state. Come to the west and see people drinking, dogs are everywhere, women can wear what they like and you can even buy bacon if you so wish. The east, though, is completely different. Heavily influenced by the surrounding countries of the Middle East, Islamic rule is almost absolute here. Women have no autonomy, there is no drinking, no tattoos, no kissing before marriage. If you are a man, probably quite a strict lifestyle. If you are a woman, an impossible lifestyle.
So visitors, stick to the west! It is safer and a lot more fun I think.
The food here is good. All of it. I am definitely leaving with a little something extra in the stomach area...the men here all have what they call 'Turkish muscle', which actually means they all have little pot bellies from the food their mothers cook them. There is a strange salty yoghurt drink called Ayran, and a delicious traditional ravioli dish called Manti.
Cats are everywhere. In every single town I have been to, cats roam the streets. They don't belong to anybody in particular, but generally people are tolerant of them and lay food out at night and let them hang around.
There are some strange and beautiful landscapes here. There are a lot of old palaces and mosques here. There are a lot of people here. In Istanbul alone it is estimated between 15 and 20 million people...coming from Australia that is impressive.
Turkey is a very unique place. It is trying to be a westernized, secular, Muslim country. I am not sure if it is succeeding completely but it is certainly different. A book called 'Snow' by Orhan Pamuk is very insightful, I recommend it.

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