I have to say, that this was not one of my favourite countries/trips, but then there are many reasons for that, some of which are not entirely the country’s fault.
I definitely need a re-do. As far as first impressions go, this was not the best.
I was going to focus, on just the positives and leave out the negatives. But I'm not very good at sugar-coating.
A trip to Turkey for the 60th birthday celebration of a close aunt was planned. Seeing as there were about 30 of us going on this trip, it made the most sense to book a tour package. Being in charge of and organising 30 people was not going to be fun, so why not leave it to the professionals?
Meerkat tip no. 1: Do not do tour packages
The 6 days taste of turkey tour summary said:
‘Welcome to Turkey! If you are looking for something special and extraordinary then look no further. Enjoy first class service and guided transportation through the historical and picturesque sites of Istanbul and the underground cities of Cappadoccia. This is an exquisite tour for you with all the bells and whistles. There are no long bus rides just domestic flights getting you to your destination comfortable and relaxed.’
No. Lies. And just ...No.
For starters, our tour guide, a guy named Josh was surly, impatient, rude etc etc. I gave him a pass a couple times, because dealing with 30 (mostly female) Nigerians is not easy. But honestly, he did not even try at aaalll. He just wasn’t a nice person, and he messed up big time at the end. On our last day, we were all meant to fly from Cappadocia back to Istanbul to catch our connecting flights (booked by the tour company) back home.
There are two airports in the region and Josh took us to the wrong airport. When he realised his mistake, instead of apologising, he tried to blame one of my cousins for his f*ck up. .. Errr? How sway?
The airport we should have gone to, was an hour away and there was no way we would have made it there in time. Luckily there were still seats available on the flight he thought we were on, so we all had to pay for new plane tickets ourselves.
Meerkat tip no 2: If you have to do a tour package, for logistic reasons do not go with Travel Shop Turkey and run away if the tour is led by a guy named Josh/Gosh.
Meerkat tip no 3: Learn a bit of Turkish. Nobody speaks English.
I was quite surprised at this, because Istanbul is quite touristy, and in touristy cities people tend to speak a little bit of English. Lol nope.
Okay, in all honesty, this was just a slight inconvenience. I found it quite amusing and interesting. As English-speakers we tend to assume that everyone will speak English no matter where we go, so it was refreshing to go somewhere where we actually had to try really hard to be understood. Btw Turkish is harrrdddd and it isn't similar to any languages I'm familiar with. Don't know why I thought it would be similar to Arabic, sounded more like Russian tbh.
Meerkat tip no 4: Do not visit between January to March. Turkey has coooold winters
Unless of course, you're like me and you need to run away from the scorching Abuja heat. Just don't forget your coat sha
Okay, I’m done with the negatives 😂 😂 😂 😂. Now, onto the positives.
On our First day, we visited the Hagia Sophia and the Blue mosque. These two buildings are steeped in history.
The Hagia Sophia is a church, turned mosque, turned museum. It was the principal mosque of Istanbul, until the construction of the Sultan Ahmet mosque (Blue mosque).
I don't know how to pose, so I decided to do an interpretive dance in front of the blue mosque instead ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Shoutout Bebz 📸📷📸📷 #spectacular
The Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue mosque) is known for it's blue domes, it was constructed in 1609-1617 and the inside is still quite spectacular.
After this we visited the Grand Bazaar. This is a huuuuge market. Apparently, Istanbul is known for it’s huge range of knock-off designer items. The Bazaar also had a lot of of other stuff, ranging from clothes, to jewellery, to food and spices. I also got to try Turkish coffee for the first time. It's tasty, but very strong!
After the market, everyone was pretty hungry, so we went to Nusr-et for an early dinner. Yes! Salt bae’s restaurant! It was so worth it! The food was amazing!! The only downside was that he wasn't in the restaurant, according to his instagram he was busy in new York, opening a new restaurant 😥
Salt bae, is Turkish, so this was the flagship restaurant and honestly, everything was very decently priced and so delicious! The dessert I had - baklava and ice cream, was to dieeee. So imagine my shock when literally the next day, I came across this Timeout review, of the newly opened New York branch. Either something went terribly wrong in New York, or this guy is a hater 🙄.
Look at the flick of the wrist...
The Next morning, we went to the Asian part of Turkey. We drove up the Camlica hill where we got to see stunning views of the city. I had already noticed that there weren't very many black people in Istanbul, so I wasn't that surprised when random strangers came up to our group and asked to take photos of and/or with us.
Oh, also someone told my sister she looked like Rihanna, and another person called me Jennifer Lopez.
After this we went back to the European side of Istanbul, for a boat cruise along the Bosphorus. We got to see several monuments and important Turkish sights
Shoutout to my cousin Farouq, fully serving face!
Next day, we hopped on a flight to Cappadocia (pronounced kapadokya), and imo ...
Cappadocia >>>>>>> Istanbul. Don’t @ me.
The people were nicer, the food was better, it was more chilled... I really liked it. The hotel we stayed at was amazing!
We visited these ancient dwellings at the Goreme Open air museum.
The Goreme Open Air Museum is a UNESCO world heritage site. Basically, back in the day people (mainly hermits I believe) used to live in these structures. The museum is a collection of cave churches carved out by Orthodox monks from about 900 AD to 1200 AD. In one of the sections you can see the dining hall and kitchen where they used to cook and eat.
Inside the churches there are wall paintings, called frescoes - some very well preserved/restored. Some of the paintings had the eyes scratched out, and it is thought that this was done by the Turks who are superstitious of the 'evil eye'
Afterwards, we were meant to ride in a hot air balloon, but unfortunately couldn't.
So, we went to a jewellery store instead. They had this amazing gem called Zultanite, which changes colour in different lights.
Last stop was a family-owned pottery store. This particular family had been doing pottery for generations and generations. Some of their designs were super cool. My sister and a couple of the others had a go, apparently it's a lot harder than it looks.
They even had this room with glow in the dark ceramic plates and shit. We bought so much in this shop 😂
The next day we were off to the airport and back home, so this brings my Turkey post to an end.
There were definitely more positives than negatives in the end, but as I said earlier, Turkey definitely needs a re-do!
Love, Mira x
P.S. If you've been to Turkey, or live there please comment with places I should've visited/ things I should've done - for next time 😉