Thursday, July 30, 2009


I was initially unimpressed when my daughter suggested that I accompany her and her sister on a vacation to Turkey this summer. Even their offer to pay for my airline ticket didn't increase my enthusiasm, especially when I realized they wanted to stay there for three weeks. My daughter still reminds me of my initial reaction, "Turkey? That's boring."

I couldn't have been more wrong. The weeks flew by, and I'd love to go back again. An Egyptian friend of my daughters who came to join us was amazed at the differences between Cairo and Istanbul. It is a vibrant, modern city with a lot to see and do. A full-day trip up the Bosporos to the mouth of the Black Sea was spectacular. As one who is interested in early Islamic history, I'd often heard of the "keys of the Kabah", possessed even before Islam began by whichever ruler was in charge of Mecca and the famous building that was the center of pre-Islamic idolatry and post-Islamic worship. It was one thing to read of these keys; it was another to actually see them at the Topayka Palace as they were owned by various Ottoman Emperors during the centuries of their empire.

Following a week in Istanbul, we flew south (domestic airlines are quite inexpensive) for a quiet week on the beach. There's no need to join the thousands of tourists who throng to see the Greek ruins of Ephesus, as those of Olympus (where we were almost the only people there) are just as spectacular if smaller and more compact. An overnight bus ride (again on comfortable and well-maintained buses) took us to Capadocia, where Christians over a thousand years ago built their homes and churches out of caves and rocks and drew beautiful iconic images that are still vibrant today.

In short, I'd encourage anyone to visit Turkey. I'm glad I did.