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A travel homecoming in Turkey

Touristclick Turkey Travel News

A travel homecoming in Turkey

by Rick Steves

I went through a decade-long period of annual visits, but it's been years since I wished a Turk "merhaba," that local aloha or namaste. My first hours in Turkey were filled with deja vu moments like no travel homecoming I've ever had.

The taksi turned off the highway and into the tangled lanes of the tourist "green zone" (just below the Blue Mosque with all the tourist-friendly businesses still lined up with a "Yes, Mister" readiness). I saw the dirty kids in the streets and remember a rougher time when they would earn small change hanging out the passenger door of ramshackle vans. They'd repeatedly yell the name of whichever neighborhood was coming up, in a noisy scramble to pick up passengers in the shared minibus taksi called a dolmus. (A dolmus is a wild cross between a taxi, a minibus and a kidnapping vehicle, literally, and so appropriately named a "squish.")

While Turkey's new affluence has killed the dolmus, the echoes of the boys hollering from the vans bounced happily all around me: "Aksaray, Aksaray, Aksaray." . . "Sultanahmet, Sultanahmet, Sultanahmet." My favorite call was for the train station's neighborhood: "Sirkeci, Sirkeci, Sirkeci."

As most tourists do, I visited the famous mosque. Stepping out of my shoes and into the vast turquoise (a color early French travelers took home -- as the "color of the Turks") interior of the not-quite-rightly-named Blue Mosque, something was missing. Yes, gone was the smell of so many sweaty socks, knees, palms and foreheads soaked into the ancient carpet upon which worshippers did their quite physical (as Mohammad intended) prayer workouts. Sure enough, the Blue Mosque has a fresh new carpet -- with a subtle design that keeps worshippers organized just as lined paper tames handwriting.

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