Multiple Views on the Same Country: Turkey!

For our Honeymoon we took a Mediterranean cruise. While I don’t think cruises can always give you a real in-depth look into whatever place you are visiting, I do think they are a lot of fun and you get a great “glimpse” at that culture.

When you book a cruise you can choose to book either a private table, or be at a larger table with other couples or families. We always choose to be at a table with other people so we can mingle and meet new people. We have been on four cruises and only have a bad table once – it is a gamble, but if it pays off you have lifelong friends!

Side note: Interested in cruising? Sign up for these websites NOW! Crucon, Cruise Critic, Vacations to Go.

TURKEY

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Here we are in Turkey. Before our travels, our family was uneasy about us traveling to Turkey.We had lots of verbal conversations with words of advice and things we needed to make sure to do or not do. Schriber is a travel writer who discusses women travelers and explains that women travelers “work against gender roles and the cultural forces that would ensure their continuation.” I think that quote is one of the many points of this blog. I also think that quote accurately explains why I wanted to travel to to Turkey, even when some family might be weary. While looking back on this and creating this post I went and read through old emails.

Here are some things that my dad said in various email convos:

Dad: “I am worried about you two traveling to Istanbul. They are turning more and more strict Muslim. Only travel with a group; you never know what could happen. I read in the papers all the time about another Westerner getting attacked.”

Dad: “Make sure to go with Alex everywhere. If you need to use the restroom make sure he waits outside the door.”

Dad: “Also make sure to dress conservatively; I have heard they are pretty strict on women’s attire.”

Here are some things my grandma said in various email convos (she spent a couple weeks there a couple years back):

Grandma: “The gyros are amazing! I think I gained 5 pounds that trip. Make sure to have a gyro for me.”

Grandma: “When I was there I smoked hookah a lot. My favorite flavor was strawberry. I am pretty sure people smoke other things besides tobacco though!”

Grandma: “Ephesus has great leather stores. You won’t be disappointed if you shop there. Make sure to bargain; no price is set!”

Our Experience:

Did I realize I was in a Muslim country?

Yes-in Istanbul, but No in Ephesus. They did the call to prayer multiple times a day in Istanbul, which I have never experienced. They separated men and women praying in some mosques. Istanbul was the first time I have ever seen women in a Burka or a Niqab. (Here is a good website to learn about the Coverings Worn by Muslim Women.) In Ephesus I did not see a single woman in a Burka, and I saw many women wearing short sleeves and without a head scarf.

Image Me in the famous Blue Mosque. All women have to cover their head and have their legs covered. Everyone had to remove their shoes.

However, what is a “Muslim Country?” So, I noticed these couple differences, but honestly, isn’t that just part of the “culture?” Holland and Huggan’s are two authors who discuss travel writing.They argue, “Travel writing, after all, is a pseudoscience of observation; inhibiting the indeterminate area between fact and fable, history and myth, it has thrived on a diet of whose geography is only partly covered, and whole multiple possible histories are only partly understood.” Maybe I only partly understood or my trip was a partial glimpse at the culture; it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is still exciting and fun to experience a new culture. Spurr, a well-known travel writer, and says, “Western writers are united by “this idealization [that] always takes place in relation to Western culture itself…it conceives an idea of the Other that is readily incorporated into the fabric of Western values.” I have traveled all over Europe and I definitely noticed cultural differences while abroad: kissing on the cheeks in Italy and France, eating very late in Spain and businesses closing down in the afternoon for siesta, beer being more common than water for a drink during lunch and dinner in Czech Republic (water is much more expensive too!) All of these places are more “westernized” so maybe I find the differences fun and exciting and in a way “idealize” them as Spurr says, but Turkey is literally half in Europe and half in Asia, although most consider it an “Eastern” country.

The things I noticed in Turkey are nothing but the cultural difference of Turkey, right? I think so. I don’t think it is me idealizing it, and I really don’t think I idealize Western countries; I embrace it all! The only difference of traveling to Turkey is it was overall more of an experience that I am unfamiliar with because it is not  a “western” country. Eating late, kissing on the cheek and enjoying a beer, aren’t that “shocking” to a westerner like me, but yes, I have never seen a woman in a burka before or experienced a call to prayer five times a day. However, I view it as part of the whole wonderful experience. There is no better way to learn about a culture than to experience it, and I LOVED my experiences in Turkey and I LOVED to embrace the culture differences. My dad still might not understand why I find Turkey so appealing because of everything he reads in the papers, but I think he saw the joy I felt about my travels and accepted it more. And for the record, my grandma was right – I did buy a beautiful leather jacket in Ephasus, I ate lots of yummy gyros and I had some hookah!

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A woman making a Turkish rug. People all over the world pay great money for these rugs!

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Pulling the silk for the Turkish rugs from the cocoons. Such an amazing process!

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My husband in one of the famous Turkish rug shops.

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A yummy Turkish meal!

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6 thoughts on “Multiple Views on the Same Country: Turkey!

  1. I think you touch on an interesting point here in that often people project their own insecurities and fears onto others when they travel. Many times – as with your dad – it might be out of (possibly misplaced) concern, but many more times I suspect it has as much to do with falsely negative impressions. (Which is not to say I’d visit a country in which a civil war or uprising is currently going on.) And it’s interesting, the differences between your dad’s e-mails and your grandmother’s.

    Your Schriber quotation is especially relevant here insofar that it must have been quite an upset for women to begin traveling and seeing the freedoms afforded to them – or the COULD or SHOULD be afforded to them – when traveling, which seems like something you’re experiencing yourself. I was reminded a bit of Chilson’s “The Border” when you mentioned men and women being separated during the calls to prayer in the way that borders divide. And I’d be curious to know what you think about Spurr’s ideas behind idealization while traveling?

  2. jessicadaviswrites says:

    Your way of sharing the difference between your family’s response to hearing where you were traveling was a great introduction to your story. I was trying to guess what type of experience you had before I read on! It would have been interesting to hear how you responded to some of these comments. How did you calm your father’s mind before leaving?

    It has been great watching your blog progress from the beginning. You did a great job including academic information from the reading without letting it take over your story. Your pictures were engaging, and a strong accompaniment to your blog.

    I would love to hear more about how you chose the locations you travel to. You made a connection to Schriber’s text, but I was so wrapped into your story I wanted to hear some more. You once described how you chose randomly where to travel. Do you think this class will change the way you think about places to travel?

  3. I loved your dad and grandma’s different comments about your upcoming trip. Do you think your grandma would have been a bit more hesitant if she hadn’t visited herself? Or is it more their personalities to be worried/excited for you?
    I also loved hearing about Turkey. It’s a country that I haven’t really learned much about, but I’ve heard great things about Istanbul. You did a great job of explaining the differences in cultures, even from city to city, but didn’t judge or criticize.
    I like going on cruises too, but it is definitely a different form of traveling! I like to get a taste of the stops, and then I can travel back if I really love a place. Where else did you stop on this cruise? I have been eyeing a Mediterranean cruise for a while… but I think it’s a little out of the price range right now!

  4. Kelly says:

    This was such an informative blog post!! You incorporated our readings into your narrative beautifully! I would love to know more information about the Turkish rugs! My husband purchased a Qum on one of his deployments and I was fascinated to learn that the family name was woven into the carpet (it hangs on the wall as a gorgeous piece of art). The Qum is from Iran. A couple of years ago we purchased an Oushak which was woven in Turkey. Having never seen the process, I loved the pictures you posted, especially the silk being pulled from the cocoons!! Did you purchase a carpet while you were there? Kelly

  5. Wonderful photographs! I would love to watch the Turkish process of pulling the silk from the cocoons, in person, as well as the weaving of the rugs.
    I’m curious, did you enjoy the gyros and smoke strawberry hookah in your grandmother’s name? (She sounds like a lot of fun!)

    Introducing the contrasting comments made by your father and grandmother was an effective opener; it gives a relaxed, comfortable tone to your post and provided interesting context. Thank you!

  6. I like the photos you have in the backdrop. They add depth, as if we are landing our plane or helicopter into your blog. As the others mentioned, it’s great how you juxtapose your father and grandmother’s thoughts pre-trip. Do you think this trip was a chance for him to soften his views as well? Perhaps after he sees you had a great time, he will be more positive towards travel in the future? It’s fun to adopt new clothes to adapt to a new culture, as you did in the mosque. On the “muslim country” issue, yes it is predominantly muslim. When I visited Turkey though, my friends and I traveled around and walked in neighbourhoods that had pockets of families with various other religions. Perhaps visitors to the States are also surprised when they visit what they see to be a “Christian country” and notice how many Buddhist, Hindu people, and people from a plethora of other religions there are too.
    Rhea

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