My husband’s latest delight was visiting the site of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. (Another ancient wonder.) You can no longer see it, but its parts live on as building blocks in the castle at Bodrum, Turkey.
We’d planned our trip to Istanbul to take in the antiquities first, then later returned to stay at a hotel on the Bosphorus, where we could visit the Asian side of the city. But when we came back to Istanbul from Bodrum, we ran smack into the protests. Our hotel was close to the park that the protesters want preserved. From our eighth-floor window, and also from the windows in the dining rooms, we watched police hurl tear gas and try to clear the area with water cannons. And at 2:00 a.m. one day, tear gas seeped into our room, stinging my eyes. The violence wasn’t all on the part of the police, however. We watched protesters remove paving stones and billboards to make barricades, which we had to walk past to leave the hotel.
People have asked me, “Were you scared?” No, but the riots trapped us inside the hotel for a day. Finally we did get out for a visit to the Spice Market and took a Bosphorus cruise—being careful to get back before the evening rioting started again.
I know I’ve been a witness to history in the making. Actually, what I saw on our return trip to Istanbul saddened me. There’s so much to see and do in Turkey. Although we only scratched the surface, we enjoyed many unique experiences you won’t see anywhere else. We loved the ancient sites, the shopping, and a glimpse into another way of life. The people were warm and friendly. One highlight of our trip was a home visit to a family in Cappadocia, where the mom and daughter-in-law fixed us a delicious meal, and one of the school-age boys brought us a newly-hatched chick to admire. Another great interaction was with the man in charge of the breakfast room in our first hotel in Istanbul. I’d bought cat food for a stray mom cat and her kittens, then found out he was sneaking them cheese.
As I traveled around, I saw a lot of people whose jobs are dependent on the tourist industry. People working for Turkish Airlines, in hotels, restaurants, bazaars, at the attractions and in the Bodrum marina. And there were scores of tourists—from the U.S. and Europe. But I think the government’s repressive reaction to the protesters has seriously cut that source of income. I know people who have already canceled trips to Turkey. And every time I read about the unrest, I pray that the people and the authorities can come up with a peaceful resolution—quickly. But I honestly don’t see it happening.
Maybe some year you’ll get to see the fantastic sights I saw in Turkey. But I don’t think it’s going to be soon.