Experiencing Turkey involves complex tapestry of history and cultures
Our trip was coordinated through my home church in Atlanta, GA – ChristChurch Presbyterian. 2013 happened to be the year we decided to send a delegation over to Turkey to meet with some local people as a part of a leadership development initiative. Interestingly, my company – Keller Williams Realty – expanded operations into Turkey in 2013 as well. Istanbul was calling me!
There are countless culture differences between Atlanta, GA and Istanbul, Turkey and I did not have any clue what that would feel like. So it was a HUGE blessing to a have a friend on the ground to translate the language and explain things along the way in our travels.
Range of Experiences
Traveling to Istanbul, Turkey from Atlanta, GA took us a full day with a layover in London, England. We departed from the International Concourse in Atlanta at 9:30pm and boarded the 8 hour flight to London. Yes, that means we arrived at 5:30am body time – 10:30 am London time – with a 6 hour layover. So, having prearranged to connect with a friend of a friend, we hopped on the subway and headed to meet her at the Piccadilly Circus station to see the sights and make the most of it!
Out through customs and an hour ride into the Tube into London! We were big game hunting for Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and… Fish and Chips! Two hours later (through the rain I might add), we had done it all thanks to our new friend and “speed tour” guide Georgina. Yikes, look at the time!!! Back to the subway, back through customs, back through security screening and racing for our connecting flight to Istanbul. No problem 🙂
Planes, trains and minibuses… we made it!
Our journey began with a meeting with our friend. Well, actually that is not true. The day really began around 5 am (can’t remember exactly) with the calling of the prayers coming from the loud-speaker attached to the spire or minaret of the closest mosque. As an American living in the U.S., this is not something I am used to. You do get used to hearing it, but the first couple of times you hear that it does get your attention. Here is an example to help you get a sense of what this sounds like.
Our friend grew up in Turkey so his life experiences provided a rich context in which to begin to understand the history of the Turkish people and the complexity of Istanbul culture.
Our first step in the journey was to step around the corner behind the church and visit a local mosque. Here is a photo of the leader (called the Imam ).
The rest of Day 1 was filled our first Turkish meal, walking neighborhood streets and touring two other cultural centers.
Day 2 began with a debrief time over tea. Tea is a staple in Turkey. In fact, someone told us jokingly that the first thing someone says to you when you meet with them is not hello but rather “What would you like to drink?”
The rest of Day 2 was filled catching a ferry over to the European side of the city, walking more neighborhood streets and touring the museum featuring the Whirling Dervishes.
After staying up late, Day 3 began with a brisk walk for Sunday worship. The trek always seems further when you don’t want to be late! Besides being almost entirely in Turkish (big surprise), the worship service was a blend of prayers (that were sung), music and teaching. I have to admit the sounds of Turkish worship take a bit of getting used to even though they are very reverent. Clearly, my world needed expanding and I am so very grateful for the privilege of coming on this trip.
One of my big takeaways from our first couple of days here is how many different ways people worship as they seek to reconcile themselves with God. It has been a blur of different looking faces, different looking buildings, different tasting foods and different customs, different sounds… Not bad; just different. I found myself looking at each face I passed in this city of 17 MILLION people thinking – you were created in the image of God – full of hopes, dreams, fears and needs – just like me. Under the surface we probably have more in common than we ever could imagine. Good stuff!
And yet time marches on – it’s time to catch a plane to Keyseri in Cappadocia!
Day began at 35 degrees! Cool and crisp 🙂
Time to find an ATM for money and then on to an underground city of refuge carved out in Derinkuyu for people and livestock 60-80 meters deep,
“Walk like a chicken” was the tour guide’s advice to the group ahead of us because you cannot stand up. You are also 150 feet down through these narrow passages… We kept saying, “these caves have been fine for all these years, what are the chances something will collapse today?” Don’t laugh – it helps with the mind games. We also saw an inactive volcano and thanks to a new friend, Yousef, toured a co-op where rugs were being woven and sold.
Day 5 started (again at around 35 degrees) with a visit to an open air museum of cave churches in Göreme.
Then, off to meet up with Yousef again so he can introduce us to a friend of his who runs a ceramics factory.
Everyone have your packages? Time to fly over to Izmir to visit Ephesus.
One day in Ephesus… hmmm. Ok, let’s gets moving guys! Ephesus is a trip back thousands of years into history.
One thing we noticed right away is that you can touch things here 🙂
Day 7 began with the typical Turkish breakfast.
Then tea with others in our group to talk about our travels since some stayed in Istanbul as we passed through to Ephesus. Then FREE TIME in the afternoon 🙂 Sorry Grand Bazaar and Hagia Sophia, you will have to wait until next time. I am headed to Keller Williams Realty’s Turkey and Cyprus headquarters on the 25th floor of Trump Tower!!
WOW!! That will overload your circuits. THANKFULLY, our friend was on hand most of the time as a native tour guide to help with the historical background along with our long time friend and awesome trip liaison, Scott. Special Thanks to our personal banker Wendy Moeller for being on hand every time a bill needed to be paid and watching the budget. Wendy was so gracious when at times it seemed that all we did was eat and spend money to get into some venue.
Special, Special Thanks
A very sincere and heartfelt thank you to all who supported us both financially and emotionally. To each of you who invested in me personally!! Your prayers, posts, “likes”, comments and WhatsApp texts were very encouraging and we were only there a week. The people at All Saints Moda felt encouraged from our visit. Perhaps just as importantly, I think I can speak for each of us in our group that our perspective on life has been enriched forever. I know I have a more curious and loving attitude. The surface level differences in people and cultures can easily overshadow all the aspects of life we have in common as we each seek to live our lives, make them count, love others and be reconciled with our maker. We would do well to focus on the things we have in common first. That way we will at least have a relationship in which to work through the differences.