Erin is currently a Senior studying towards a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.She is currently studying at Copenhagen Business School in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Last week I had my fall break from school so I traveled to Turkey with two friends (Both girls – this detail will become important later in the post).My friends and I decided on Turkey because we wanted to experience a culture completely different from anything we have ever known.We wanted an intense cultural experience and we wanted to travel to a country that we would probably never think to vacation to again in our lives.After looking into both Morocco and Croatia, we decided on Turkey.The plan was to go to Istanbul for three days, then fly to Antalya on the Mediterranean coast to go to the beach for fours days (I am currently studying at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark and Salt Lake cold weather has nothing on this Nordic city!), and then travel back to Istanbul for one more day before heading back to school.However, we quickly found out that "cultural experience" might as well mean, "change in plans"!!!
We were supposed to leave at 1:35 on the 18th of October, but because we are not used to the 24-hour clock we arrived at the airport in time for a 1:35pm flight, which is really 13:35!We changed our flight and finally made it to Turkey two days later after flying all night.Nothing like a $300 mistake to get a trip off to a rocky start!To got to our hostel we hade to take a 1.5 hour bus ride, followed by a 20 minute ferry ride, 20 minute tram rise, and walk for 10 minutes.By 9am on our first day we were already exhausted!However, we set out to have an amazing day of sight-seeing.
Our hostel ended up being right next to The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.Hagia Sophia is a Basilica that was built in the 6th century and was later converted into a mosque in the 15th century before being declared a museum in 1934.The Hagia Sophia was my favorite attraction of the trip.You can actually see in he architecture where the basilica ended and where the architecture of the mosque was added.Sitting in the middle of the grand structure gave you the most amazing feeling because you do not know if you are in a Christian religious space, a Muslim space, or a 'nothing' space.The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are located very close to each other so when it was time for the 4pm Call to Prayer you could hear The Blue Mosque make the call and then the Hagia Sophia, almost as if the two were speaking to each other!!The Call to Prayer was something that I defiantly had to get used to as the call occurs at sunrise, noon, 4pm, and sunset.It proved to be the best way to keep track of time without wearing a watch.Also important to note is the importance of modestly while traveling around Istanbul.Pants and t-shirts are the best or shorts that go past your knees.I also carried a headscarf that I used to cover my hair whenever I entered into a mosque or Basilica.
After two long days of sight-seeing my friends and I decided to go to the Cagaloglu Hamami, which is a famous Turkish Bath that was recently voted as one of the "1,000 Places To See Before You Die".I had no idea what I was getting into!We decided to do the 3rd priciest option, rationalizing that we would never do this again, and got an exfoliating scrub, massage, and hair wash.The point of the Hamami room is to sit and soak your skin for a long period of time until it is very soft.You then lay on a hot marble slab while a woman exfoliates your ENTIRE body and gives you a massage before washing your hair for you and rinsing you off.If you have any doubts about your body, you surely won't after an experience like that!
Getting from Istanbul to Antalya was another stressful travel experience but it was all worth it the moment we walked out the front door of our hostel and has the most magnificent view of the Mediterranean Sea.Our hostel was in The Old City which has a much cozier feel than the actual city of Antalya which has become a favorite vacation spot for many Turkish locals.Despite having every intention of going on hikes and being really active in Antalya, the bath-warm waters and hot sun of the Mediterranean coast won us over and we ended up spending 3 days on the beach.Antalya has two beaches, one is sand and the other is a rock beach where the shore is made of smooth stones.Where there is no beach, cliffs reaching 200' go directly into the water, which is so clear you can see the individual rocks on the sea floor.At the end of the beach on the Western part of the city you can see the Taurus Mountains on a good say when they have not caught the clouds.
By our final day in Turkey we were ready to go home – even though we had an absolutely amazing trip!I still have hard time putting into words what I experienced over the past week.I have never felt so displaced and like I didn't belong.Traveling was challenging with the language barrier, and traveling without a male made us the victims of a great deal of hassling by locals.However, I have never had a cultural experience like what my travels around Turkey offered.A one-week trip put my 21 years of life into perspective.I am grateful to be a woman and live in a country where I can practice any career I choose, wear anything I want to wear, and speak my mind openly.The things I take for granted are not rights all over the World.I hope that my time in Turkey made me a better person – a stronger individual that appreciates all the privileges I have been given in life.