I last visited Turkey in 2013. The next few years would be difficult ones for Turkey, and especially for tourism in Turkey. Through the first quarter of this year I’d receive over fifteen STEP Notifications from the State Department warning me about visiting Turkey, and understandably so. Numerous terrorist attacks have taken place in the last several years, aside from political turmoil and a coup d’état attempt on President Erdogan’s government. Since then Turkey’s relationship with the European Union and the United States has deteriorated. As a result, Turkey’s tourism industry has been hurting for years now. As if it weren’t enough, last week an American consulate employee was arrested in Turkey, and the U.S. suspended the issuing of all non-immigrant visa in Turkey. Turkey quickly followed suit.
These are indeed sad developments. My wife is of Turkish background. Her mom is from the Gagauz people, a Turkic-speaking group – the largest population of which resides in Moldova. As you can imagine, we have an emotional attachment to Turkey. Turkey is just such an amazing country to visit, with so much flavor, culture and history (yes yes it’s a cliche to say that – but it can rightfully be repeated about Turkey). I don’t remember ever being in a city with as much peoples diversity as Istanbul. Truly a city and crossroads of the world. The hot apple tea upon arriving EVERYWHERE, the brined cheese, the mercimek çorbası or lentil soup, the kebab, the rice pilav, the Turkish delights… oh don’t get me started.
What a beautiful country and people
I’ll share some photos that we’ve taken while in Turkey. As you look at them think that even if we wanted to, we’re unable to visit these beautiful and awe-inspiring places at the moment. Think about all of the merchants and tourism workers who will be affected by the further scarcity of tourists with this newly-imposed ban. Think about Turkish Airlines, whose purpose is to do the exact opposite of what politics is doing: unite the two countries. Turkish Airlines -member of Star Alliance- is a great airline to fly both air and ground. I still keep some Turkish amenity kits. (Want a Turkish Airlines amenity kit? Read here). One great benefit of flying through Istanbul is the ability to have long layovers in your itinerary, giving you the opportunity to explore Istanbul as a ‘stopover’ en route to somewhere else. But no more. Though the situation may change for the better, it certainly is a reminder of how fragile our world order is and how we can’t seem to value the important things.