By Emily, age 19, Newfoundland
Sweet Designs Featured Writer
Last summer I went to Turkey for six weeks. I hadn't been in nine years, and my dad decided that it was time for me to visit my family before I got involved in my university studies.
For those of you who don't know anything about Turkey, here are a few fun facts:
♥ It's one of the only Islamic countries to have separated church from state.
♥ Even though it's a democratic country, generally (depending on where you go) young girls are still dictated by their parents and have very little freedom.
♥ Despite popular belief, Istanbul is not the capital. The capital of Turkey is Ankara.
♥ There was a major earthquake in August 1999 which killed 33,000 people. There is still rubble from the earthquake in some places.
♥ The nightlife there is spectacular. Natives hang out at cafes and restaurants all evening and just talk and listen to live music.
♥ Croissants actually originated in Turkey, not France.
A few days before my trip I started getting really nervous about the whole thing. Not only do I not speak the language, but my family members in Turkey are all very conservative Muslims, and most of the girls in my family are forced to cover.
My step-mom Belgin was forced to cover around my father's family.
Once I got there, some of my fears were reinforced. Dede (my father's father) struck fear into the hearts of all the women in my family. They knew that when he was around, they needed to cover their bodies despite the 100+ degree weather in Turkey. I, on the other hand, have never done well with dictator authority figures and purposely rebelled, wearing t-shirts, capri pants and lots of make-up, which I was later told irritated my family.
Belgin's family, however, were much more liberal. They had their biological granddaughter at their house at the same time I was there, and she wore more make-up than I did, had a boyfriend, and was studying journalism in university.
Gulcin (Belgin's neice) and I at a cafe in Adapazari.
But the culture of the whole place is just neat. Because Turkey lies at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the country has a lot of influences, especially from North America. They have shoe stores, clothing stores, movie theatres, and restaurants just like we do. In particular, they have some English speaking movies (with Turkish subtitles), McDonald's, Burger King, Nike, Adidas, and so on.
My favorite store, though, is called Koton. It's a clothing store that has all the latest fashions. It's about the equivalent of Charlotte Russe or Forever 21. For 21 million lira (which is about $16.50 CAD or USD), I bought the prettiest skirt that I could wear back home. Some of the best shopping, though, is in the bazaars. For about 30 million lira, I bought another skirt, a mini-Qur'an, a dress, some accessories, and a shirt.
I think the only downfall to my vacation there was that: a) I don't like Turkish food, b) when I ate out in Turkey, it made me ill, and c) the female oppression.
So if you're thinking about going to Turkey, here are some tips:
♥ Never go anywhere alone.
♥ Never carry any valuable documents with you, as there are muggers everywhere.
♥ Make sure you do some research about the places where you're going, as some cities primarily have a hole in the ground as opposed to toilets. Of course, in your hotel, they will have toilets, but when you're out and about in the city, you never know when a business will have a toilet.
♥ Carry around a Turkish-English dictionary. The most popular is a small yellow dictionary. It will mostly likely have every word you're looking for.
♥ Make sure you know that when you land at the airport in Turkey you will need a visa to enter the country. You also need it to leave the country, so don't throw it away!
And make sure you see all the sights you can! The nightlife is amazing! So much happens at night!