The Grand Bazaar with its winding corridors packed with merchants selling Turkish rugs, jewelry, copper, gold, furniture, clothing, and almost anything imaginable… The Spice Bazaar filled with an aroma so exquisite from the vast variety of herbs, spices, and desserts that I am able to reminisce about it distinctly four years later… Hagia Sophia, a beautiful representation of architectural design from the Byzantine Empire… The Sultan Ahmet (Blue) Mosque complete with towering minarets and blue tiles, overlooking the Sea of Marmara… Topkapi Palace with quaint courtyards and gardens and marvelous mosaics on each wall of the interior… The Izmir Clock Tower, a breathtaking landmark overlooking the Aegean Sea…

Ephesus, a retrospective view of ancient civilizations through the preserved ruins. The path that led me off the well-traveled roads of Turkey and further immersed me into a culture so fascinating and an experience so unique. I spent a month each for three summers in a global crossroad where the historical presence of the Middle East blends with Western influence.

I traveled with my mother, whose homeland is this truly remarkable country where I was not only able to experience these historical sites mentioned above, but also witness the culture through her eyes. Destinations included Istanbul, Izmir, and Kusadasi.

I was intrigued by these cities, each complete with markets selling fresh produce and Turkish tea as well as outdoor cafes, restaurants, and vendors selling grilled corn, pickles, roasted pistachios, and pumpkin seeds. The sea gleamed in the rays of the sun from the cloudless sky as ferries, yachts, and sailboats passed by the shores. Horse and carriages cruised through streets lined with palm trees and fragrant flowers. Rich Turkish instrumentals from the latest pop songs supplemented the upbeat atmosphere. Whirling dervishes captivated my attention as they spun for nearly twenty minutes, perfectly in synch with traditional Turkish music.

Wherever I went, I was able to practice speaking Turkish with locals who were eager to help me improve my language skills. I cherish every moment that I was able to spend in this hospitable culture, where the kindness of the people truly complete the beauty of Turkey.

~Lela Ross