Our delights were Istanbul, Cappadocia and Yalikavak.
Istanbul was vibrant and alive. We took in the main sights with our usual inquisitive minds; it always feels a privilege to visit a new part of the world.
The Blue Mosque stood proudly before us, exuding the peace and tranquility that always seems to accompany places of worship; Topkapi Palace wowed us with its beauty and vast history (and colourful stories of badly behaved Ottomans!) – the highlight of which was the Harem, the place where the Sultan could engage in debauchery at will. My mind drifted curiously, exploring what it would be like being a concubine.
We stood in awe in front of the grand Aya Sofia, famous for its massive dome ceiling. It is now a museum, but it has lived as a mosque and a church (from the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as a cathedral, then it was converted into a mosque).
We felt overwhelmed in the Grand Bazaar, understandably so, as it is a maze of lanes with over 3000 shops. It was a feast for our senses: colours dancing and catching the light, the stall owners competing for our attention.
Turkey is 95% Muslim and the call to prayer – the ezan – became a normal and enjoyable part of our day (the ezan is chanted five times daily over loud speakers from minarets). But Istanbul felt cosmopolitan – shorts and vest tops happily walk along side traditional Muslim dress; mosques sit comfortably next to bars.
After the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, Cappadocia came as a sharp contrast. A volcanic eruption many millennia ago formed a geologically unique landscape; and as interesting is the human history – Byzantines living in secret formed monasteries within the rocks. We even stayed in a cave, albeit a posh cave!
‘The best way to see Cappadocia is by hot-air balloon’, said Husband tentatively ‘but you have to get up at 4.30 am to do it as the weather conditions aren’t suitable later.’
I am fearful of heights and have a passionate love affair with sleep – but I HATE missing out. What was I going to do? Stay in the hotel, tucked snugly under my duvet whilst Husband had this unique experience solo? I don’t think so!
As I looked down, I watched as the basket lifted off the ground – determination had got me this far, but now what? I stood very still, believing this would somehow stop the fear in its tracks. The basket didn’t rock as I had expected it to, the sensation was calm and still. I am okay I thought. Yes – I AM OKAY! I relaxed into the experience, fascinated by the tiny windows poking out of the white, cream and dusty pink cone-shaped rocks. I was a Peaceful Warrior in a basket, living in the moment, letting go of fear.
We ended our trip with a week by the coast in Yalikavak: we sat on the terrace overlooking the sea with the sound of the waves as our only company; we mooched round a fishing village and savoured the freshness of one of the days catch; we watched the sun set below the horizon – amazed at the speed the sun moves and appreciated the layers of pinks and oranges which lit up the sky; we lay around lazily reading our books – treasuring the luxury of having time to read in the middle of the day; we fantasized about being rich enough to own a yacht, as we admired the boats at the ‘Saint-Tropez’ of Yalikavak.
Oh Turkey, you were full of delights. Our soul food account is fit to burst; our relationship feels nurtured and fresh (Husband has been way a lot with work recently, so spending two whole weeks together has been delicious).
And, of course, I have had plenty of time to think about my reinvention. You know how it is – on holiday you feel free, your dreams are braver and bolder. I have come home with a long list of ‘inspirational ideas’. Now all I have to do is stay brave. After all it wouldn’t be much of a reinvention without a sprinkle of boldness now would it?