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Discovering Turkey

The typical jologs Filipino (this writer included smil) has limited knowledge about Turkey. What’s funny is that in two separate occasions, my sister Dada and I had similar encounters with Turkish citizens when we talked about their country. I was in a FinTech event in Thailand while she was in a meeting with deposit insurers in Kuala Lumpur. We were asked, “What’s this with Filipinos, they always ask about Yilmaz Bektas when they find out that you’re from Turkey?” Hahaha! (Yilmaz Bektas was married to Filipina actress and beauty title holder Ruffa Gutierrez.)

That whole ignorance was changed when I visited Turkey last month.

Turkey is so much more than Yilmaz Bektas! It is among the cradles of civilization. The earliest human settlements in Turkey were believed to have existed as early as the Neolithic age – think thousands of years before Christ was born.

There are also a lot of biblical references to Turkey. “For Christ’s sake” (pun intended), Mama Mary lived in Turkey – on Mt. Nightingale in the vicinity of Ephesus.

 

Pleasant surprise
Earlier this year, Marvin and I planned to have a vacation in Spain. While he was looking for seat sales, he found a good price at Turkish Airlines. The flight has a stop-over at Istanbul. I suggested that we take a couple of days there before proceeding to the four Spanish cities he wanted to visit.

I was surprised to learn that Turkish Airlines flies to the most number of countries because of its centrally strategic location. It is just a few hours away from most of the major cities in the world. They also claim to have the youngest fleet of planes. I like their toilet – it’s quite spacious with lots of mirrors and also has plants and scented oils. I just wonder why they don’t have cups for gargling.

They have a chef wearing white outfit and toque on board who comes and asks what you’d like to take for your next meal. I always marvel at the way airplane meals are served using limited space and time. The FA saw me thrilled to see the “star light” and Aladdin-inspired salt and pepper containers that she said, “Take them home. I’ll give you some more.” smil

At the end of our meal, we were treated to an array of Turkish delights plus other lovely desserts. Oh no! I won’t be able to sleep anymore with all the sweets. Their coffee and tea were served in an interesting Turkish flask or beautiful cup with intricately designed metal holder. The Turkish coffee was way too strong for this occasional coffee drinker.

Their lounge in Istanbul is so big it has two floors complete with a locker room, beautiful ladies’ room, mini theater with popcorn, library, pool table, business center and other amenities. It also has an array of cuisines to choose from.

Check it out, “biber” does not refer to the young singer Justin here but is the Turkish word for pepper.

Check it out, “biber” does not refer to the young singer Justin here but is the Turkish word for pepper.

 

We arrived in Istanbul early morning at 5am. Marvin knew that I didn’t like to walk a lot, so he booked Hagia Sophia Hotel, right in the heart of top tourist sites we can cover in two days in the former Constantinople, now Istanbul. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the price per night of this prime property hotel was only equivalent to PhP4,130. (Our hotel rates in Manila are really not competitive. sadface) But then again, no one beats Filipino hospitality.
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Hagia Sophia
Pronounced by the locals as “Aya Sofya” which means Church of the Holy Wisdom, this is Istanbul’s top attraction. It began as a church of the Byzantine Empire. The original structure was built in the 4th century under the founder of Constantinople, Constantine the Great. After the original building was destroyed, his son and successor had a new church built. This was burned down, then built upon. When Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire, the Christian cathedral was transformed into a mosque. Today it is a museum where tourists can see the different influences in the designs used in this centuries old structure.
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Basilica Cistern
This is located near Hagia Sophia. It used to be the water reservoir which was constructed by the Byzantine Emperor Justinianus. It is called Basilica Cistern because a basilica once stood in that ground. If you remember the 2016 installment to the Da Vinci Code series entitled Inferno, this was the where those final scenes were shot.
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Blue Mosque
Sultan Ahmed Mosque is called the Blue Mosque because of the beautiful blue tiles used. It was constructed in the 1600s during the reign of Sultan Ahmed and that’s why the structure includes a mausoleum where he is buried. The mosque is lined with over 20,000 homemade ceramic tiles, has 200 intricately designed stained glass and chandeliers and other lighting fixtures adorned with gems and gold. As in any mosque visit, women were required to cover their heads and no footwear, shorts (both pants and sleeves) were allowed inside.
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Topkapi Palace
When the Ottoman Empire ruled Instanbul they began building this grand palace which was completed in 1478. It became the administrative, cultural and educational center of the empire as well as the royal residence. It includes a Harem with more than 400 rooms and many different sections. This served as the living space of the sultan, the queen mother, sultan’s women, children, brothers, sisters, servants, concubines, eunuchs. It also has a circumcision room. The palace houses important relics, art and other historical pieces. After a tour of the sultan’s palace, Marvin and I tried to feel how it was to be a Sultan and Sultan’s wife, at least in costume. smil
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Grand Plaza
Also known as Kapali Carsi or Buyuk Carsi, this is one of the oldest and largest bazaars in the world. With almost 4,000 stores, restaurants, cafes, and service stores spread over 61 covered streets. What bothered me was that a lot of people smoked in the bazaar, and I really find smoke “buyuk” (Ilocano word for unpleasant smell) so I will always remember the name Buyuk Carsi. smil(Actually, all over Istanbul and Spain, a lot of people still smoke. sadface ) Around 250,000 tourists visit this bazaar every year. I drooled at the beautiful lamps and ceramic items but was too afraid to buy any because we still had a lot of packing and unpacking to do, as we were to visit four more cities during the trip, so I settled for the beautiful shawls and pillow cases featuring works of famous Turkish artists, the “break-free” items.
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Cruise
We also took the evening cruise that went around the bodies of water surrounding Istanbul, but I was off the entire time. Again, way too many smokers. Even if we were seated at the indoor dining area, the doors going to the smoking area kept on opening that all the smoke was coming in. When they started the show, we were all asked to go out. One of the crew members noticed me and asked, “Are you okay?” I said I was bothered by the smoke and that I had asthma. She said, “Come I’ll bring you to the place for children.” Hoping that I would be spared from the smoke, I followed her but even that space was not spared from smoke. In fact, the girl who brought me there started to smoke, and she was right next to the children. Aargh! We ended up going to the other side of the boat and just missed a good part of the show. I can’t remember the name of this cruise, so I’ll just call it Buyuk Cruise.smil

The truth is, we just got a taste of Istanbul. (By the way, if you want to to do your tours on your own, use the app Visit a City.) There are a lot more places to visit and admire in Turkey that can’t be covered in just two days – Mama Mary’s home, Ephesus, birth places of St. Paul and Santa Claus, Cappadocia, Troy, and many more. If you love history this is your Disneyland.

 

Interesting conversation
I would always be greeted with “Ni hao” or “Xie xie” and one time I said, “Oh I’m not Chinese, I’m Filipino.” This started a conversation with a male store owner, “So you’re from the Philippines. I like to go there, to Boracay.” As I always do when abroad I tried to promote our tourism, “Yes, visit the Philippines, and do it as soon as you can! We have the best beaches and most wonderful people in the world!” Then he further engaged me in a conversation, “Yes I want to go, but what is wrong with your president? Why are there so many killings happening in your country now? Is your drug problem really that big or is he just making it up?” Again, as I always do when abroad, I do not badmouth our leaders but still try to project the positive side of our country without lying, “Well, maybe the problem is a bit exaggerated.” This guy seems to be really studying our country because of his intention to come for a vacation. He went on, “Yes, I think it is. Why is he doing that? Is he crazy? It’s not safe anymore. What’s wrong with him? I know about your country. I know that actress, what’s her name? She was married to Yilmaz Bektas.” To evade answering his questions, I asked, “So what does Yilmaz Bektas really do here?” To that he quickly answered, “He’s a drug lord! He really likes beauty queens. Before he was very visible, but now, he’s low-key because he was shot.”

It’s interesting how a piece of information can already form our perception of an entire country. Moreover, the news that spread are the unpleasant ones. For this guy, his intention to come visit our beaches is hampered by the killings that he reads about. Hopefully, things will improve so that we attract more tourists. We may not have mosques and palaces that are thousand years old, or a culture that’s so rich in history, but we have the most hospitable people on earth. We are always smiling and sincerely giving our warm service. For anyone taking a vacation, I think it’s the warm treatment that would leave a mark in his heart.wallet-icon

 

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ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Watch tomorrow’s short video of this Turkey trip on FQwentuhan at 12 noon.
  • Watch out for the next installments of my trip stories. Up next are the four cities of Spain – Madrid, Toledo, Sevilla, Barcelona.
  • If you’re interested to be in the first batch of the country’s first Fund Management Certificate Course, register now. Call Matt Mabansag 830-2043, (0932)7919190; or register online now http://www.cce.ateneo.edu/course/fund-management-certificate-programposter01
  • Marvin and I will be giving a talk on retirement. October 17, 2017 Tuesday 9am at the Frabelle Business Center; and October 24, 2017 in Cagayan de Oro.poster02
  • Want to know your FQ Score? Take it today. Click link to take the test. http://tinyurl.com/FQTest

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Rose Fres Fausto is a speaker and author of bestselling books Raising Pinoy Boys and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon (English and Filipino versions). Click this link to read samples – Books of FQ Mom Rose Fres Fausto. She is a Behavioral Economist, Certified Gallup Strengths Coach and the grand prize winner of the first Sinag Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Awards. Follow her on Facebook and You Tube as FQ Mom, and Twitter & Instagram as theFQMom.

ATTRIBUTIONS: Image from Fund management catalogue, freepptbackgrounds.net, depositphotos.com, ihdimages.com, itkupilli-cutencool.blogspot.com, Pinterest, pptbackgrounds.org, RF clipart, Tomyads.info, upload.wikimedia.org, qph.ec.quoracdn.net, Askideas.com, emrecetinblog.com and Shutterstock used for the cover to help deliver the message of the article.