Anytime you leave the country there is a heightened sense of awareness about cultural norms and the culture you come from yourself. We had an idea of what Turkey is like prior to arrival however there were some wonderful surprises we learned about the country after arrival.

Derinkuyu an underground cave city that 20,000 people inhabited
  1. No Velvet Ropes – We were astounded by the ability to really “get into” all the attractions in Turkey, mostly in regards to Cappadocia and the towns in that region. In America there would be more safety barricades and roped off areas preventing tourists from going into dangerous places. I’m talking deep down in the caves, up on the fairy chimneys and all around the outdoor museums. The only down side is that there was not as much ADA accessibility. We were surprised that this “up close and personal” interaction we had with the country did not result in a ton of graffiti, also something that would happen in America if we had that level of access granted. The vibe we got from all the attractions, specifically the outdoor venues, was “if you fall and die, that is on you” which was refreshing considering we are often handheld to safety in the US. Pros and cons to both, if we had kids I would have a much different viewpoint, I’m sure!
  2. Exchange Rate – Turkey is the Mexico of Europe. It is hard to look at an exchange rate and understand what the value of it truly is. The dollar to lira was roughly 1 to 10, however we’ve been to countries like Japan where everything was fully adjusted in price. Turkey was not the case. Everything was incredibly cheap, most notably the amazing food. We went to Turkey over the Thanksgiving holiday (funny, right?) and that holiday is one we always spend with family. It was a bit of a bummer to not be with them for Thanksgiving Dinner, however we asked the owner/manager of Esbelli Evi to order us in our own version of thanksgiving from Il Gusto. We ended up getting a charcuterie plate, salad, 30oz tomahawk steak, hummus, and a dessert for $30 USD. It was incredible.  We were able to really try a bunch of different food without breaking the bank.
  3. Turkish Wine – Who knew Turkey produced such amazing wines? Apparently, a lot of people know, but I certainly did not. Turkey is in a great production region (a stone’s throw from the rest of Europe) so it is no wonder they can craft delicious varietals. Again, the exchange rate is delightful, and we drank many very nice bottles of wine for $5-7. At restaurants the wine was often $4 per glass. Considering a glass of wine in Dallas could be $10-14, I was thrilled! We fell in love with a varietal call Okuzgazu, mostly because of the name. Specifically, we went to Turasan in Urgup and purchased a few of their bottles.
  4. Religious Significance – Today Turkey is majority Muslim, but we did not account for the religious significance to Christianity in the region. Mary (as in Jesus’ Mom) is buried in Ephesus and lived out her final years in Turkey. Saint John the Baptist also lived the last few years of his life in Turkey and is buried in the Basilica of Saint John. There is an annual pilgrimage from Rome to the religious sites in Turkey each year, Mary’s home. Separately, Turkey is also home to Saint Nicholas (Santa!). Most people equate Turkey with a Muslim population, and that is true. However, for folks that love Christian history, Turkey is a beautiful place to experience it.
  5. Hair plugs – Who knew hair plugs was such a big business in Turkey? We didn’t. We couldn’t figure out why so many men were bleeding from their heads as we walked around, but after the third time Patrick was given a hair plug business card from a Turkish man, we finally figured it out! Ha! It must be as common as women getting their nails done in the US. We saw so many men with hair plugs, it was unreal. Even on the flight home there were a lot of folks who were recovering from it. It could even be like how some people get their cosmetic surgeries done out of country. If you happen to be a hair plug expert, please let me know!
  6. Citizenship Incentives – The Turkish government has incentives in place to move to Turkey and there are a lot of Arab retirees in Turkey for this reason. You can be granted full citizenship if you have a net worth of $500K per individual or you purchase $250K of real estate. Their dollar goes far so many people retire to Turkey from surrounding countries.
  7. Proximity to Greece – Less than a mile away by boat, some Greeks come over to have dinner and go back home because it is so cheap! There is even a “Little Greece” spot near Ephesus where many Greecians retire (Sirince). You can swim beach to beach if you’re feeling sporty, although I’m not sure how the water chop would be.
  8. 10 Year Mortgages – This was an interesting piece of information picked up from our cab driver. Apparently, a 10 year mortgage is either the standard or a requirement to owning property. Unlike the US where 30 year mortgages are the norm, people seeking to own a home must have a significant amount upfront and be able to pay the high mortgages given the terms of the loan are 10 years. The initial investment and high monthly cost can be cost prohibitive to a lot of people, however the general price of real estate is lower than what we see here in Dallas. Our cab driver owned one home and one investment property, if that gives you any indication.
  9. Well-fed Community Pups – We’ve been to countries where there are mangy wild dogs. This was the opposite of that. Throughout Turkey you will spot some community pet food and water where city dogs and cats can fuel up. So much so, that it was unusual to see skinny animals. All the dogs we saw were really plump and loved their bellies rubbed. Very friendly, we had one dog follow us all the way back to our hotel room and tried to come in for a nap!
Country dog is ready to hop in the car with us!

Have you experienced these kind of surprises in other countries? Or are these common to a country we haven’t been to yet? We would love to hear!

Posted by:Allie

2 replies on “9 Surprises from Our Travels to Turkey

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