My recent visit to Turkey has been nothing short of magical. I am not sure what I expected, especially as it was so soon after the June 29 blasts, but definitely not this.
Is it safe to visit Turkey? Hell YES
Why am I writing this? For, as soon as I returned, most questions I was asked was – is it safe? Are you out of your mind to go there now? Are people going to Istanbul? Did they frisk you? Ask you questions?
I am not out of my mind – I figured if flights were landing at the airports in Turkey, I didn’t mind being on one!
Here are my answers.
Yes, I was half expecting to be scanned and frisked and asked a thousand questions as to why I wanted to come to Turkey so soon after the airport bombing. I was surprised that no such thing happened – I cleared immigration in less than five minutes, boarded the bus to Taksim right outside the airport and was gone in about fifteen minutes after landing. Everything was normal – it was business as usual.
Taksim, however didn’t feel the same – but it was Bayram (eid break for the rest of you) and during this time people of Istanbul travel out. That is NOT a cover up (I know of newspapers who said Istanbul was a ghost town and this is NOT true). Every year, during Bayram, people living in Istanbul travel out of the city for a break. I saw this for myself – all the roads leading out were jammed!
No fear was strong enough to keep them locked inside their houses – instead, the people were determined to turn the otherwise grim situation into a matter of fact and moving on.
You gotta give it to the Turkish people – they are strong, level headed and kind.
Despite all that they have witnessed and suffered, they were just as friendly. One I arrived at Sultanahmet and got lost trying to locate my hostel, a kind shopkeeper gave me tea, sat me down and googled the directions and sent me on my way with his business card “just in case.” Again, I got lost in the many by-lanes and crowds and a kind man sat me on his electric bike and drove me to the hostel. Yes, that’s kindness!
Picture this – few months ago, in January, a blast near Blue Mosque killed ten people – and you would think police men with scanners and sniffer dogs would be waiting for you at every corner. But no. Even today, you just walked into Blue Mosque, offered your prayers and left. Yes, there are police cars around, watching – but not for them the excessive or obsessive caution or fear of visitors. Just a welcoming smile that says “all are welcome here.”
No random stops or checks.
Shopkeepers do NOT slink away when they see a stranger – are as welcoming as ever and happy to tell you how they are moving on or how the flow of “visitors” had ebbed but is slowly picking up. Not once will you hear them call the terrorists ugly names, but express a sadness over the incident. No slandering or name calling anything or anyone. Happy to offer you tea, and free rides. Happy to offer you discounts and suggestions. Always there to help you figure out the way to get a tram ticket or the place to get the best kebaps.
So, what has changed? See pics below!
I also want to tell those newspapers guys who said that Istanbul resembled a “ghost town” that they are full of crap. Few shops remained shut – and why not! Haven’t we all seen shutters on shops and stores over the holiday season? That doesn’t mean the store keepers have abandoned their establishments – it just means they are celebrating a much deserved break.
Were tourists keeping away? No. Tourists were thronging the city, the queue for the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia was just as long (I know because I have stood those queues at a different time as well), the trams were full, the Bosphorus cruises were full and as were the fish restaurants under the bridge – so what was everyone talking about?
I don’t get it! Why must the media instill fear in the minds of people. Yes, it’s good to report what happened – but to subsequently cook up stories? Not done. Learn from the Turkish people, I say.
Turkey has survived centuries of invasions and war – and are still going strong. Show your support – go visit Turkey.
I wholly and strongly support the morale of Turkey. No suspicions of a stranger, no double checking my story or my backpack, no curious questions – just their good heart and their determination to help. Yes, just that. Turkey is a land of wonderful people. I do not understand why they must be the target of terror groups. It pains me to think of those innocent people suffering needlessly because they are kind and accommodating. Their faith and their strength is amazing.
On June 29, the bomb blast at Ataturk International Airport was bombed, leaving 45 dead and hundreds injured. Turkey, in the recent past has been in the news for being the target for terror attacks – in Ankara, at the Blue Mosque, Taksim and most recently, at the airport.