Travels in Turkey

Travel Destinations — By on May 23, 2007 at 5:09 pm

There are a lot of issues simmering these days in Turkey, from negotiations to join the European Union, to agitations by the Kurds for more autonomy, to a debate about democracy between secular and Islamist parties. None of that lessens the allure of the country as a travel destination, however. Tom Haines, travel writer for the Boston Globe, recently reported on a visit to Turkey.

It is impossible to travel in Turkey, revered by outsiders for its history spanning civilizations and intimate Mediterranean coastline, among so much more, and not see signs of the cultural conundrum that remains after 84 years of statehood. Yet debates about identity are most often muted, carried out in the press, in cafes, or in prisons. Turkey, a heavily policed country, is usually calm.

Visitors — many million each year, from Russia and Britain, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, among others — have little problem finding what they seek: rediscovery of long-gone empires, or escape where Europe and Asia meet.

It is in maneuvering between vacation destinations and historic sites that contemporary Turkey presents itself. Join the crowds of commuters on Bosporus ferries. Or walk the streets and wait: One evening, on the main avenue of Sanliurfa , two suit-wearing students asked where I was from. I said the United States.

“Would you like to come to our home for dinner,” one said.

I bought an offering of baklava for the table. Then we settled around broiled chicken, olives, cheese, and conversation about everything from soldier strength to cellphone ring tones. It was nourishing.

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