Hey Penny! How are you doing? :)
I came back from Turkey early this morning and all I can say is: wow. Turks are certainly not how they are portrayed at all. I met the loveliest people on holiday and even saw some family and they took drove me to Ankara and we passed by many small towns.
Walking into Turkey, it doesn't really feel like you are in the Middle East or an Islamic country. However, they do have a lot of Syrians and many people are bothered that so many have flooded into the country and there is more crime but they have tried not to be hostile.
One thing I notice is that Turkey certainly is a very colourful country with a very colourful people. They really are an extremely attractive people who dress very smartly/elegantly and I have seen a variety of fashions. Lots of very European looking people-very white, blue eyes, green eyes, grey eyes. and they have many ethnicities including Greek, Armenian, Zaza, Laz, Kurd, Circassian, Balkan. Men always in fancy shirts/polo shirts and nice trousers/jeans and even many in full suits. Women dress very feminine and colourfully and have a sweet attitude. Mini dresses, mini skirts, shorts, fancy blouses, shorts and nice top, nice blouse and skinny jeans, lots of nice jewellery, nice handbags, variety of hair colours (even blue, purple). Women with tattoos, piercings, dreadlocks. I personally was going around in mini dresses most of the time and had no problems. Even the women who wear hijab dress so elegantly; colourful/floral headscarf, nice colourful dress/long top with trousers underneath or slim-fitting jeans and a cool blouse. They certainly look and dress better than English people and most Europeans in my opinion. Very natural women too-little make-up as their skin is so good. Walking around the country, you do not see any tracksuits and scruffy clothes like we are so used to seeing in England!
Transport in Istanbul was very good. They have newly built trains, underground metro, trams, buses and ferry and to use all of those you just have to put some money on 1 card and you can access all transportation with that 1 card instead of having to buy different tickets for buses, trains, etc. When I went to stay with my cousin in Kucukcekmece, Istanbul, we 2 underground and a bus.
Wandering around Istanbul and Ankara it certainly looks extremely developed. Lots of tall buildings, stunning architecture, especially all the apartment blocks who are each unique and so colourful.
Bodrum was very nice. It's no different than being on a little Greek island. People sat outside till late drinking, playing games. Some pretty Westerm looking people. Families coming to the beach to play with their kids in their bikinis, young couples chilling out. in the hotel that I stayed in in Bodrum, there were several Kurdish waiters/cleaners and all seem to be getting along with the Turks. Many speaking Kurdish between them with no problem. A few tried to flirt but I was not interested. They say that Bodrum is a very nice place. One young man was from Cizre and I asked him what the situation there is like and he said that it is good and that the media exaggerates everything. Turkey has some pretty impressive nightclubs. I met this girl and her brother from Ankara at the hotel and we went out some evenings and the clubs are so good. Everyone gets so dressed up, dancing all night, drinking. They look more lively than the ones here in the UK.
So travelling through Turkey felt very safe. The people have a very warm and hospitable nature. They are so peaceful. The people also seem to be thriving. Nice luxurious apartments, sooo many BMWs, Mercedes and other fancy cars. Often you see young couples out enjoying themselves, men/women going out with their friends, having a drink, eating dinner/desserts (great food!), going shopping, going to the gym. Lots of women walking by themselves during the night. Lots of sports too, including female volleyball/netball teams. The portrayal of Turkey as this hostile, barbaric, Islamist country is very untrue. People in Turkey were very nice and they went out of their way to ensure that I had a good time. They also have a huge love for animals and do what they can to feed/protect them. Everything from the dinner service to transport seemed to be very efficient and quick. The majority of people in Turkey have a university degree, including women and there are many engineers and doctors.
The people that I met there were very interested in Western countries and wanted to know more about them. Talking to Turks, they seem to have this perception that Western countries are so perfect but looking at Turkey, it seems to be doing better than most European countries, particularly Eastern Europe. People in Turkey were shocked to hear about homelessness in Manchester. One girl that I met in Bodrum is studying construction engineering in Ankara and she wants to come to Canada or England for a few months to improve her English. I was sat alone in the hotel bar once and she came over to me and asked me to join her and her bro. Her brother is a petroleum engineer/geophysicist and he is away for five weeks and then comes home for five weeks. He tells me that on his ship, there are some English people and he has become friends with them. The boy was 27 and he owned a BMW. The girl and her bro told me that the western media exaggerates a lot of stuff. One bad thing happens and they make it look like it's everyone.
Next, I went to Istanbul. I arrived during the night and a taxi came to pick me up. It took 45 minutes to drive me to my hotel and driving through Istanbul was very nice. Just seeing the lights on the bridge, the huge, tall, almost skyscrapers everywhere. Newly built roads. I was not expecting this. It was my first time in Istanbul. Istanbul has over 4 million Kurds and all seem to be living peacefully.
They are mostly a conservative Muslim people and Turks that I spoke to had no problem with them. But they do say that the southeastern parts are more conservative/religious. Many honour killings happen in Kurd families.
Another thing that I noticed in Istanbul were flags of opposition parties. Twice I saw CHP flags hung almost like washings. When I met up with my cousin on the 2nd day in Istanbul, she took me to Istiklal Caddesi and as we were walking down the street which was very busy, she was saying that Istiklal used to have more trees but they got chopped down because the gov was bulding more roads. She also mentioned that near there, the government was planning to build a new shopping centre but decided not to as people protested that it would destroy more nature. So definitely not a dictatorship. The same also happened in a small town called Artvin where the government was planning to build a shopping centre but environmental activists did protested as it would destroy so much nature so in the end, the gov decided not to.Ally returned home, safe and sound, to the UK. Which surely made her mom very happy :)
Mom's worry like that. I know.