On my first trip, I went with ITAKA travel agency. I will always have a great sentiment for this adventure. Today I mostly remember how many mistakes I made due to being an inexperienced traveller. Since I’m a professional tester, I’m going to start with pointing out those errors:
1. I went for this trip without any preparations/research
I know, it is not a sin. I have not read about the country, the customs, or even the places I was about to visit. Throughout the tour, I was really looking forward only to Cappadocia – and it was mainly due to the legends in which the rocky city has grown in my head (thank You, Vampire: Masquerade). I did not even know anything about the Muslim faith – a silly 18-year-old girl is going to holiday. Alone.
2. I did not ask for extra expenses on site
I was not aware that there is even a slight chance I will need to pay additional money on site. In Poland they explained to me what is “Bakshish”, but there was no mention of optional trips or their price. This way when I had the opportunity to watch the sun rise over Cappadocia from the balloon – I did not have enough money to pay for that.
3. I did not bring my swimsuit (or sleepwear)
So obvious, and yet I was able to forget it. And while buying a swimsuit at a local bazaar was fun, now I’m packing swimsuit even for a trip to Norway (and I even found it useful!).
4. I did not take printed tour plan with me
This way I did not have the basis for putting pressure on the leader of the trip (when she decided to “skip” some places) or even be aware where are we going next.
5. I did not dare to write a complaint
Now I know that I should have reported the number of nerves and gaps in the tour to travel agency. I would not be surprised if most of the participants returned from this trip and asked for a refund. I returned frustrated, but I did not have the courage to write a complaint.
Turkey is a beautiful country that despite its exoticism seemed very close to me. I visited it according to the plan of the trip called “Orient Express”:
During the entire trip, we were accompanied by a Turkish guide and a Turkish driver whose stories about their country were endless. Of course, they both spoke English. Only I and two other young girls understood this language. This way we were able to take advantage of the whole tour. The others were not so lucky since the Polish guide translation contained only the fraction of the information.
When it comes to local guides they were delighted to have a tourist willing to talk in English (me :D). This way I had their full attention. They were answering all my questions, telling fascinating legends, inviting for some refreshments in Istanbul and to the pub in Ankara. All this in a safe form, since I was with two men speaking fluent Turkish.
I will return to what everyone was able to experience – I was very impressed by both Pamukkale and Hierapolis. In my opinion, these places were the crown of the whole trip. Pamukkale is simply beautiful – like a mountain consisted of coral reef with warm streams of water. In my ignorance, I did not expect to see well-preserved Roman monuments in Turkey. Passing through the ruins of Hierapolis, you can really feel the breath of history on the back of your neck.
The next place worth mentioning is the Topkapi Palace. The palace was beautiful and crowded. I visited it on my own. Due to lack of knowledge, I was not able to appreciate fully the buildings or the monuments inside the palace. The only thing that got my attention, was of course Harem. Oh, the image I had in my head about this place was so wrong.
For lazy people, I recommend a Turkish television series “Muhteşem Yüzyıl”. It is not very ambitious cinema, but You will get a nice glimpse at relations in the sultan harem and the story of Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, the longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
When it comes to Sultan Suleiman, it was his son who built the finest mosque I had ever seen – the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque). In my opinion, this temple is even more beautiful than Hagia Sophia.
Leaving mosques and civilization we finally reached Cappadocia. We started the tour from the Göreme Open Air Museum. I did not expect Christian churches in Turkey with beautiful and colourful frescoes. Another shame on me for not knowing the history. The sight of angels with scratched eyes moved me deeply. The scratched eyes in the images of saints and angels are a reminder of Muslims control over Cappadocia. Their faith prohibits the representation of human figures in paintings (as something that can lead to idolatry).
Turkey is the country I want to return to. During this trip, I made so many mistakes that I could have been passing through blindfolded and got the similar result. I did not experience this country, I did not fully understand what the guides told me about the history of the places or another historical persona.
Please, do not replicate my mistakes. Before you go somewhere – read about the country, its history, customs and places you will visit. I would also recommend reaching for something slightly more ambitious than “Guide to ” I will explain why while writing my trip to Japan.