Here is a detailed report about my trip to Turkey last month to attend the World Deaf Football Championships and the Miss and Mr Deaf International Pageant, both in Ankara, Turkey. I visited two cities in Turkey- Istanbul and Ankara.
I took the nonstop Los Angeles to Istanbul flight on Turkish Airlines for less than 13 hours and it was very tiring and boring. My seat was not that comfortable as I sat in the coach section but had the aisle seat which was convenient for me to get up often and walk up and down the plane and drinking a lot of water. I also had two pillows on my seat to make myself more comfortable and tried to have some sleep with the blanket.
What impressed me most about Turkey is the Turkish people! They were very friendly and I had wonderful hospitality with them. As soon as I landed in Istanbul I took the bus to the city then taxi to my hotel. My Turkish friend from Facebook immediately came to my hotel with his friend and we made arrangements for me to go sightseeing and visiting the Deaf Club during my four-day stay in Istanbul. Even though I was very tired when I arrived to Istanbul, I agreed to have dinner with my two new Turkish friends and had a delicious kebab.
What strikes me the most about Turkey is that I had a wonderful experience there. It is more than the "bridge between East and West" of tourist-brochure cliche as it is a country that combines influences from the Middle East and the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and central Asia.
Most of Turkey is really in Asia ( 97%) so it is not really much in Europe! In Istanbul there is a bridge between Europe and Asia. It is interesting to cross that bridge as you could see many mosques. Turkey has a population of over 70 million and 98% Muslim! Amazing!
In Istanbul I stayed at the fabulous "apartment" called Fullhouse Boutique Residence and it was a lovely one-bedroom apartment with living room and a balcony in the heart of Istanbul at Taksim. Thanks to Booking.com to help me with this reservation. Very reasonable price and better than a hotel. They even have a maid to clean my room every day.
Bargaining is a way of life in Turkey and I bargained to buy souvenirs and other things. There are bazaars and markets in Turkey including Istanbul. Be sure to visit them as they have many beautiful things like carpets,diferent spices, clothes, jewelery, leather goods and souvenirs.
There are many things to see in Istanbul from the Christian and Islamic empires. Including the mosques and palaces that dominate the city skyline.
Be sure to visit the following:
Blue Mosque ( a must!)
Aya Sofya- greatest legacy of the Byzantine Empire
The Grand Bazaar- great for shopping!!!!!
Yerebatan Sarnici- A MUST TO SEE!!! Underground cistern with fish. It is beautifully lit with walkaways to see statues and fish swimming. They are thousands of years old.
If you visit Turkey, you MUST NOT miss Istanbul at any costs. All major airlines fly directly to Istanbul then you make connections elsewhere within the country but please try to stay in Istanbul for at least three or four nights.
After visiting Istanbul I flew to Ankara, the capital of Turkey.
Istanbul used to be the capital many years ago but not any more. It was a short flight, about an hour then I took the bus to the city and then taxi to my hotel, Crowne Plaza to meet other friends and USA soccer players in the World Deaf Football Championships. I stayed at that hotel for a total of about 14 nights at a discounted rate with breakfast. It was a nice 5-star hotel but did not have a swimming pool. It was next to the large Mall and the Metro station which was helpful for my transportation needs within the city.
Ankara was very hot but that was expected. I enjoyed making new friends there especially the soccer players from Spain, Thailand, and of course the USA as we shared the same hotel.
AnakaMall was next to Crowne Plaza and it was a beautiful Mall with many stores and restaurants as well as a huge supermarket. It was a perfect location to shop or to eat. You could have American food there as I have seen fast food restaurants there like Mc Donalds, KFC, and Burger King. Of course I decided to eat at Turkish restaurants and cafes, enjoying their delicious kebabs or other meals.
I attended almost all American soccer games as the American journalist and took photos mostly of people and their Turkish culture. The American men soccer players did not win any medals as they were placed on the 11th place, unfortunately but they did try their best and played well. Turkey won the Men Championship and yes, the American women won the GOLD medal, as they were the first place beating the Russians. Congratulations to them!
There were some interesting places to see in Ankara itself. Among them:
Ankara Kalsei- the old castle on the top of the city. You must not miss it as the view was magnificent.
Anitkabir- museum and the palace of the First President of Turkey. Awesome. It reminded me of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC but bigger.
Markets near the Ankara Kalsei- many shops and souvenirs to buy. Go up the castle first by taxi then walk down ( Ankara Nin Tarihi Yerleri) back to the Metro passing many markets and shops.
Kocatepe Camii- a beautiful mosque.
Kizilay- the main square of Ankara . Many shops and parks there as well as banks and others.
Hamam- the Turkish baths. I had a good massage there by professionals. VEry interesting and a must to see.
Of course I did not go to Turkey just to see the World Deaf Football Championships as I also went to the Miss and Mr Deaf International Pageant ( MMDI) at the beautiful Marriott Hotel which was about a 15-minute taxi ride from the Crowne Plaza. They had events daily and I managed to go there a few times to meet the contestants and their sponsors. They asked me to be one of the Judges for the Pageant and I was happy to accept so it was a big honor to be a Judge there to help pick Mr. and Miss Deaf International Pageant 2012- The winners were Mr. Cevat Simsek of Turkey for Mr. Deaf International 2012 and Natallia Rbbava of Belarus for Miss Deaf International 2012. I really applaud the hard working organizing committee including the leadership of Bonita Ann Leek and Rocco Leo Gaglioti and many others too. The Pageant was at the Kent Plaza Mall, a lovely Beverly Hills-style Mall. Thousands of people were able to watch the Pageant on live television. Of course I plan to see the Pageant again next year!
I really had a very busy schedule attending both the World Football Championships and the MMDI as well as going sightseeing and meeting new friends.
I plan to return to Turkey hopefully next year after the Sofia Deaflympics.
You can see some photos here but I have published many more in my ALBUMS here on Facebook. You can see them on Facebook.