Turkey is magical.
This trip is one of the best I've taken, and I've been to a decent number of places around the globe.
Would you have the same magical trip if you go to Turkey? Perhaps. A good portion of the excellence is due to the interesting things to do, see, feel, eat there. The part I couldn't plan - meeting up with friends I hadn't seen in years who happened to be there and being on the same flights as an LA friend - fell into place so perfectly, I couldn't have made that happen on my own. Lots of my friends asked how it was to travel with the former boyfriend, with whom I'd booked this trip before our split. I'd been really worried how it was all going to play out.
I had nothing to worry about. We didn't even spend the majority of our days in the same town, and when we did, we got along like old friends (because we are). Meeting up with DC friends and traveling alone for a few days were the best things that could've happened. The universe was clearly on my side in everything.
It helps that I look Turkish, apparently. I didn't get hassled walking by restaurants and shops when I was alone. I wasn't afraid to be a little adventurous and talk to people on the streets - mostly all men. Where were the women in this country?
As MCB said, Turkey is Middle East light. My first foray into a Muslim country, and I'm super fascinated with it. I really wish I could learn Turkish, go back and ask lots of questions about how religion, culture, life all intersect there. I have a long list of books queued up.
How many people actually pray every time they hear the muezzin's call? I saw a man pray in the airport, and of course plenty in the streets on Friday. What would it be like if people did that in the US, regardless of religion? Women who wear headscarves - what do they think of their friends who don't? Is that like comparing Mormons who've been to the temple with those who haven't? Does the Topkapi Palace really have the staff of Moses and a footprint of Muhammad?
I came home with a long memo in my phone called "Turkey - Things to Google." And another one called "Turkey - next time." I didn't even make a dent in this place. I'll be back.