From the moment I stepped into Istanbul, and on my last footsteps out of this city, I was fortunate to experience local Turkish hospitality. It could have been driven by the fact that I was travelling alone, or from the sympathy glances I got when I had a mounting backpack on me.
Turkey holds a special place in my heart, because of the generous hospitality that the locals offer, despite me being a stranger in this foreign land. It lends itself a distinct character because of its heavy Islamic influence.
I could hardly believe we were finally making this long-planned trip to Turkey. Much in the news today, Turkey sits at the intersection of Europe and Asia and borders the Middle East. It is unique in that it has been home for centuries to all three of the great "revealed" religions.
The world's most historic sites have a storied past -- some really show their age, while others don't look a day past 500. From the Acropolis to the Arc de Triomphe, take a look at the then and now of history's celebrated structures.
My most recent exploits took me all the way to Istanbul and it was quite the adventure. Founded in 660 BC as Byzantium, in 330 AD it became Constantinople when it was overtaken by the Roman emperor Constantine.
Rome may be The Eternal City, but Istanbul can make a pretty good case for immortality too. The cities are about the same age and for much of that time the larger, wealthier, and more influential of the two was not the one in Italy.
Today, Istanbul might be an economic powerhouse on paper, but she's a wreck in person. It's not just in the heaps of rubble, collapsing buildings, and congested streets; but in the city's basic ability to breathe. Gezi park is the last lung.
While Dubai and Doha may both have something to say about global domination through airport supremacy, the fact remains that Istanbul has, in the past couple of years, become an ideal place for a layover.
While visiting Turkey, I couldn't have met a more welcoming group of people than I did. It's a shame that perceptions of Turks abroad are so unfavorable. How many people can you say would be that welcoming and open to foreigners on a flight to JFK or Reagan?
One sweet, brothy soup involved grilled peaches, chestnuts, hunks of tender lamb and soft potatoes. I drooled over the spinach and chickpeas creamed in yogurt. The divine after-meal tea was clove, cinnamon and ginger.