Travel Notes

Fight the Turkey prejudice

 

 

One of the oldest permanently settled regions on the globe doesn’t come without tempestuous complications. If it’s not the atrocious recent scandal of the dead journalist Jamal Khashoggi, it’s a terrorist attack at the country’s biggest airport, or a President taking liberties with democracy. And so Turkey lives another day.

 

But is it safe? When people ask me about whether it’s truly safe to go, I remind them that 9/11 happened on American soil, and that some very scary and very serious shootings happened in Thousand Oaks, California, Tallahassee, Florida and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania recently (to say nothing of the massacre in Las Vegas of all touristy places). Turkish tourism, according to statistics that are hard to verify, say that tourism is down from 15 million people to 2 million people this year – I think there might be a branding issue here that needs addressing by all of us lovers of travel.

 

Because truly, think about this: what does it even mean to be safe? Maybe that’s the real question here. Safe from what, or from whom? All things considered, Turkey is so ready for your drop in. And, in fact, the country needs your love right now more than ever. In a world where fake news misguides and demagogues ruin so much for everyone, let’s reclaim the magical place that Turkey is.  

 

The vivacious backstreets of Istanbul***Michael Petronaci***

It has one of the greatest cultural capitals of the world, Istanbul. It is here where I understood religion, thanks to my guide Anka, who took me by hand to Hagia Sofia and showed me (the atheist) that yes, everyone, and I mean everyone, had been here. From pagans and naturists, to the ancient Greeks, to Jews, Catholics and Greek Orthodox. Ottoman Mosque. if you see the walls and what the layers reveal of the Ottoman Mosque, you’ll probably, like I did, think religion is pretty much the same, no matter which god or icon you decide to praise. This is the power of Turkey; some see this as a wedge, I see it as a way to heal. Why can’t we all just get along?

 

In this small hour of my life spent in a now museum I realized, again, that everything is cyclical. The good, the bad, the ugly and the whatever else is always in a constant state of glorious flux. If you let go of some of your beliefs and open yourself up to more of the world, more of the “nothing is everything and everything is nothing” (the Turks call this hiç, pronounced ‘hitch’)… well I am not making promises, but try it anyway.

 

It’s with this sentiment that Kaplankaya materialized. Initially, in 2006, it was positioned as a sustainable Turkish coastline development, about 45 minutes from Bodrum airport, presciently by developers and co-founders like the ever-smiley Burak Öymen, the newly woke resort Six Senses, and architects like OAB (Office of Architecture Barcelona) and Foster & Partners. But in the past decade it has become so much more, and it is now a place for encountering true wellness (not just in namesake) and learning a better way of conscious living.

 

The vigilant Aegean sea. Patches of heavy-laden olive trees. A spoor of pine in the breeze. And so the ancient worlds crash to present moment with a cicada gently nudging along the air waves. Funny that here, this little patch of the planet is where I am reminded of stillness from within. Miles away from the ashram of India, or the yoga studios of Los Angeles, a little reprieve via Turkey is offered as divine seclusion.

 

 

Breakfast with a view at Çırağan Palace hotel***Michael Petronaci***

 

 

But back to the weekend. Harvest Kaplankaya is a weekend retreat with a focus on wellness and mindfulness. I call it Summit Turkey, in a nod to Jeff Rosenthal’s Summit that graces the mountains of Utah and downtown Los Angeles; sometimes with goat yoga, and other times with discreet murmurs from someone next to you who’s doing more to save the planet than you are – you know who you are and I salute you right now.

 

This Harvest weekend (the first of its kind) I attended was bubbling with speakers like Dan Buettner, Christina Musk (Kimbal Musk’s wife), Angel Kyodo Williams and Harvey Karp, hosted by Nick Kislinger, a co-founder – with everyone sharing more than boring pearls. And, of course, at some point there was Vogue-ing yoga and some skinny dipping with French boys. Formed as an alliance with the greater property (which includes the Six Senses suites, one of the best spas I’ve been to in my life, a spiffy marina, a handful of private villas, endless beaches and so much more) this weekend sanctuary brought together people from across the globe who wanted to heal themselves, and Turkey.

 

Hagia Sophia***Michael Petronaci***

When I chatted to Burak Öymen about his vision for here, he shared simply: “It’s about living a fulfilling life – when the body retains its functionality and our mind is at peace we have a better chance of living a fulfilling life with purpose and happiness.” No matter how cynical I am on that day, or anyone could be (ever), there is something about purpose and happiness that is truly universal. And it came to me, right here thanks, in part, to this great country.

And so hither comes Turkey with all its mystery, its incredible wines (who knew) and cheese (who knew), and some of the most progressive, interesting people in the world. So the next time you think about Turkey, don’t think of what some of the media have politicized or spun negatively, and rather get in on Harvest Kaplankaya if you can, or head to Cappadocia for a hot air balloon ride, or hit the Amanruya near Bodrum for a weekend of sublime relaxation and sleep…or straddle Asia and Europe in the only city in the world that does that, whilst sleeping at the Çırağan Palace hotel.

 

 

How to Get There

 

Turkish Airlines, which flies from more countries than any other airline, has next level business class flat beds plus an enormous business lounge in Istanbul that may inspire you to miss your flight. And the soon to open airport in Istanbul, which might be the largest in the world, is looking delicious too. turkishairlines.com