Just Back From: Turkey!

JETSET's Gabrielle Eichstaedt recently returned from Turkey, where she experienced everything from the serene Datça Peninsula to the bustling city of Bodrum. Here she reveals her top takeaways and tips to traveling abroad during COVID-19.

What led you to Turkey for a summer getaway?

To be honest, during this time of COVID there were not many options for traveling abroad. Turkey was one of the few countries permitting Americans to enter. Since I’d never been to Turkey (and had been craving to leave my tiny city condo where I’d spent the last four months quarantining), it felt like the perfect destination—and ideal time—to visit, even amidst the pandemic. It would be misleading if I said I had no trepidation about traveling. I thought: What would the experience be on a long international flight? What are the safety procedures in Turkey and are people actually following them? Is it even responsible to travel right now?

First, Turkish Airlines strictly followed the COVID protocol: We wore mandatory masks the entire flight, with the exception to eat or drink. No hot meals were served during the flight, rather, only pre-packaged snack boxes and sealed containers of drinks. Upon boarding, we received travel bags filled with hand sanitizer, extra masks, and antiseptic wipes. Once in the country, Turkey felt very safe in terms of adhering to similar safety precautions followed in the U.S. Everyone wore a mask, hand sanitizer was prevalent, and Turkey has implemented the same stamped circles on the ground—stating to maintain a six-foot distance—that we’ve become familiar here in the U.S.

As a first time visitor to Turkey, how did the experience meet your expectations?

With more than 900 miles of incredible blue-green Mediterranean shoreline, it’s no wonder Turkey is known as the Turquoise  Coast. I love being on the water (any water!), but the Mediterranean Sea has always suspended my attention. Given its spectacular climate, perfect water temperature, and crystal-blue sky, it’s hard not to fall in love. The Turkish coast was rocky, rugged, and more arid, with low lying bushes as opposed to the piney, dramatic coastlines of its western neighbors Italy and France.

What surprised you most about the country?

Turkey is very modern, with a plethora of international restaurants and luxury shops.

Favorite Food?

Köfte (Turkish Meatballs), Lahmacun (Turkish Style Pizza), and the ice cream!

Not to Miss: Datça & Knidos

Discovering the stunning natural beauty of the Datça Peninsula is a must! With its many beaches and coves, one can swim and linger in the warm sun. Visit the quaint city of old Datça, where you can stroll the cobblestoned streets, shop for handmade gifts, and sample the regional olive oil, honey, and wine. Wander the ancient alleys of traditional stone houses covered in colorful bougainville and stay at the Mehmet Ali Ağa Mansion—a luxury boutique hotel originally built in the early 1800s. Known by locals as “Kocaev,” or “The Big House,” it’s considered one of Turkey’s oldest examples of civil architecture, and not just in Datça itself, but in the entire Mediterranean and Aegean coasts of Turkey. The mansion was recently restored and showcases meticulous attention to detail.

Lastly, explore the ancient city of Knidos, located on the Datça Peninsula where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Agean. One of the major ancient cities in the southwest part of Turkey, Knidos is famous for its statues of Dionysus, Athena, and Aphrodite.

Most Treasured Memory

We spent six nights cruising the Turkish coast in a gulet, a traditional two- or three-masted sailing vessel. Typically built in the southwestern coast of Turkey in the coastal towns of Bodrum and Marmaris, the gulets and are enchanting!

Bodrum is a favorite destination of the international elite. What were your impressions as an American?

Bodrum is very cosmopolitan! We spent two nights at The Bodrum EDITION. Nestled along the Turkish Riviera, the hotel features 108 guest rooms, suites, and villas. Many rooms frame views of the Aegean Sea, and some feature private pools, balconies, and gardens. The property also includes an infinity pool, garden lounge, state-of-the-art spa facilities (with Turkish Hammam and fitness center), and an exclusive beach club with a jetty that houses private cabanas (rent a dock cabana!). Unique food and beverage offerings include two bars, a gourmet specialty grill overlooking the bay, night club, and an all-day casual dining venue. The hotel is located less than two miles from Yalikavak Marina, which was voted the World’s Best Luxury Superyacht Marina for 2018/ 2019. The marina is host to an open-air shopping mall with gourmet restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs, and high-end hotels.

If you had more time, what else would you explore?

Istanbul, the ancient city of Ephesus, and Cappadocia, for the balloon festival. Due to the pandemic, we decided to limit our time to the coast. I can’t wait to return to Turkey to see more of this magical country!

 

Insider Tip: Evil Eye

It’s hard to ignore the Turkish eyes seemingly everywhere in Turkey—from people’s homes to dangling from a taxi driver’s mirror. This good luck charm is believed to protect against everything from jealous neighbors to meddling in-laws.

 

Though many of us are waiting to travel abroad, it’s never too soon to start dreaming. As you further define where and when you want to journey next, we wish you health, happiness, and an imagination fueled by global pursuits!