Farewell to Burhaniye

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

On the morning we left Burhaniye, the sky opened up to bestow a most appropriate farewell.

Rain fell by the bucket. The front yard of the house became a shallow wading pool in the few hours that we were awake, rushing around to pack and get ready for the next part of our journey.

It was all too cliche, really. That the weather would suddenly turn from scorching hot to damp, cool and dreary, on the morning we were saying one of the hardest goodbyes we’ve ever faced.

Juneau

The last few days were difficult. The dread and sadness would hit me at unusual times, when washing dishes or laying wide awake in the stillness of night, listening to one of the dogs barking at nothing. A lump in my throat would form, and I’d purse my eyelids tight to stamp out the sadness. I was so comfortable in the home and community, like I had been there for three years, not three months.

The effort required to write this post loomed large over my head. How could I accurately summarize how both Pete and I felt to be leaving somewhere that felt so much like home? Somewhere we felt we really did belong, a place where the pull to “stay” was so unbelievably strong.

Turkey wrecked us. Tore down our guard completely, and the people slid their way deep into our hearts with their effortless hospitality. Like it was something so natural; something that they do all the time and we would be silly to expect anything different.

They spoke strongly in their actions: Of course you are safe here, of course you need not worry about your well-being. Just furrow your brow, and someone will be there shortly to assist you. You will be taken care of here…that is just what we do! Why are you so surprised?

How could I accurately summarize how both Pete and I felt to be leaving somewhere that felt so much like home?

They don’t realize how this kind of compassion

for others is so rare in the world.

Mustafa

Our dearest friend Mustafa led the charge on behalf of the most generous, most hospitable people that are the Turks. He was at any given time our translator, our tour guide, our introduction to sides of Turkish culture that we never expected to see. Shockingly, after everything, he still felt the need to apologize for not doing more.

And if it wasn’t Mustafa, it was his friend the generous policeman, it was a kindred Turkish traveler who took us in, or the random stranger who disembarked his own bus to escort us through a complex city. It was the family who presented us with an armful of gifts at our farewell dinner, heartfelt notions for which to remember them by.

In our short three months, we have endless stories of extreme generosity, all heaped on us two random and unsuspecting travelers who had so little to offer in return.

On our last night in Burhaniye, we enjoyed a final tea with Mustafa. We reminisced of our conversations when we first met and we delved into a discussion on the perception of Turkey abroad.

I ashamedly admitted how little I knew of Turkey, that my only thoughts were of tall hats and whirling dervishes. Pete knew of Turkish Delight. Others have commented to us personally about concerns of violence or extreme Islamic views. How limited our view was, and how wrong so many people of the world are.

We came away with one abrupt perception of this grand country.

There are spectacular sights, startling landscapes and landmarks that will induce awe and wonder, for sure. But every country has that to some degree, really. Turkey’s draw is much bigger.

It is the effortless nature of its people and their willingness to go far out of their way to assist neighbors and total strangers alike. Their constant catering, their pure benevolence, their gentle, tender dispositions. Such endearing characteristics that run strong through Turkey’s citizens, unlike any that we have encountered before.

As we gave Mustafa one final hug goodbye, we assured him that we would be back this way, that our paths would indeed cross again. That lingering lump made it’s way back to my throat.

“Don’t look back, ” he wisely stated in return, “always be moving forward.”

Always forward. Always forward.

Those words echoed in my ears as the bus to Istanbul raced through massive puddles, overwhelming smaller cars with a muddy spray as it passed. Rain continued to pound and drip down the window that my head was leaning on.

55 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • June 6 2012

    Wow. The way you speak of the Turkish people and all the kind things you say – I would feel honoured to visit such a country and to meet the Turkish people. And I look forward to making it the number 1 priority on my must-visit-countries-RIGHT-NOW. I’m so glad you enjoyed your time so thoroughly in Turkey!
    Chrystal McKay recently posted..Moroccan Cooking II: Mixing Moroccan Magic

    • June 7 2012

      I hope you do make it there Chrystal – I meant every word I said, and I know of many travelers who say the exact same thing. We’ve been thru 27 countries and the Turkish really blew us away above all others.

  • June 6 2012

    That was really touching! I’m going to miss reading about it!

    • June 7 2012

      Thanks Jeff! We miss it as well. 🙁

  • Just lovely. I think every long term traveler wanders through a place that pulls at them like this–tempting them off the forward-moving path of travel. Mine was Lagos de Moreno in Mexico. It sounds like yours was Burhaniye.
    Karen @ Trans-Americas Journey recently posted..Photo Essay: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

    • June 7 2012

      It definitely was, and it’s nice to have that place I guess. Somewhere that is always in the back of our minds as a go-to happy place. 🙂

  • June 6 2012

    Wow….it tears me up just because we had the same crush. We really miss our Turkish haven and are not as happy in Trogir. It is nice and we have made some friends, however, it is very touristy. It’s just not Turkey.

    We are learning what we like and smaller, more authentic towns suit us better.

    We so hope to see the Heck’s again in our travels. Thanks for the great blog. Keep it up!

    • June 7 2012

      We are the exact same Annie…it didn’t take us long either to learn that we liked those off the beat places. Sometimes they are hard to find, that is the hard thing.

  • June 6 2012

    I can relate to all the emotions you have presented in your post.

    I never quite understood the reason why my husband wanted to go back to Turkey to live … until I visited the country and saw for myself … and then I understood.

    • June 7 2012

      So many people told us before we got there how incredible the people were, but it’s really hard to know until you experience it yourself. 🙂

  • June 6 2012

    I am sad you have left. Turkey more than any of the other places you have stayed has kept me entranced.

    • June 7 2012

      I am sad too Jan. I hope we can entrance you with some new places. 🙂

  • June 7 2012

    I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like to move place to place, make friends that become like family, and then have to say goodbye to do it all over again. And that’s saying something because my husband is in the military! You two really are such an impressive couple to traverse the globe the way you do. You are always welcome to stay at our home in Italy!

    • June 7 2012

      Thanks Jennifer, we may take you up on that! Sometimes the goodbyes just get too hard though, and for the next little while we’re speeding up our travel a bit so that we don’t get too attached anywhere. It was also hard because of the animals – we miss the pups!

  • June 7 2012

    WOW, such a beautiful post. What a gift to be accepted and loved in that unexpected way. You are lucky and it sounds like you will always have friends in Turkey.

    • June 7 2012

      Thanks Kim. I am so happy to say that we made such great friends there.

  • June 7 2012

    This was beautifully written and really drove home what kind of experience you had over these months in Turkey. I can only imagine the goodbyes were terribly sad, but it sounds like you’ve made friends for life.

    • June 7 2012

      Thanks so much Emily. It really was one of the most special places we’ve visited in all our travels.

  • June 7 2012

    I knew Turkey would get you. Kind of addictive isn’t it? Next time you head back this way, I am normally hanging around on the southern Aegean coast if you find yourself in that area.

    • June 7 2012

      There WILL be a next time, for sure… 🙂

  • June 7 2012

    We noticed this as well. A cab driver who stopped in the rain to drive us two blocks and not charge. A guy on our bus who offered to let us try his sandwich when we weren’t sure what to order. A restaurant owner who hunted down an english speaking friend across the street to answer our inane questions. Oh and our hotel manager in Cappadocia that we would never have had such a good trip without. It really is a nice country. That nice sometimes gets drowned out by the common calls to buy a carpet or sit at a specific restaurant though. The salesmanship is prevalent, but there is a good hearted soul underneath that sometimes loud exterior.
    Andrew recently posted..First 7 Questions When Talking To An Expat

    • June 7 2012

      The salesmanship can get overwhelming, but I think the good FAR outweighs that, and I’m glad you experienced so many instances of it during your short time there as well!

  • June 7 2012

    Turkey really was a great country with super nice people. I’m so happy for you guys that you were able to make such good friends while you were there. I know it was hard to say good-bye, but it must’ve been wonderful to have this experience there.
    Ali recently posted..In the Heat in Rotorua

    • June 7 2012

      Thanks Ali. The goodbyes were hard, but I wouldn’t change our time there for anything. 🙂

  • Judy
    June 7 2012

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your travels in Turkey. We spent some time there a couple of years ago and I wholeheartedly agree with what you say about the Turkish people. They are, I feel, the friendliest, kindest and most helpful of all the people we have encountered in our travels. We visited many of the same places you did and it was great to be reminded of our time there as I enjoyed your photos. Our balloon ride with Royal is one of our highlights. I’d go back in a flash.

    • June 7 2012

      So glad you enjoyed our posts Judy! Thanks for your comment – I hope that we can collectively change the perception that some people in the world have of Turkey.

  • June 7 2012

    What a wonderful post! I got choked up too. We’ve had similar experiences of Turkish hospitality over the years. They really are very special people and Turkey is a special place. These kinds of connections with locals that can be made is the thing that really makes travel meaningful for us.
    lara dunston recently posted..Will Studd, the Cheese Guy and the Story of Australian Cheese

    • June 8 2012

      Same with us Lara, although we need to take a break from that sort of immersion for awhile. The goodbyes are just too hard.

  • June 7 2012

    I have fond memories of the hospitality in Turkey, and we have thought about spending three months in Istanbul for a while now.. your post just reaffirms our plans to spend some time in Turkey 🙂
    Dani recently posted..Street food junkies on the hunt in Thailand

    • June 8 2012

      DEFINITELY get back to Turkey, but I would suggest venturing out of Istanbul, the more rural you are, the more incredible the hospitality we found!

  • I know I had (have?) a lot of misconceptions about Turkey, so it was great reading your posts. It seems like a lovely country with a lot of really lovely people – I can’t wait to visit some day!

    • June 8 2012

      You guys would LOVE it, I am sure!

  • June 8 2012

    Turkey is absolutely #1 on my travel list and this post just melts my heart! I love how much you loved it and it makes me want to get there even sooner!

    • June 8 2012

      Glad it’s first on your list! As it should be! 🙂

  • June 8 2012

    Lovely post and tribute to Turkish people. “Always be moving forward,” but maybe one day, a return trip is in line to reconnect with some of these people 🙂 I am really awful at goodbyes as well. My strategy for dealing with this has been to try to keep returning to some places. It definitely gets complicated, though, when the places start adding up! I think I may have just added Lisbon and I feel like I’m now running out of time in the year!
    Phil recently posted..Names by which I am known

    • June 8 2012

      I have a question for you then, about returning, do you find that it is as good as you remember??

      • June 9 2012

        Yes! In fact, in some cases, better than I remember. I feel like returning has helped me form real friendships. At least in my experience… so far…
        phil recently posted..Names by which I am known

        • June 10 2012

          I’m glad Phil – I do honestly worry about that some times. We have a few places in our hearts that are special to us and we want to return to, yet I always worry that it will never be the same as that first initial *love*. Although, with Burhaniye, because it was so much about the people there, I think it could only get better. (Thanks for coming back to comment!)

  • June 9 2012

    Dalene, Thanks for such a great post!

    This post really made my heart melt down and at the same time made me so proud to be a Turk! I could really find and reflect my culture and my self in your post. being raised up in a wester country my self, i exactly understand where your coming from and why it’s so difficult to understand how people can be that ridiculously hospitable and generous. But thats the way it is, its bloody normal:)

    As a famous Turkish saying says:

    “İyilik yap denize at, balık bilmezse Hâlik bilir”

    Translation: Do good [onto others] and throw it into the sea; fish might not, but God will appreciate it. meaning: Do not stop to think whether your helping hand will be appreciated or thanked for by the recipient (with a strong implication that it will not be); however, it will not go unnoticed by God.

    Once again thanks for such a great post..

    • June 11 2012

      Ahmet – thank you SO MUCH for your comment and that beautiful saying. It does not surprise me for one second that it is ‘famous’ – I truly believe this is engraved on the hearts of all the Turks we met! 🙂

  • Mustafa
    June 9 2012

    I really dont know what to say I feel like a hero.Of course anyone could do what I have done.I just did what I should do.it was pleasure for me to help you .you were my guest , you didnt know anybody and anywhere.you are really good hearted friends.you deserved more but because of my working hours I couldnt be with you.Please dont exaggerate what I have done.I also want to thank you for your contribution to turkish tourism and misconception about turkey.I love you friends ‘be moving forward’

    • June 10 2012

      Oh, we miss you Mustafa!! And you really don’t realize how rare your kindness is in this world. We will be forever grateful for all that you did for us….you hold a very special place in our hearts!

      P.S. We are NOT exaggerating! 🙂

  • June 9 2012

    Awh. Saying goodbye never gets any easier. I can’t wait to visit Turkey now!

  • June 11 2012

    What a lovely post, Turkey sounds like an incredible place that really captured your hearts. As Shakespeare said, parting is such sweet sorrow. Nice to know that there are places in the world like this that you can return to if you want though 🙂
    Laurence recently posted..In photos: Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter

  • June 11 2012

    This reads almost like a love letter to Turkey. It sounds like you two really were moved by your time in the country, which makes me all the more interested to visit myself. Do you ever see yourselves moving back there again more permanently?
    Amanda recently posted..The Prettiest Place You’ve Never Heard Of

    • June 13 2012

      If we ever were to consider settling down (that’s a big IF/WHEN!) then Turkey would most definitely be on our potential list!

  • June 12 2012

    You guys are total ambassadors for Turkey. The tourism board should hire you! Haha. I’d love to go, especially after reading this.

    • June 13 2012

      They totally should! Funny story – when we spent the day being escorted around Bergama by a policeman/friend, he was approached after we left by the mayor who told him to invite us to stay for a few days as his guest! Too bad their tourism board doesn’t work with bloogers like us.

  • MUSTAFA
    June 18 2012

    Many thanks friends again I am really grateful to you for introducing true Turkey to the world. I love you my friends.

  • Lara
    June 20 2012

    Thank you for this lovely post! I leave for Istanbul on October 26th and am so excited. I’ve been hesitant about telling my best friend that I’m going because I already know she has preconceived ideas about Turkey. But I used to work with Turkish students here in the States and found them to be extraordinarily warm and friendly – great ambassadors for their country. I’ll be visiting my student assistant in Urla, near Izmir. I’ll say it again – I’m so excited I could bust! My only concern is that I won’t want to leave…….

  • After reading all of your posts on Turkey, it’s now high on my list and top of mind. Thanks for turning me on to a new destination with amazing people and traditions. Hopefully, we’ll make it there one day.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..ENDANGERED SPECIES SPOTLIGHT: Gray-Shanked Douc Langur

  • March 4 2013

    I just got back from two months in Turkey with my (Turkish) fiance, which was awesome. My first experience in the Middle East was in Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine. They all blew me away, but Palestine grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Talk about hospitality! Especially in the situation they are living under… Almost beyond belief.

    I ended up living there and writing a book about it called Fast Times in Palestine, which was just published. I’d be glad to send you guys a free PDF copy if you’d like to read it!

    More info about it is here, as well as a link to the Amazon page: http://pamolson.org

    Glad to virtually know you. 🙂

  • Didem
    October 22 2014

    Dear Dalene,

    I am a Turkish citizen living in the US. I have recently started following your blog.

    I wanted to say this post touched my heart and made me cry tonight. I feel very emotional right now. Every detail you gave about Turkish hospitality is 100% correct observations. I love and miss my country so much. Thanks for this beautiful writing.

    • October 22 2014

      I am so happy to hear from you Didem! Turkey feels like our second home thanks to the incredible hospitality. We can easily see why you love and miss it so much. We do too!

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