Tensions have been escalating between Turkey and the United States for months, if not years—and now there are serious implications for travelers. The Guardian reports that non-immigrant visas between the two countries have been suspended following a diplomatic dispute over an American consulate employee’s arrest in Istanbul. Americans trying to visit Turkey, and vice versa, will have to rethink their plans for the short term. Borders are effectively closed, for now.
Why the sudden chill? “Relations between Ankara and Washington have been plagued by disputes over U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria, Turkey’s calls for the extradition of a U.S.-based cleric, and the indictment of a Turkish former minister in a U.S. court,” according to Reuters. It’s an increasingly fraught relationship between two NATO allies, and as Traveler editors have noted following recent visits, it’s led to a much-decreased American presence in Istanbul.
For those who’ve already booked, Turkish Airlines said it would refund travelers for flights between the U.S. and Turkey through October 31, if tickets were purchased by October 9. The lost exchange of ideas and culture, though, is impossible to refund. Here, a few Traveler editors share what others will miss in this eye-for-an-eye dispute.
If we can’t go, we’d miss…
“…the chance to bring my American husband to Istanbul, where most of my father’s family lives. I’ll miss us catching the ferry together to Asia (because yes, you can do that there); walking off our morning simit by tackling the steep, winding hills of Beyoğlu; watching the city’s resident cats swan around like they own the place; and eating mounds of cheese and mezze on my family’s terrace overlooking the Bosporus. But most of all, I’ll miss having the freedom to show him a whole new part of the world that he’s been so desperate to explore.” —Lale Arikoglu
“…picnicking by the Bosporus with my classmates after a long day winding through the Grand Bazaar. I spent three days in Istanbul during my semester abroad, but it feels like I needed a lifetime to properly experience the colorful city—let alone all of Turkey. There’s thousands of shops waiting to be explored, with gorgeous hand-painted fabrics and pottery; Kanafeh and halloumi I’ve been dying to eat; and mosques filled with shimmering mosaics I’ll never tire of seeing.” —Bridget Hallinan
“…eating balık-ekmek (“fish in bread”) on a bobbing boat near the Golden Horn side of the Galata Bridge, the spires of the Süleymaniye Mosque visible in the distance. Though it couldn’t be simpler—sit down, get handed a toasted roll with fried fish, onions, and lettuce—it’s one of my favorite travel rituals. You can’t experience it anywhere else in the world.” —Katherine LaGrave
“…the ruins at Ephesus. I spent many years at school with my nose in an ancient Greek textbook, and it wasn’t until I saw this port city, a one-time world trade center, that all the civ and language classes I’d taken came rushing to life: the imagined bustle of the agora; the lattice-like façade of the library of Celsus; that amphitheater where you can whisper audibly from dead center; even those ancient toilets that tourists like to photograph themselves sitting on. Only years later, when I finally made it to Greece, did I realize how much more accessible so many of the ancient ruins of Turkey are—some just sitting on the side of the road as you drive around the Aegean coast, no one and nothing keeping you from clambering around history.” —Alex Postman