Istanbul is perhaps the most visited of cities in Turkey and often, the first place people go when they are beginning their exploration of the country. Some wonderful posts have already been shared here about it and attractions like Cappadocia. My first time in Turkey I opted to explore lesser-known regions. It turned out the towns along the Aegean Sea were a magical place to begin because the pace was slower, the natural beauty was unspoiled by large cities and there were still ample things to see and do.
Instead of beating away crowds at Ephesus or Pamukkale, I leisurely explored the temple ruins of Bergama and took my time through the markets of Burhaniye, even enjoyed long afternoons at the beach in Ören. I discovered Manti, a Turkish dish of meat-filled pasta in a yoghurt sauces with chili oil and other spices; and I sampled chocolate baklava for the first time. Little tulip cups of Turkish tea were a way locals welcomed us and I came to feel nostalgic for them when I later left Turkey. I did eventually visit Istanbul, spending a week in the city, but that first trip is still the most beautiful in my memory.