Tennis in Turkey

Hard to believe June is almost here! With one month left of school, the days are flying by. I spent last weekend in Istanbul with my tennis team. The boys and girls traveled together this year and the tournament was a really fun affair for all.

The last time I was in Turkey was nearly ten years ago when my brother was studying abroad. We traveled from Budapest to Istanbul and I was totally taken with the city – the muezzin call, the delicious street eats, spice markets, and my first Turkish bath. It was a totally radical experience at a time when I had only just begun traveling.

Turkey has some of the most delicious food in the world. Seen here – simit, a Turkish bagel of sorts, with olive tapenade twisted into the dough.

Due to the terrible events at Ataturk airport in June of 2016, our Turkish sister school hasn’t been able to host any events for the past two years. Coupled with that incident and the coup attempt just one month later, the Turks have been through a lot. As a testament to the strength of the people, their hospitality and warmth remains firmly intact.

A new dish to me – kebabi. Cubes of bread, meat, cheese, and yogurt make up this mouth-watering entrée.

I felt very safe throughout my time in Turkey, opting not to head downtown to the touristy area near the Blue Mosque but to stay in the suburb near the tennis facility. On our second night in country, we enjoyed a coaches’ dinner on Lake Büyükçekmece, just above the Marmara Sea. The views from our 5th floor perch were gorgeous as the late evening sunlight gave way to the periwinkle night. As tangerine lights flickered on across the bay, we enjoyed a gourmet feast of eggplant puree, yogurt, fresh cheeses, and a whole sea bass for each of us.

Eggplant with yogurt and sauce in the background. I can’t even recall the foreground dish but it was all delightful.
Our spot above the sea.

After dinner, I had the chance to walk down by the docks and enjoy the breezy evening. As darkness fell, the local people poured out their homes, coming to the park to break their Ramadan fast and enjoy the cool night after a hot, hungry day.

Back at the tournament, the girls faced singles and doubles players representing schools from Warsaw, Budapest, Zagreb (Croatia), and Istanbul. It would be curious to sometime poll the players for their actual countries of origin. On our 12 person roster alone we had players from Russia, Israel, Germany, India, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Another mini version of the UN, it’s awesome to see these kids mix and mingle, displaying sportsmanship despite (sometimes) not sharing a common language. Gives me hope.

Penguins watch a gripping match

The club facilities were amazing and featured the clay court stadium which hosts the annual Istanbul Cup. Pictures of Serena Williams and Roger Federer lined the entrance tunnel, much to our delight.

Clay courts – these kids are blessed!!

In the end, the girls placed 2nd for the second year in a row. The boys took third with some stiff competition from Istanbul and Warsaw. We brought back some hard-fought hardware and the kids represented Moscow well.

Two years with these ladies – they will be missed!
Sasha showing off her medal.
Ana humoring her coach 😉

Always on to the next, I’m nearly done organizing the annual Grade 6 trip to Suzdal, Russia, which takes place in two weeks. Only just today I secured my World Cup Fan ID so I’m officially headed to Kaliningrad at the end of June to see Spain take on Morocco! Exciting times for Russia which is rolling out its red carpet to welcome visitors. Until next time!

Despite a taxing season, the team rallied in the end and made us proud.