So we head off
again, this time for lands far away, with the intention of seeing distant
countries and cultures. We board our plane, and after a long journey, find
ourselves in the American state of Florida , in the southernmost reaches
of the US mainland.
With its great year-round climate, Florida is the sort of place that many Americans would love to live in permanently. The state is sunny all year round, a fact that has led to it being nicknamed “the Sunshine State.” With a gorgeous coastline that seems to go on forever, you can swim here throughout the year, even during the winter months.
Per capita income in the state of Florida is around $40,000. In trade volume, Turkey comes in 45th on the list of countries trading with the state at $534 million. Turkish tourists have a particular affinity for the city of Miami.
We prepare to head off to the southernmost parts of Florida. Our trip lasts four hours, and we are set to see a variety of interesting things en route to our destination.
We reach the island of Key Largo and decide to take our boat out onto the ocean from the island, heading down a canal until we reach the shoreline. We pass many beautiful homes on both sides on the way; we also cannot help noticing the many luxury yachts that dot the scenery. And finally, we arrive at the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
We rock back and forth in this boat, which is no ordinary boat, by the way; it is a glass-bottomed boat which gives passengers the chance to watch the wonders of the ocean passing beneath them as they go. Our tour in this special boat lasts for one-and-a-half hours. The boat drops anchor at a pre-arranged point, where we all take time to simply watch the scenery, both around us and below.
A tour in this glass-bottomed boat costs $30 per person. We are far from the shoreline now and heading further and further away at this point. Through the bottom of the boat we see coral, sunken vessels, incredible varieties of seaweed and, of course, an endless variety of colorful fish. It all feels close enough that you could stretch out your hand and touch it.
The breathtaking islands of Florida Keys
Our tour guide notes that the islands of the Florida Keys have no natural sand along their shorelines; the coral reefs that surround them prevent sand from building up here. The islands of the Keys are incredible; they extend quite far south off the coast of this southernmost state, but you can still just hop from island to island.
The Florida Keys are composed of 1,700 small islands. Some of these islands are connected to one another by the Overseas Highway. The shallow waters of the ocean here stretch as far as the eye can see. You can head out for as long as you like here off the shore, and the ocean just never seems to get deeper. Our journey through Key West continues; we are curious about what will greet us there.
As we head further along towards Key West, we notice signs that say “Islamorada.” We react with confusion; could this place really have some connection with Islam? In fact, we notice this curious word on signs in front of hotels and restaurants all around here. We discover that, despite its similarity to Turkish, the name is actually a proper name from Spanish, meaning “Purple Island,” one of the islands of Key West.
There are lots and lots of bridges that connect these islands to one another. The largest of these is a seven-mile bridge. It is an incredible feeling to drive above the water for so long. After a four-hour journey, we reach Key West. This place is a touristy spot, filled with vacationers. The southernmost spot in Key West is marked with a cement marker telling people the extremity of their geographic location. Interestingly, this southernmost tip of Florida is only 90 miles from Cuba.
There are lines of people waiting to take photographs at this spot. There is also a US Marine base here. Of all the Florida Keys, Key West is the largest and furthest south of all the islands. Its economy is tourism-based, and the lifestyle here definitely does not resemble life anywhere else in the US. It is more relaxed, slower paced than any normal city. In fact, the passage of time here is so serene and relaxed, people call it “Island Time.”
The most famous street in Key West is Duval Street. It is lined with cafés, restaurants, boutiques and hotels. It is a place where people love to take slow walks. This island is also filled with beautiful and luxurious homes. This is where legendary American writer Ernest Hemingway once lived, writing novels and short stories.
The starting point of the well-known US Route 1 is also in Key West and has a “Mile 0” marker. This road stretches up the length of the American East Coast, from the southernmost spot of Key West in Florida, all the way up to Maine and the Canadian border.