This is a series of posts sharing what I liked best about the countries I have visited. Something particularly annoying might get a mention too. This will not be everything we did, just some of the memorable bits, and perhaps some useful tips. It will give you an insight as to what to expect when you visit.
Turkey – April 2016
With the political situation in Turkey at the moment this is an interesting post to write. We loved Turkey! I just want to tell you all to go there tomorrow! But of course I realise many people will not travel there at the moment. I had been planning this trip for years, and only about two weeks before we flew out of Australia there was a bombing on Istikal Street in Istanbul and Australia changed it’s official travel warning for Istanbul (and Ankara) to “reconsider your need to travel”. Neither Simon nor I wavered regarding our plans, much to the disgust of our families, workmates, and, well, anyone who knew we were going to Turkey! I did phone our travel insurance company just to check this new warning did not invalidate our insurance. All was good, so off we went.
With all that in mind, there was only one incident in our two weeks in Turkey where we felt unsafe, and it was when we saw some unattended bags in a regional airport. It worked out they belonged to an elderly lady who was standing in line waiting to check in. She had left her baggage at the front of the line so she didn’t have to carry it. When she got to the front she picked it up and carried it only the couple of meters to the checkin counter.
Nearly everyone we met could not have been more accomodating. All of our tour guides were fantastic. They were very knowledgeable about their given locations and they were all willing to engage in casual conversation about well, anything really. I will always remember our guide at Gallipoli who could quote nearly any Australian movie. He knew them better than me! Our greeting was “G’day mate, how’s the serenity?” He had lived in the area all his life and his parents ran a guest house. The trek to Gallipoli has become a pilgrimage popular in recent years for Aussie’s both young and old. With the influx, he had become fascinated with our culture so sort out any movies, tv shows, music etc.
Particularly interesting was speaking with the Turkish people about the current situation there. Of course most of the people we spoke with were part of the tourism industry. They were all very western in their views and completely condemned not only the terrorism, but also the direction their government is trying to take their country. Yes the population is almost entirely muslim (97%), but religion and state are separate, just like here in Australia. Most of the people we spoke identified as muslim, but “I can’t wait to get home and have a beer tonight!”. It’s just like me. I was baptised as a kid, so therefore I am a christian, but I couldn’t tell you the last time I went to church!
These people were really hurting. In April tourism was down 80% on the previous year. I’d hate to think how the people in the industry are surviving now.
Turkey just has so much to see! We only got to a small amount of what the country has to offer but were awestruck.
The Roman ruins of Ephesus are some of the best in the world. Pamukkale is so unique and beautiful. Cappadocia is also like no other place on earth, and watching sunrise from a hot air balloon was one of the best experiences I have had anywhere. The Gallipoli Peninsula is so meaningful to Australians, and it is a poignant reminder of many of the values we hold dear.
Istanbul is a modern city with so much history. Five days was not enough for us to cover all of the things we wanted to see. The great buildings, the food, the Bosphorus, the hamams, the palaces….I could go on. We had no line up at any of the major attractions, not even the Blue Mosque, because of the lack of tourists. The only disappointments were major renovations going on at the Aya Sophia and the Topkapi Palace meant our views of these places were restricted. They are both still impressive.
I didn’t find Turkey either excessively expensive or really cheap. There were some great bargains on internal flights though. Istanbul to Izmir was $25USD each on Pegasus Airlines. I had to hunt around for info on transfers, particularly from Sabiha-Gokcen Airport to Taksim. Mostly taxis were recommended, but in the end I found a transfer bus outside the terminal for a much more reasonable price.
I didn’t find the food cheap, but the amount of food was generous to say the least. By the end of our trip we were ordering one meal and sharing, which did cut the cost down.
We mostly stayed in AirBnBs, with prices around the $80-$100AUD per night range. This gave us clean, private accommodation with ensuite, wifi and breakfast that did the job. Due to our arrival time, we chose a hotel in Izmir. (See the disaster story about our arrival here) We stayed at the Doubletree for about $105AUD per night. No breakfast for that price!
We did a few tours in Turkey, but my favourite was with Circle Istanbul. This tour is by no means cheap, but it was a full day of seeing parts of Istanbul that aren’t on the tourist trail. It includes a Bosphorus cruise and a visit to a traditional hamam (Turkish bath). Of course it also includes markets, and food – lots of food! By about the tenth piece of baklava I just had to say no more!
We had internet through Alldaywifi while we were in Turkey. For $5USD per day, we had unlimited internet for up to ten devices. I had arranged it in advance, and the modem was waiting for me at my first accommodation. pickup at Ataturk airport can also be arranged. It was good for the two of us, but would have been even better value if our teenagers were with us! There was only one day without a connection, but that was a national Vodafone outage as they swapped from 3G to 4G, not the fault of Alldaywifi. Actually, there was another connection problem, but that was because I somehow managed to totally reset the modem back to factory settings! A quick phone call to Alldaywifi and it was fixed and we were back online.
Would I Go Back?
Absolutely yes! I am already planning to visit again during our 2017 trip. This time I plan to visit Bursa, and then head down to the Antalya region on the southern coast. It will be a good time to visit as crowds will be nonexistent. I am hoping the situation does not get worse and require me to reconsider.
Is there a place I have missed I must go to on my return to Turkey? Let me know in the comments below.