Visting Turkey Right Now

Feedback from travelers recently returned from Turkey: what's good, what's bad, what they found

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Tavsan
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Mon Jan 05, 2009 11:06 am

Saturday, after a great early dinner with family including Pide and a brief bus ride to the Opera House, our evening was set. We were so fortunate to catch Puccini’s Manon Lescaut last night. We were in the sixth row center stage for the three hour performance. All of it $10 per person except for mom-in-law who got a senior discount. If you are in Ankara during the winter season and don’t take in the Opera, Theater, or Ballet you may well be missing one of the true hidden treasures of Turkey. As for the performance, as they say in Chicago, “Da guy and girl doin’ all da singin’ had some pipes!” (Translation: “They could sing!”) Bravo! Seriously, incredible talents in the leads and not one weak moment in the performance each and every person involved. Des Grieux was as handsome as our imaginations could assume and Manon was no doubt as radiant a beauty as any woman to ever take to that stage. The orchestra was nothing short of incredible. An interesting side note, I really wanted to take photos in and around the Opera House. Photographing the outside would be easy enough. When we politely inquired about taking photos inside of the facility (mind you we were not requesting photos of the performance) one of the staff provided his card and told us we could call him and come back during a weekday and he would allow us in to take as many photos as we would care to take. The typical Turkish hospitality I have come to know . . . the kind of hospitality many of us have been fortunate enough to experience. When we came out of the Opera House snow was coming down, taksi drivers were trolling for fares leaving the opera, the sidewalks were full of cautiously stepping pedestrians picking their way through the freshly fallen snow yet abuzz with conversation. I took that to mean the performance was a pretty darn good one. It was well after 11PM. What an evening indeed!

Sunday we went to see a performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest at the same venue for a night at the theater. Again a huge hit, great ticket prices and great seats. And the costumes for the cast? Wow. Shakespeare performed in Turkish and in Ankara is a true experience. Certainly, it helped to know the story line of The Tempest beforehand since my Turkish isn’t so great but believe me the cast translated the story both verbally and nonverbally to perfection.

If anyone doubts you can see as much and do as much in Turkey during the winter months as during the warm summer season, I say come give it a try. I do miss the warm weather a bit but other than a little snow and rain it has been a great visit this time around.

Tavsan


Tavsan
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Tue Jan 06, 2009 3:16 pm

As with any good visit to Turkey there are things to get to and things you don’t, regrets of what you missed and memories of what you managed to do. This time was is no exception.

As far as good shopping goes we did some damage yesterday at Cepa Mall. I discovered their Bisse store and added another Bisse shirt to my collection. They make great dress shirts and the price is always affordable.

Last week we stumbled upon a store so tiny that as the saying goes you would need to step outside to change your mind. This store maybe one of the regrets of our trip, if we cannot get back there before our departure. However, that being said if you are in Ankara and want something unique and a great sales person stop in to see Kadriye, a retired English teacher who works at Era Gumus~Address: Ataturk Bulvari Yuksel Kuyumular Crs. No: 105/21 Bakanliklar/Ankara Tel: 0312 435 69 03. It’s down the corridor of shops and to the left at the end. Very small but decent prices and a small but beautiful collection of silver jewelry. She has some lovely pieces made in Istanbul that are nothing short of stunning. No big fancy storefront, no frills, just great jewelry and an incredibly helpful salesperson. Sometimes I think the little stores without the glitz and glamour get overlooked. Seref’s (one of Selahattin’s recommendations) is the same way. I was in his store earlier in our trip and found it stocked to the rafters with incredible pieces of jewelry. His store like Era Gumus is along Ataturk Blvd in downtown and certainly worth visiting anytime you are in town.

And of course what is a post from me unless it comes with a culinary adventure. This trip I vowed to find out if my own Lamahcun I have been working on in my kitchen stacked up with Turkish Lamahcun. My wife assures me that it does but I think she is being kind, in fact, I know she is being kind after my experience here in Ankara. :lol: First of all Lamahcun is made as good, affordable and filling meal for people in a hurry at lunch or for anyone who doesn’t want to spend a fortune on good food. I think at one of the food stalls on the street yesterday I say Lamahcun and ayran advertised together for under $2 USD if I was doing the math right on the run. I had lunch with my brother-in-law at a place called Urfali Kebap Address: Bayindir Sokak: No: 9/B in Kizilay. I think my Lamahcun there was something like 2.5 TL. For that price I got two pieces the size of a US small/medium sized pizza of flat bread covered with spiced ground lamb seasoned to perfection with other bits of Turkish culinary fame. Lots of fresh parsley and two wedges of lemon for added zest. The service for a busy lunch hour was spectacular. Our waiter “comped” me with several appetizers and frankly I left stuffed. Did I mention the Turkish coffee and the cheese filled, sweet warm desert dripping in syrup? In an amateur wannabe cook’s world like mine it is enough to make Rachel Ray (America’s cooking Princess) kick the glass out of the oven door. No better Lamahcun to be found in my book. As for my own attempts at this great Turkish dish, I got “schooled” as the young folks say. I left humbled and determined to go home and get it right next time around.

Last night we arrived home after a day of just being out and about in Ankara. We were exhausted. Yet we covered so much of Ankara again with the assistance of the well oiled machinery of public transportation~vans, buses, and the famous yellow taksi. When you visit Turkey dare to go off the beaten path and you can see a lot for a very little money if you hop on the public transportation. Yes, the vans ramble on with the driver watching the road, making change, while honking at other drivers, and yes Taksi drivers seem to have magical powers at times or a sixth sense for traffic, thankfully and buses unfortunately are sometimes crammed full of people to where you cannot move. It's hot, sweaty and uncomfortable at its worst but it is part of daily life in Turkey that I want to experience every time I am here. There is seeing Turkey like a tourist and seeing Turkey like a Turk. Dare to take time to see it like a Turk. Some of your best memories await in your willingness to do so. :)

Tavsan
Last edited by Tavsan on Sat Sep 12, 2009 6:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Tavsan
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Thu Jan 15, 2009 2:30 am

So much happened before our departure that I hardly had time to respond with a post. We are back home now and I have a little time for an update.

Thursday before our departure we attended the ballet of Anna Karenina which was truly one of my more memorable experiences in Turkey. We attended three performances at the old Opera House and we are now hooked on the arts in Turkey as a result.

Friday was a flurry of activity from “powershopping” carpets, porcelain, and pastries in downtown Ankara to a huge surprise of having Selahattin return to Ankara in time for us to have cay with him and his family in Dikmen near mom-in-law’s place. We were initially going to a manti restaurant but we noted that we had a lot going on in preparation for our departure. And as things go in Turkey we returned home happy to have seen Selahattin but saddened that we had less time than we wanted to spend with him and his family. Wouldn’t you know when we arrived back home (as if somehow orchestrated by a force bigger than all of us) my mom-in-law spontaneously without knowing had prepared manti for us for our last night in Turkey. And soon last minute relatives and phone calls poured in. It was a perfect end to a perfect trip. Selahattin, next time we will indeed hit a restaurant for a good meal and great conversation. :) Your visit really just made the end of our trip spectacular.

On a side note, the Turkish bakers make something that looks like a cinnamon roll but is in fact made with sweetened tahini. It is simply out of this world. We kept buying them until the day we departed. I must find the recipe for this little bit of heaven on earth.

A bit of a rumor, we have heard on good word that our old favorite carpet haunt Sumer Hali may be going entirely private which could mean an increase in carpet prices in their stores. I hope that is not the case. Still we were able to get a great carpet this time around and were lucky enough to find five pieces of Kutahya porcelain in Kizilay (four of which we purchased). I won’t even hint at the price but it was probably one of the best days of shopping we have ever had in Turkey.

Saturday was interesting. We were to leave on Saturday, that is until I sliced my thumb running us a little (mind you I said a little) late for the airport. They would not let us board as a result. :? In spite of the fact that our luggage could have still been loaded and the fact that the plane was not yet fully loaded. So instead of taking their recommendation of flying to Munich, staying the night, and flying out on Sunday we opted for Monday as I knew weather on the ground on Chicago was likely bad meaning two nights of hotels out of our own pocket which was by no means attractive to me. Monday the plane did not leave on time at all and people were boarding left and right past the alleged “deadline” for when the boarding was cut off. I was a bit ticked and it made me wonder exactly what the situation was on Saturday that had prevented our boarding. Monday we made it to Chicago but our airline took well over an hour to unload our bags which meant we missed our flight and because the last flight of the day back to our humble little home was cancelled our airline (which as always remains anonymous) saw no reason to provide us with a hotel room. Mind you it was their fault we missed our scheduled flight to start with. (Once we got our bags it took us exactly fifteen seconds to clear the customs desk and it had taken as long to clear the passport booth~meaning their delay in unloading the bags forced us to miss our outbound flight.) After we were cancelled, I offered to go retrieve our luggage from the holding area 1) so I could have a coat to wear to the hotel and 2) so we could assure we would not lose our luggage as our airline had done on our way to Turkey. We were assured our luggage would travel with us. Well the blizzard blew in and we hunkered down at the Airport Hilton not wanting to venture too far from the airport. Next morning we were informed that our luggage was rerouted through Denver and it would in fact not be flying with us. Seems our bags might have had a weight problem and thus warranted them to be flown on another plane into our airport via Denver. Both large bags tagged in well under 50 lbs the required weight and the flight was not full. By the time we returned home we had to wait seven hours for our luggage only to find out our two large bags had likely arrived on the flight we took in early in the AM or on the very next flight from Chicago. Our two lightest, smallest bags arrived in from Denver at 4PM. Airline logic or some weird notion of customer service.

Fortunately, we had enough fun and spent enough quality time with family and friends to guard against any ill feelings of the events that transpired in getting home. I do highly recommend visiting Turkey during the winter months, particularly for the arts and other cultural activities. It was a great trip and as always it ended way too soon. That's it for this time around. I hope any of you out there who are thinking about traveling to Turkey do indeed make the trip. I caution you though as I do others here from time to time, one trip is never enough. :wink:

Peace, Love, and Safest of Travels,


Tavsan

Tavsan
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Mon May 18, 2009 7:12 am

This post should be titled "Not Visiting Turkey Right Now."

We are feeling down about having to sit out our summer here in the US and we are counting on all of you to post exciting accounts of your Turkish visits so we might live vicariously through your travels this summer. We did have a lot of fun visiting Turkey over the winter holiday and thought taking a summer off would give us a much needed bit of R and R here at home. Now that summer is almost here we are having second thoughts. Coming home from the grocery store tonight with a bag of substandard cherries (compared to what we get in Turkey) sealed the deal. We are officially bummed out about not visiting Turkey this summer! :(

On a more upbeat note the Turkish Balcony blog just proclaimed next month to be Lahma-June in celebration of Lahmacun. Afiyet Olsun and Safe Travels One And All! :wink:

Turkish Balcony also named Turkey Travel Planner its #1 website for travel information about Turkey in its Best of Istanbul 2008 list. Tip of the hat to Tom!

Tavsan

HeidiandGary
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by HeidiandGary » Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:48 am

Thanks for your repots - I almost feel as if I'm there with you! And it's great info for my and planning my upcoming trip.

Tavsan
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:06 pm

It is so cold here right now in the Great Midwest we are plotting our escape to Turkey in March of 2010. Not to worry we hope to be there for our annual visit with family in the summer but in March 2010 a colleague and I are embarking on what we are calling: "Ten Days, Three Cities, and Oh Yea, Carry-On Luggage." I have no idea what this is going to mean in the long run but it should be an adventure as we hope to visit Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir without looking like a reality tv show in the making. :lol: I guess what I need from our loyal posters is recommendations in terms of traveling light. Also, are there any hidden gems in Istanbul and Izmir we should see. I know Ankara fairly well since my wife's family all lives there but I certainly would like to know any off the beaten path treasures of the other two cities. We are hoping to be able to experience some each city's treasures during our visit. What we hope to do is to rough out a future visit for faculty and students and this is a trial run in terms of everything we need to keep in mind when visiting with a small to medium group of people.

Can't wait to hear what people have to say. The big question is "Can we 'carry on' with just carry-ons in Turkey?"

Tavsan

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Bake
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Bake » Fri Jan 08, 2010 6:05 pm

If you want to go a bit deeper in Istanbul and get more feeling of the city's life and how it's different. Put, Fatih area into your list, make a loop around Polonezkoy and villages on the way from Beykoz to Sile's road.

ptemiz
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by ptemiz » Sat Jan 09, 2010 12:40 pm

If you take internal flights with Pegasus they positively encourage you to 'carry on' everything. I think the airline must pay the baggage handlers by piece of luggage handled as they are always asking me why I want to check my fairly large duffel when I could carry it on. Recently I've seen people cramming large suitcases into over head lockers on the plane - so fly Pegasus and you can carry on anything. They publicise the luggage weight limit as 15kg (for check in) but don't seem to enforce that too strenuously - and these are the pieces of luggage they then urge me to 'carry on'.

As for 'gems' to visit in Istanbul, see www.fethiyetimes.com where I have posted about Sokullu Mehmet Pasa camii which I visited for the first time last month. Also a post on two guidebooks to Istanbul which both contain 'gems'.

Tavsan
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Sun Jan 10, 2010 8:10 am

I am going to add this to the list and check out your posts. I don't know how far down that list we are going to get but part of the joy of traveling is the adventure of trying to get to everything on the "to do list". :)

Thanks both of you for these suggestions!

Tavsan

lonetraveler
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by lonetraveler » Tue Feb 02, 2010 1:10 am

I am going to Istanbul in March. Do you have any tips for a single female traveler?


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