Visting Turkey Right Now

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

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David Morgan
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by David Morgan » Tue Feb 02, 2010 3:41 pm

There's a whole forum dedicated to women travellers here:
viewforum.php?f=9
and check out Tom's page - "Women/Female Travelers in Turkey"
http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/deta ... index.html


Tavsan
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Mon Mar 01, 2010 6:13 am

Wednesday we leave for our first Spring Break to Turkey. We have been there in the summer many times and last year we went during the holidays. This year it's Hello rainy season! Our original plans of carry on luggage only have been scrapped. Now we are coming fully stocked with computers, cameras, etc. We hope to blog as we go and I hope to post a few updates along the way keeping with a TTP tradition. Should be a great time. We are doing what is being called The Turkish Triangle: Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, and back to Istanbul all in 10 days on the ground. Wish us luck and do feel free to drop us a note on things we should see and do. I have already put together a list of places in Ankara to see. My colleague and I are sharing responsbilities in Istanbul with regard to what to do and he is handling Izmir in terms of all the places to go and things to do.

Tavsan

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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:14 pm

Greetings from along the road. We were going to attempt to post earlier but have suffered through ridiculous Internet rates and uploading speeds. The trip between Istanbul, Ankara,and Izmir has been fantastic. We hit our itinerary targets and made a few surprise discoveries. The food has been just grand. There is too much to post by pecking on an iPod keyboard so I will need to do so at length when I get home. One bit of advice for March travel is prepare for cold rainy weather.

Tavsan

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Bake
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Bake » Mon Mar 15, 2010 6:49 pm

Great!!! İyi yolculuklar!!!

It would be interesting to follow your posts...
Baur.
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Tavsan
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Tue Mar 16, 2010 12:07 pm

As always my sleep schedule is a little messed up so it is likely a good time to drop a note on our most recent visit.

Istanbul

We arrived in Istanbul on March 4th. The weather was not great but we enjoyed the ride into the city and engaged in a photographer's "drive by shooting" of interesting sites on the way into Istanbul, which means about a photo every quarter of a mile or less. :D

We stayed at one of the Hiltons in Istanbul near Besiktas stadium. We got great off-season rates. The hotel was a great base as it is close to Taksim Square and Istiklal but I can imagine the price will be discouraging factor some high traffic season. One thing that was frustrating about this hotel was their high internet connection fee. I think we were paying around $30 per day for internet access so we skimped and connected only for a day or so. We opted to stay closer to Taksim as a means of having a different environment to see in the evenings away from Sultanahmet. I am glad we were able to stay closer to Taksim.

Istanbul was as amazing as ever as we saw all the major sites on our itinerary: Ayasofya, the Blue Mosque, The Cistern, Tokapi, Dolmabahce, etc. There were few crowds and a lot of Turkish school children on field trips. Like American school teachers, Turkish school teachers earn every dollar er . . . lira of their salary I can assure you. We also made the Archaeology Museum a part of the our visit but after one building we were overwhelmed with what we had seen so we called it a day. Myron's statue of a man throwing a discus was there which would have been enough but the building houses perhaps one of the best if not the best archaeological collection in the world. We learned a valuable lesson about cramming too much into one day and highly suggest splitting up big attractions particularly those that might overload the senses. Topkapi or Dolmabahce can take considerable time to see. Likewise with the Archaeology Museum which resides on the Topkapi grounds. Of course part of our mission was to photograph as many of these sites as possible so we spent considerable time focusing on snapping pictures which only added to the time it took to see the attractions. If you tour has an add on (e.g., harem quarters) consider taking the add on as you don't want to miss key attractions only to regret it later.

A word of advice about Turkey in March, take warm clothes. We had warm clothing but I did spy some poor chap at Topkapi with shorts and flip-flop sandals. He didn't look happy. The weather was horrible though we only got truly drenched one time. The trade off was there were less crowds to navigate. We made up our minds to not let the cold bother us so we braved the deck of a Bosphorus ferry ride down to Kadikoy to check out Haydarpasa train station and the Kadikoy area. Our fingers were numb by the time we reached there but it was worth the cold for the sensation of being on deck snapping photos like crazy.

The food in Istanbul, as always, was amazing. We started our culinary excursion with dinner at Haci Abdullah's which is one of my favorite places in Istanbul just off Istiklal Caddesi. I have raved here and other places about their eggplant dish that is second to none. The same is true for their sekerpare. We stopped at the famous Inci Pastanesi on Istiklal as well for some lemonade and a chocolate dessert. I know one does not usually associate lemonade and chocolate in the same sitting but it was just grand. The worn marble stair at the entrance of Inci is there for a reason and good luck getting a seat. We also discovered a great gözleme and manti place along Istiklal where two women work the dough sitting in the window of the restaurant. It was great food. Perhaps our most pleasant surprise was a tiny restaurant in Sultanahmet named the Rumist Cafe. I rarely if ever return to the same restaurant while traveling on the same trip as I prefer to sample as much local cuisine in as many restaurants as I can. I do return to restaurants I like on return visits. I broke my own rule by returning to the Rumist Cafe twice and I understand I still haven't sampled their best meal yet, that being fish. It is a great establishment operated by a remarkable family. It was worth our trek there two days in a row and when in Istanbul again I will make my way back there.

When in Istanbul I recommend visiting one of their shopping malls to see just how Istanbul stacks up to any other major city in terms of retail shopping. We visited three of these including Istinye Park Mall. The design of Istinye Park and its many stores was stunning to say the least. If you go make your way to the lower level for a most pleasant surprise in terms of good eats, a fresh food market, and other shopping surprises. I had a great pasta dish there made with smoked lamb.

We returned to Istanbul for one more night on the last day of our journey, March 13th. We visited Kanyon Mall in Levent for a few last minute items on our shopping list and we finished up with an incredible dinner in a friend's home.

Transportation: We took trains, subways, and taksis around Istanbul finding them more efficient and faster than the buses. Compared to US cities a taksi fare is still quite affordable and reasonable in Istanbul.

Overall our Istanbul visit was two thumbs up and I can honestly say we didn't miss anything we wanted to see. We arrived in the mid afternoon on March 4th and we departed Istanbul for Ankara at 10 AM on March 8th. With the return visit on March 13th we felt we had plenty of time in the city.

Our next stop was Ankara which I will pull together a little later for everyone.

We flew each leg of our journey inside Turkey via Turkish Airlines for a whopping $50 per ticket per leg meaning two of us flew around city to city in Turkey for $150 each on one-way tickets. That's a pretty good deal in my opinion and it saved so much time.

Tavsan

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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Sat Mar 20, 2010 5:23 pm

Part II Of Our Trip: Ankara

We flew from Istanbul to Ankara which saved a lot of time. While in Ankara we stayed at the Hilton. Since it was the off-season we got great rates there. My favorite street in Ankara is Tunali Hilmi Caddesi which was close by. I highly recommend the Flamingo bakery there as well as the several of the restaurants on that street including the Inegol Kofte restaurant~simply some of the best Kofte anywhere. We visited the Roman Baths, Haci Bayram Cami and Turbesi, and the Kara Dagi Turbesi in Ulus (Kara Dagi honors a woman who died hundreds of years ago) with the neighborhood growing up around the tomb over the years. The Temple of Augustus, next to the Haci Bayram Cami is under restoration although the jury is out as to how much restoration will actually go on and whether or not the restoration being done is good for the site. We also toured the area of Ulus Meydani. While in Ankara we had the opportunity to spend a lot of time at the Hisar (Castle) as well as the Anatolian People's Museum nearby. Of course we visited Anitkabir. We happened to visit on a day where politicians were to gather to celebrate Women's Day so the plaza was buzzing with activity and soldiers were everywhere. One of the high points of the trip was seeing a father and his young son visiting the site likely for the first time for the little boy. The little fellow's eyes were wide with wonder as he looked at Ataturk's resting place and his father explained this most remarkable site to him. It was one of those rare moments when you realize you are witnessing something very meaningful and personal to someone that will be with them for a lifetime.

While in Ankara we were able to dine at two of my favorite restaurants: Uludag and Recep Usta. I understand Recep Usta now has a restaurant in Istanbul. The Ankara location has been moved to Dikmen overlooking the scenic park. It also happens to be just out the door of my mother-in-law's place so when visiting Ankara next time I can walk there and walk off the damage I do afterwards! :D We dined at Uludag's Ulus location which also requires a bit of exercise after the fact to resolve any and all guilt of overeating. Not so good this time as all roads led straight from Uludag to Mado for Ice cream!

One thing while visiting Ankara is to look at its history, particularly that available in the Ulus area as well as in the many statues lining its streets. I did get to see the Mimar Sinan statue from a distance but I was not able to get back to photograph it. My son's name is Sinan so I figure one day when he is old enough I will journey with him to visit the statue together.

We didn't visit any of the malls in Ankara as we did in Istanbul and Izmir as I sort of know them inside and out. We did stop into Karum only briefly so my traveling colleague could see one of the shopping establishments that may be considered dated considering all the malls that have been built in Ankara since Karum's construction. Malls are an interesting topic of discussion since it leaves us to wonder how these shopping centers will impact the city and its communities.

Ankara, as always, was her active, vibrant self. A one day transportation worker strike filled the street with even more taksis than usual making the streets, in places, a sea of yellow. I know Ankara is seen as sort of a city to drop in on for about a half a day while enroute to Cappadocia but those passing through should try to stay a day or two. You will be surprised by all that there is to do in Ankara.

My big purchase in Ankara: A toy Taksi and a toy Dolmus for my son with the painted destinations Kizilay and Cankaya on the dolmus~the route to great grandma's flat. Now we can sit and play Ankara traffic jams at home!

Tavsan
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Sun Apr 04, 2010 5:55 am

Part III: Izmir

Izmir was the last stop on our journey before flying back to Istanbul before departure. Izmir is another one of those hidden gems like Ankara, low-key under the looming shadow of Istanbul.

I simply loved Izmir this time around. I loved it the first time around too several years ago but this time it was even better.

We stayed at the Park Hotel close to the train station. This botique hotel was designed by its owner and it is a pleasant surprise. For around $80 USD per night we got a great room, a huge breakfast buffet and free internet? Hear that Hilton, free?! For some reason some business hotels of the American stripe in Turkey still cannot figure out how to get free internet into their business practice preferring to make poor unsuspecting souls pay way too much for internet access among other things (e.g., drinks). :roll: The staff at the Park Hotel did everything possible to make us feel welcomed. Five star treatment and accomodations all around. When I thought I had lost my driver's license they allowed me back into the room I checked out of and helped me search the room. When I found my license tucked safely away in my travel wallet in my carry-on we all breathed a sigh of relief and celebrated. They even arranged an airport pick up for us late in the evening after our plane was delayed out of Ankara. The Park is a hidden treasure in Izmir and I hope people find their way to it.

While in Izmir we visted the Agora, both the archaeological site and the rather new shopping mall of the same name. The archaeological site is undergoing some new and exciting excavation and more is planned. Seems that some of the neighborhood shops were built atop the foundations of the Agora (the place is huge). Those shops have all but been demolished so further excavation can take place. The Agora mall (I know from the ancient Agora to the modern Agora Mall=cheesy) was worth the cab ride so we could once again see how "the mall" has made its way into daily life in Turkey. And we even got to sample Oz Sut (a delightful sweet shop) in its hometown of Izmir while at the mall.

We also visited the art museum, the archaeological museum, and made a great day trip to Ephesus on our last day in Izmir. I got to see Ephesus this time with a guide which was much more educational I think. All in all he was a great guide, though a little serious as former teachers can be. Still he had his moments where we all had a great laugh. We were in Izmir during their puppet festival and the art museum had a great collection of puppets to go along with all the festivities.

Dining in Izmir was wonderful as we dined at Asansor (the view was one of a kind). Asansor fits with the Turkish idea of the evening meal. Start late and stay long. We arrived almost too early 6ish and had the restaurant to ourselves for our first couple of courses. For $40 per person it was some of the best food anywhere on the planet. By the time we were wrapping up dessert a traditional Turkish music group was tuning up so we stayed for a few songs before heading back to our hotel. We also ate at Topcu downtown for lunch. This establishment has been in business for a while and it shows. A class act all the way. The food? Two thumbs up and I mean way up. Finally, we ate in a place in the French section of town that had no name that I could gather from anyone around me or with me. All I know is it had a wood stove near our table, live music and a tree or two growing up through the restaurant. Two serving areas. Again, amazing food.

Leaving Izmir was a disaster as I thought I had lost my license only to find it but too late to hit the streets again and too early to leave for the airport but we did anyway so we ended up at the airport only to have Turkish air bump us up to an earlier flight to Istanbul which meant more time in Istanbul, even if it was just two or three hours. On this trip my traveling companion and I kept saying things happened for a reason and there were so may conincidences and strange goings on. Deboarding the aircraft in Istanbul proved to be a crowning moment for this trip as when we looked up two seats into first class we saw MFO's frontman Mazhar Alanson getting off the plane ahead of us. As starstruck as I was I still managed a brief "hello". And as always Turkey delivered again and again.

I will say that while I didn't like the weather particularly this time around, hotels and airfares were so reasonable. Roughly $1050 took me to Istanbul then to Ankara to Izmir and back to Istanbul, then home. If you want to save valuable time in Turkey consider one-way flights between cities. Ours clocked in at roughtly $50 USD per one-way ticket but don't wait, book in advance.

Well that was Turkey this time. Between us, my colleague and I logged over 2,000 photos and several hours of video. One allergy attack (mine). A calorie intake/burn ratio that was just right given our 10-12 hours a day of constant movement. And most of all in included a host of those moments that only Turkey can offer up. Those moments when all of that history just makes you feel so small and insignificant and yet at the same time a kind word or action from someone, anyone a second later leads you to feel as if you are the most important person in the world at the moment. And that my friends is the magic and beauty of Turkey. :wink:

Thanks again to Tom for having this rather unique place for us all to gather. And thanks especially for letting me post my ramblings here.

Tavsan
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Tavsan
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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Tue Jul 20, 2010 6:04 pm

Knowing people leaving for Turkey and friends who have already returned we are really really missing Turkey this summer though we were just there in March! I am hoping someone is kind enough to post some information while visiting or shortly upon their return regarding resorts, pensions, botique hotels, etc. As we plan for next summer I am curious to hear any reports from folks visiting the coastal resort communities this summer. How was it and do you have any recommendations? We have been to Kusadasi, Bodrum, and Side but are looking to go some place different next summer.

Tavsan

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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by Tavsan » Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:25 am

Well the countdown has started. We are headed to Turkey in May for 16 days Ankara-Izmir-Istanbul. This is the route we mapped out last year in 10 days. Should be fun and slowing down a little never hurts. Of course we hope to, as time and computer availability allows, post from the road. Got great deals on airfares this year between the US and Ankara with return departure out of Istanbul. Domestic flights within Turkey were, of course, so affordable.

Any tips on good airport transfers in each city? Ankara is the worst in terms of cost because of the distance between the airport and city center. I hear the Havas bus is OK.

Also, any recommendations for good restaurants in the Kordon area of Izmir?

Finally, does anyone know a good gümüş store in Izmir or Istanbul that might have teapots. I promised to pick one up for someone but I am a little hesitant to do so in Istanbul becuase the prices tend to be so high. Still if anyone would know they would likely be on TTP. Maybe someone owes you a favor or you just know that one silver shop where they know how to deal. :lol:

Hope everyone is well and that you are making plans to be in Turkey this summer! I am especially looking forward to being in Turkey during the Year of the Rabbit! My kind of year. . . :wink:

Tavsan

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Re: Visting Turkey Right Now

Post by marilynm » Fri May 27, 2011 7:07 pm

Spent almost three weeks this month in fascinating Turkey. Group tour included just 1-1/2 days in Istanbul, so went early with 3 days exploring on own, which I highly recommend. Took Tom Brosnahan’s advice and stayed at the small gem, the Niles Hotel. Excellent location and on a quiet street. Wonderful staff and great value for the money. Visited the outstanding Chora Church where not many tours go and was able to spend time wandering the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market and surroundings, discovering more of the street life. Also without the group, the two mosques in Eminonu at the foot of the Galata Bridge. Went to Chora by taxi and returned by convenient bus which was faster and much cheaper. Joined Key Tours which, in spite of the large group, did a very good job. Cappodocia balloon trip was to be a highlight but because of cloudy weather and lack of wind, was not as expected; still, glad I did it. Ephesus proved to be even more extensive and impressive than expected. Found the museum in Antalya to be a gem, though the one in Ankara was somewhat disappointing. Turkey is very welcoming and the people are very friendly and helpful.


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