Turkey Travelogue

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Turkey Travelogue

  • Submitted by: Hans en Mirjam Damen
  • Submission Date: 11th Feb 2005



General




Money and costs




The rate of inflation is very high in Turkey. Prices hardly keep up with the inflation. Therefore if you are from a country with a strong currency, Turkey might even be cheaper than you expect. Because of the inflation, all prices mentioned are in dollars. Several people have written to tell me that this is not really inflation, but devaluation. There is inflation in Turkey, but the currency looses it's value compared with foreign (stronger) currencies.

At the time of our visit (December '96 - January 1997), the exchange rate was a bit above 100.000 Turkish Lira to the dollar. If you're living in Turkey and you are not a millionaire, than you really have a problem!

We travelled on busses and (one) train. Stayed in guesthouses (US$ 10-15 for a double) and hotels (up to 2 stars for up to US$ 30) had meals in restaurants and enough beers in the evening. We got on very comfortably on US$ 50 for the both of us. Note that Turkey may be more expensive during summer!

If you're a student and can prove it with an ISIC card you'll get discounts on about everything. Even your non-student partner may qualify for the same discount (most notably on busses). If we mention two prices in this letter, the first is the normal price, the second is the student price.

In general tourists are not overcharged in Turkey (at least we weren't). Compared with loads of other Asian, African and South American countries it's an oasis of honesty. Still the rules apply: ask prices before you order anything and bargain for everything slightly tourist, it will make your stay a lot cheaper.






Weather




In winter you may expect a lot of rain in Turkey. We were very lucky; in two weeks time we only had one day of rain. On the Aegean and Mediterranean coast it was about 18 degrees Celsius. In Cappadocia temperatures during the day were about 8 till 10 degrees Celsius. In and around Antalya we had clear blue skies, so we even got a suntan.




Friendliness




We were in Turkey for the third time. We knew what to expect, but once again we were pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the Turkish people. People almost everywhere are very helpful and show a genuine interest in you. Even the salespeople with shops aimed at tourists are not too pushy. We think the Turkish people are the greatest asset of the country and this makes Turkey one of our favourite countries world-wide.




Bus companies




Busses are cheap an and excellent. We chose our companies rather on availability than on reputation, but we were never disappointed. Free water, coffee and tea or softdrinks were provided on all long-distance busses. All busses were non-smoking, we are not sure that this is also the case in summer, when the air-conditioning is working. The heating of the busses was consequently set on tropical temperatures.

Turkey introduced a new law about non-smoking about 2 months ago. Now it is forbidden to smoke almost everywhere in public areas. Busses are considered to be public areas and penalties are heavy (up to 10 million liras). It is really more pleasant now than before. In one bus, it was written that bus drivers were allowed to smoke, but in an interval of 2 hours between each cigarette..... (Roland and Ozer)





Flying to Turkey




We flew from Holland to Izmir on Air Alfa, a Turkish charter airline. Prices are so cheap, it's almost unbelievable. Although X-mas is high season we paid less than US$ 250 for a open-jaw return ticket (Amsterdam-Izmir, Antalya-Amsterdam). In Low season the price is even US$ 50 less and it's possible to fly return from Amsterdam to Istanbul for less than US$ 140. This way it's cheaper to fly to Europe first and than on to Turkey. In Holland's big cities shop around in the bucket-shops, or even better: use the Turkish travel agencies. in Amsterdam try Ad Latjes (he's also on Internet, http://www.etn.nl) or the Turkish agencies in the Albert Cuypstraat. In The Hague use one of the Turkish agencies in the Schilderswijk near the 'Holland's Spoor' railwaystation.






Hitching




We found hitching quite easy. It never took more than 10 minutes to hitch a ride. Around Antalya we got a lot of rides from tourists in rented vehicles.

Several people have asked me to ad a warning about hitching. They are right; hitching can be dangerous and in recent years there have been some very nasty incidents. The normal rules apply: don't hitch at night and don't get into a car with more than one male.





Cities and sights




Izmir




We arrived at Adnan Menderes Airport, which has very efficient immigration officers and very slow luggage-handlers. Hassle-free money-changing is possible behind the customs. There is a HAVAS bus to the city centre (Hilton hotel) for US$ 2. You'll find the bus if you walk out the airport building and than 100 metres to your left.

We stayed at the 2-star Hotel Baylan (232-4831426, fax 4833844) and paid US$ 30 for a double room including central heating, bath and breakfast (we asked prices and booked in advance by fax). The hotel is located a bit back from the main roads in a quiet street. Still it's very conveniently located only 200 metres from the main railwaystation.

Izmir is a big city without a lot of sights. The fortress on Kadifekale is a pleasant place to visit because of the great view over the city. Both the historic and ethnographic museum are worth visiting. Entry fees are US$ 1.50/0.80 for the first and US$ 0.80/0.40 for the latter.

Thousands of conscripts get their initial military training in Izmir. Sunday is their day off, so the streets are packed with them and for every telephone booth there are soldiers lining up, waiting to call home.

We had great food (and beer!) in the Dört Mousim et Lokantasi on 1369 Sokak for about US$ 5 each. The service was good, in spite of the live soccer game on the bigscreen TV (staff and diners were glued to it).

We took the 08.30 train from the Basmane station to Seltuk. It takes about two hours and costs US$ 1.30/0.90.






Seltuk




Seltuk has lots of accommodation. Some prices for a double room including breakfast: Victoriahotel US$ 25; hotel Hasanaga US$ 15 (no heating); the guesthouses we looked at all charged prices between US$ 10 and 15.

We stayed in the very friendly Homeros pension at Asmali Sokak 17 (232-8923995). Their best double room cost US$ 15 including bathroom with hot water and a fruity breakfast. Other rooms are US$ 12. Dervish, the owner doesn't whirl, but went out to buy us a heater because of the chilly nights and took us to Ephesus in his car.

If you're not catholic, you may skip a visit to Mary's house.

Ephesus is a definite must-see. Have yourself dropped at the top entrance and walk down to the valley. Entry costs US$ 3.80/1.90. Don't miss the Roman public toilet; always a nice photo opportunity. Walking back to the village is an easy 40 minute stroll, using a newly made walkway. Offers of free lifts to the village will invariably end in a carpetshop (we were warned by Dervish).

Efes museum in Seltuk is not big, but very nice, with a good layout and good explanations (US$ 2.30/1.15).

A visit to Sirince may be nice in Summer, but the former Greek village is very sleepy in winter. One of the Byzantine churches in the village is slowly falling apart; the restored church was closed (but you can have a peek through the window). There are minibuses to Sirince (US$ 0.20) at five times a day (9, 10, 11, 13 15 and 17 o'clock) from a stand 100 metres north from the railwaystation. On the dolmus we met Hasan Gemici, the 1952 Olympic wrestling champion in the category up to 52 kilograms. Apart from being a good raconteur, Hasan also runs a guest-house in Sirince.

As it is winter there were no scheduled tours to Priene, Miletus and Didyma. But as it was also low season we booked a car with driver at ATS travel service (at the busstation) for US$ 30. We don't agree with the suggested times for visiting the three sites in the LP guide. We think Priene (entree US$ 1.20/40) deserves at least two hours and Miletus (US$ 0.80/0.30) about the same amount of time. Didyma (US$ 0.80/0.40) can be seen in 45 minutes. Of these three we liked Priene best. In Miletus the theatre is great and Didyma shouldn't be missed alone for the sheer size of its walls.

We took a Pamukkale bus to Denizli, less than three hours, US$ 5 each (yes, we both got studentprice).






Denizli / Pammukkale




In the direct vicinity of the Denizli busstation there are lots of hotels. All charge prices between US$ 20 and 30. We found the two-star Otel Laodikya offering best value for money at US$ 25 including breakfast, central heating and very hot water in the bath.

We made a (half-) daytrip to Pamukkale. Pamukkale would have been a very nice place to visit, if this natural wonder had been treated with more respect. It's a shame that motels have been build on top op the travertine's. It's even more a shame that these motels are allowed to pipe the hot water into their swimmingpools, leaving the travertine's dry. There are lots of signs asking people to remove their shoes before walking on the travertine's. As there are no officials to supervise this rule, loads of people walk around with their shoes on.

The thing we liked best was walking down to Pamukkale town. Start at the TUSAN motel and walk to the left on top of the small concrete covered waterway besides the travertine's (keeping the travertine's to your right). After a couple of hundred metres you leave behind all the other visitors and can enjoy (what is left of) the landscape undisturbed. Minibuses run from Denizli to the Museum on top of the travertine's and cost US$ 0.25. Entry to the site is US$

We travelled from Denizli to Konya for six and a half hours on an Axel bus; US$ 10 each.






Konya




We arrived quiet late in the evening and found a room in the Otel Dervis (332-3501904) for US$ 12,50 a double without breakfast. Do some haggling and check a couple of rooms; some have definitely better beds than others.

The LP guide advises to spent at least a couple of days in Konya, but we found that the major sights can be visited without running in a day. Don't miss Seminary of the slender minaret (US$ 0.50/0.20). It's now the museum of carving. OK, that doesn't sound very exiting, but we found this small museum really nice. It shows that in former times followers of the Islamic faith had less scruples in depicting peoples faces; this lead to some excellent art.

Unless you are a or have a specific interest in tiles you may skip the great Karatay Seminary (US$ 0.80/0.40).

Although we were a week too late to see the whirling dervishes The Mevlana museum is the only place we visited in Turkey that charges different prices for foreigners. We paid US$ 1.00/0.50, Turkish people pay US$ 0.25. As a lot of inhabitants visit the Mevlana regularly this doesn't seem unreasonable. If you really like it: they sell passes valid for a year.

We didn't succeed in entering the Koyunoglu museum, although there was a caretaker about. It seems that the museum has been closed for some time. On the way from the Mevlana to the Koyunoglu museum you pass the Ugler Mezargli cemetery. Some of the gravestones have a tap with running water. Very strange?!? Not so strange; the running watertaps by the graveyards are called 'hayrat'. In Islam it is encouraged to provide drinking water for others, so no one goes thirsty. Those who drink from your hayrat are expected to pray their appreciation for your 'hayra-t' (=goodwill). Islam, having originated from middle east deserts, gives great value to water. (Berk).

Three doors away from the Dervis hotel is a wholesale cardshop. All souvenirmerchants shop here for their merchandise and so can you. We bought our X-mas cards at a huge discount. You can also buy blanco cards and have them imprinted in one of the printshops in the same street.

Konya is a very Islamic city, so not many restaurants or shops sell beer. We are not really addicted to beer, but were very thirsty after a day of strolling trough the city, so we set out on an expedition to find a liquorshop. After some discrete gathering of information we succeeded in finding one. Here's our secret tip: From Mevlana Caddesi walk north on Aziziye Caddesi for about 400 metres until you reach a small roundabout. Just north of this roundabout on the right side of the road is a shop that sells electrical stuff, gasheaters etc. Hidden in an covered alley besides this shop are a couple of teahouses. At the end of the alley on the left you can buy all the booze you may need. We had a lot of fun looking for this hidden shop. The only thing spoiling the fun was that it's all perfectly legal.

We took an Aksaray bus that went straight to Göreme (via Aksaray and Neveshir). It took less than 4 hours and cost US$ 8 each






Göreme




We really liked our stay in Göreme. The weird landscape, the thousand-year-old churches, the underground cities made Cappadocia the highlight of our holiday.

We stayed at the Ottoman House hotel. The price for a very comfortable double room was US$ 20, which is very low compared to the standard US$ 15 asked at most of the guesthouses. The owner of the Ottoman house told us that she used to receive threats from other pension owners, because they found the cost of a room to low compared to their prices. Meals and other consumption's are a bit expensive at the Ottoman, so eat and drink elsewhere. If you want a break from Turkish breakfast, than their US$ 5 breakfast buffet is a good choice. The owners of Ottoman house also own a carpet shop. It takes some stamina to reject all the invitations to go there.

We ate good food at Sedef restaurant. They have a varied menu and the owner and his staff are very friendly.

Göremevalley (US$ 2.90/1.50) is a place you have to see. There is an extortionate extra entry fee (US $ 10) if you want to visit Karanlik kilise. Like in some graves in the valley of the Kings in Luxor (Egypt) the official reason is to protect the paintings. As they sell as many tickets as they can, the real goal is just to make extra money. Walk out of the open-air museum, cross the road and explore the caves on the other side of the road. Also great fun and without the hordes of tourists in the museum. Walk (right) over the ridge into the next valley, and walk (and climb) into the valley that changes into something that looks like a real canyon: fun!

We hitched to Cavusin and visited the Cavusin church (good frescoes). Follow the unpaved road to Zelve from Cavusin; it's shorter than following the asphalt road. Halfway you have to climb over a big white rock. There are good views (and photo opportunities) from the top of this rock. After this white rock there are the remains of some rock-churches that can be visited for free (an immense array of souvenir-sellers lead up to them). Although Zelve is also an open-air museum, it's more unorganised; meaning landslides still destroy the caves and there are less paved walkways. Climbing up and through the 'tunnel' is fun. Just follow the signs in the first valley to the entrance of the cave and search for the stairs up the tunnel. You'll need a torch! The walk to the valley of the fairy chimney's via Aktepe is more fun than the valley itself.

We visited the underground city at Kaymakli (US$ 1,90/0,95). The city is (nowadays) a bit organised with red and blue arrows pointing the way in and out and electric lightning along the route. It's possible to deviate from the route (a bit) if you have a torch; this is real fun, because it gives you the feeling that you have the caves to your own. Take a dolmus from Göreme to Neveshir (US$ 0,25) and a minibus to Kaymakli (US$ 0,20)

The nicest walk we did was through Dovecote valley from Uthisar to Göreme. Expect to get dirty (in winter) as the trail crosses the little stream running through the valley a couple of times. The path is marked, but not everywhere and there is a snack: halfway through the valley the path is gone. So if it seems that the path is plunging down into the valley, don't explore; it really does. Walk back about 100 metres and up the small valley to your right. Walk over the rim and walk down again into the next side-valley. After this detour you're back on track.

Dolmusses are a good way to go around (even in winter), but hitching was also very easy in Cappadocia.

We took a Nevtur bus to Konya (three an a half hours; US$ 7) that left Göreme at 8 o'clock. We were lucky to catch a Kontas bus in Konya that left at 12 o'clock (US$ 9) and arrived in Antalya around 6.30 PM.






Antalya




We stayed in the Old City in Villa Yesilköy, a pension on Barbaros Mah. Mnze Sok no 12 ((242)2411409)/. The pension has nice rooms with baths and a raised seatingarea, in a recently restored house. We paid US$ 15 for a double room with a good breakfast. The owners also serve meals in the evening, which are not very cheap. WE had a couple of satisfactory meals in restaurants in Eski Sebzeciler Iti Sokak. Prices and quality don't differ a lot between the restaurants; expect to pay US$ 5 - 7 for a meal with beer.

The museum in Antalya is the best museum we visited on this trip. Great statues, a good exhibition and good explanations. Allow at least two hours, and maybe more to visit it. We arrived late in the afternoon and only spend an hour, which is not enough.

We made a trip to Side. We should have been warned by the stories told by the German couple that picked us up hitching. They told us that you didn't need Turkish currency at all in Side because everything is priced in German Marks and payment is expected in that currency. So if you want to experience a bit of München in Turkey (or have a desperate need to be overcharged): go to Side. If not: stay away! Several people have written us that the (small) museum in Side is quiet nice (it's a pity we gave it a miss).

There are lots of shops in Aspendos (more are being built), but the only place worth a visit is the restored Theatre (US$ 3.00/1.50). Very impressive. We liked the old city of Perge (US$ 2.30/1.15) even more. Especially the old bathhouse is fun to explore.

A Taxi from the stand near the old town to the airport (at six in the morning) costs us about US $ 13.00.

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