Go to Turkey; Justine’s Quick, Dirty and Comfortable Guide to Turkey – Turkey

Go to Turkey; Justine’s Quick, Dirty and Comfortable Guide to Turkey


Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque
After reading Joe’s Guide to Turkey, I decided I needed to make my own guide and suggestions about travel in Turkey. With all respect to Joe, whom I consulted before my first trip, I have written my notes for a trip that is possibly more comfortable than Joe’s. Please read his article, since I left out some of the obvious things he included (buy and drink a lot of bottled water). The classic Turkish trip goes south from Istanbul, to Selcuk, then south to Fethiye and then out to Goreme, then back to Istanbul. Consider reversing the direction.

Before leaving home, make arrangements on line to stay at the Apricot Hotel for at least three nights. The owner/manager Hakam will be very happy to send a driver to pick you up at the airport if you stay three nights, which helps with the city transportation problem. Have American cash with you to pay the visa entrance fee, at this time 26 American dollars. If you go to Greece you will have to pay another fee in American cash. It is a wise idea to carry some American cash for all the various fees that you will encounter. If you’re planning to go to the Greek islands (Samos) on a day trip ask for a multi- entry visa.

Istanbul is a city that deserves at least three days and three nights because of the pure entertainment value it offers. Like London, Istanbul has so many wonderful sights to see. Spend a pleasant morning at the Topaki Palace, take a day tour, wander through the Grand Bazaar, or the Spice Bazaar, ride a boat down the Bosporus, go to a dance show at the Orient House, enjoy the city that wandered away from the West centuries ago and came back full of spices, silk and with a different religion. One wit said that Istanbul was like an older uncle that wandered away on his travels, and came home late in life with a wife wearing black…

Pragmatically, the Apricot Hotel also has reasonable priced air-conditioned rooms and the best breakfast in town. The manager is also a licensed guide who is incredibly helpful with planning trip details, buying tickets and offering sane advice when asked (be smart and ask).

After three pleasant wonderful days in Istanbul you have your choice of which way to go around the country. Joe’s advice sends you the painful way, by bus down to Selcuk. Unless you wish to stop at the incredible ruins Pergamun at Bergama, do the sensible thing, and have the manager at the Apricot Hotel help you get a plane ticket and a flight to Izmir. For $50 or less (if you fly very early or late) you can save an incredible amount of agony, a long bus ride, a sore butt, and arrived rested and cheerful in Izmir.

Turkey is one of the most wonderful and easiest places to travel in, if you just remember that everyone in the country is connected everyone across the country. And everyone hates to see a lost tourist. By chatting with Hakam at the Apricot, your plane ticket can be arranged, your pleasant air-conditioned room at Jimmy’s Place (the old Artemis) in Selcuk booked, and transportation from Jimmy’s Place waiting for you at the airport. By asking a few questions and paying a bit more, you can avoid a long boring bus ride. (You will have more time to spend on the beaches). Try to arrive in Selcuk on Friday afternoon, the Saturday Morning market in Selcuk is not to be missed, I pack an extra bag so I can buy clothes, and table linens there.

Big, fast buses
Big, fast buses
Selcuk is an hour south of Izmir, just a few miles from the ocean, north of Kusadasi. By minibus it’s probably 25 minutes from the center of Kusadasi. Kusadasi is where the cruise ships come in, it’s fun for a few hours at night, but otherwise crowded and a bit expensive. Selcuk has all the charms of the small village, friendly people, good food, inexpensive and wonderful lodgings and proximity to great sites. Jimmy’s Place has air conditioning and a swimming pool nearby. I also love the rooftop bar. Many a traveler’s trip has been hijacked by the joys of Selcuk and Jimmy’s Place. The staff bends over backwards to help you with your needs. On our last trip they helped us hire a taxi to go to the beach at Didyma. Please don’t miss the world-class museum in town. The Discovery Channel did a special based on their gladiator exhibit.

Going south from Selcuk, a good destination is Bodrum. I do not believe in long bus trips, anything over two hours qualifies as a long bus trip. Joe is right! When traveling in Turkey only take big buses. The big Mercedes-Benz buses are the best; they go really fast and have air conditioning and conductors with hand lotion and movies on board. My vacations are about meeting nice people and eating great food, seeing sites, and going swimming.

Jimmy’s Place can call ahead to the Rainbow House in Bodrum. The Rainbow House manager will be at the bus station and take you to his perfectly located little pension which is a five-minute walk from the waterfront. The wine dark seas of Homer called to me on the Bodrum waterfront, I wanted to run away with the next sailor that asked, but no sailors asked so I went shopping instead. Bodrum has wonderful beaches great discos, and plenty of sites to keep you occupied for two or three days. Right across from the bus station is the best local Haman I found in Turkey.

Oludeniz/Fethiye, south of Bodrum, is a wonderful beach/sun city. (You can also jump off a cliff with a stranger) Well known by Europeans, who live there in the summer, it can be crowded. Once you arrive in Oludeniz there are lots of places to stay. I just ask my taxi driver who has the best sale. I think I stayed at the Tulip Hotel last time. I was really glad I packed my bug goop when the mosquitoes came out of the drain in the middle of the night. Aside from the mosquitoes the Tulip was a wonderful place to stay.

Goreme is the far end of the classic tourist trail in Turkey. I like to stay to the Cave Hostel. The last time we were there we left my mother at the bus station with our bags and just went down the street (up the hill) asking for rates and looking at rooms.

Goreme can be a challenging bus ride from the coast. Another way to reach it a bit less painlessly is to take the night train from Istanbul to Ankara. One spring my family and I took this night train, booked night sleeper cabins, and we had an absolutely wonderful ride, saw the rolling plains in comfort, and arrived rested in Ankara the next morning. It was our own version of the Orient express. And it cost a lot less. (Avoid all other trains in Turkey, they are really bad!) After visiting the world-class archaeology museum in Ankara, we took a short two-hour bus ride to Goreme.

Shopping is fun
Shopping is fun
Turkish buses are wonderful for short hops during the day, but I question the wisdom of riding a bus all night. Personally I think it’s extremely uncomfortable and hazardous to sleep. The night train out from Ankara allows for good night’s sleep. The older I get the more I adore my sleep at night (love those naps too!). How can I be a pleasant cheerful traveler during the day if I have been up all night? Another thought, the in-country plane systems for short hops improves every year. Keep asking questions about where the planes go, the price keeps dropping for the flight from Ankara back to Istanbul and to other destinations.

Other miscellaneous thoughts on traveling in Turkey, wear conservative clothes, save the beach wear for the beach. Ladies, this means wear a dress (below the knees please). Gentlemen, this means no shorts or tank tops. Take a tube of bug goop, I like stick bug goop, it doesn’t explode in your bag on the airplane. Pack a big tube of sun block, sun block is expensive, and very necessary.

I am off to Turkey in August 2006 for three weeks, see my website, I will show exactly what I pack before I leave. (July 26th) and write a few stories when I get home.