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Just returned from Turkey - need help?

Hi, we just returned from 10 days in Turkey (Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Ephesus). If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help.

Posted by
175 posts

Brenda, Perfect timing!! Going to Turkey for 18 days in early October with Grand Circle!! Some questions: What things did you bring back? Did you buy carpets and were they expensive? Any problems with the food? Did you take a balloon ride in Cappadocia? Did you feel safe all the time? What unusual things did you do or see? I'm very excited about Turkey and even though we're on a tour I still plan and read up. We have the Rick Steves Istanbul and the Eyewitness Turkey book. I appreciate any help you can give. Thanks so much.
Judy

Posted by
48 posts

We want to book the overnight bus from Denizili to Goreme in mid October (leaving Oct 26th arriving Oct 2th). We understands it leaves Denizili at 22:30 and gets into Nevsehir at 08:00. I can't find it on the web. Lots of folks quoting this route, but have not found the source.

Posted by
106 posts

Lawrence,
I'm sorry to say, I cannot help you with this one, as my husband and I flew into Kayseri and then shuttled over to Goreme. Try TurkeyTravelPlanner.com - that's a great site with a LOT of information - it just might be on there. Brenda

Posted by
106 posts

Judy......
This is the third time I've tried to answer your questions, and for whatever reason my note doesn't post. I think now maybe it is too long a response so I will break it up: 1) Ballooning - yes, we went ballooning, via Butterfly balloons. (Rick steves had used them, which is why we picked that company.) I really had to talk (force) myself into it, as I am afraid of heights, but it was INCREDIBLE! $175 euro (pricey), but includes transport (5am pickup), breakfast, the flight, and a champagne toast. We saw the sunrise over Cappadocia (with another 50+ balloons in the air)- really remarkable views! IMO it was worth the splurge. If your budget doesn't allow, go to Uschitar and climb to the top of the rock castle there - offers some amazing views as well. There is also a good lookout spot "on top of" Goreme.....just ask someone where it is and talk the road (it's paved) to the lookout area. 2) Food- we thought the food was very tasty - no problems there. The only thing is, we became very tired of eating the exact same thing at every meal.......cucumbers/tomatoes/yoghurt (btw, the yoghurt was incredible), nuts, dried fruit, bread for breakfast, and it's the same thing for other meals, but you also have kebabs, hummus, stuffed grape leaves (yummy)......but it's the same thing, every day. We found a thai restaurant off Istiklal street in Istanbul (Cok Cok) and were very thankful.

Posted by
106 posts

Judy.....cont'd:
3) Water......we used bottle water for everything, including brushing our teeth, and still had the "turkey trots" routinely. (I presume it came from vegetables washed in tap water.) I am thankful we took a bottle of pepto-bismol caplets with us. If you read the posts, you find that it's 50/50 or 60/40 as to who had stomach upset we had it. I suggest bottled water - why chance it? or make it worse that it already is? 4) Electrical plugs - the outlets are actually recessed into the wall (a round hole) and our converter is square, so I am thankful that we had an extra small adaptor that fit into the round recess, into which we then plugged our converter. Point is, if your adaptor is huge or small but square, you may have issues. We got our adaptor at samsonite, and it's about the size of the average "plug" on say, a curling iron. That worked well 5) call to prayer never woke us up we found it soothing. No alarm clocks in the hotel in Goreme, so we actually wished it would have woken us up! 6) We felt safe about 90% of the time. There were only three times we felt unsafe: 1) when we saw police? military? with machine guns in Sultanahment (old town Istanbul) on two occassions..didn't know if this was normal or if there was an issue. Read a msg later on Facebook from a friend that there were some kind of riots going on (we were unaware) 2) in Selcuk (the town where Ephesus is), there were tables and tables and tables of local men and the street wasn't well lit.We decided to take the longer route to the hotel to avoid these people. 3) In the SPice Market then the underpass in front of the Spice Market to cross the road to walk on the Galata bridge. I have NEVER seen so many people in such close quarters. I held onto my husband for dear life, I was worried I'd be swept away and trampled.

Posted by
106 posts

Judy
7) carpets.......we didn't buy one a 3x5 rug from an "honest dealer" (Lale, a woman in Selcuk associated with Hotel Nazar) was $400-$500...it was beautiful, but in the end, it's too easy to get ripped of (had read TONS of posts about that), and I woldn't feel comfortable stepping on/having dog pee on a $500 rug. You may feel differently. (Note, I also HATED to haggle, and you MUST haggle EVERYWHERE - there are no prices on anything. if you want a carpet, suggest you take paint chips of the room you want the rug for (so you have colors to match it to), know the size you want, and go to a local carpet dealer in your city to determine what you SHOULD pay (roughtly) for a rug that size. Then feel free to spend what you want. Lale quoted us $85 to send a rug back to the US (we would have carried the 3x5). I don't think you'll find rugs less expensive in turkey (or not by much), but it would be a nice memory. In the end we decided against it.

Posted by
106 posts

8) Other interesting things......in Istanbul definitely go to the Chora Church in the suburbs(Rick's book tells you how to get there by public transportation)- the mosaics are incredible! also, in Goreme Open Air Museum, there was a boy and his camel....yes, touristy and goofy but I LOVE the fact that I have my picture on a camel. It was just awesome! (scary, b/c I didn't konw that camels were 8 feet high - felt like I was sitting on a skyscraper). I did not RIDE it......only because I was worried if I fell/if camel jumped, how would I get to the hospital/ I don't speak turkish etc.... but 5 turkish lira for a picture on a camel - priceless! It's now my facebook profile picture. Also in Goreme OPen Air Museum, be sure to go into the Dark Church - it's worth the extra $5 ($8TL) because the frescoes are really great. If you've seen Roman ruins (we saw Pompei), Ephesus will not be a big deal to you....to be honest I would have skipped that and spent a few days on the beach instead. Final thoughts - if you are a chocoholic, pack some M&Ms because I could not find chocolate anywhere! (only upscale pastry shops.......little convience stores had a few candy bars but they were really old and hard....). I didn't try a water pipe or turkish coffee (don't like strong coffee). Enjoy your trip........

Posted by
61 posts

Thanks--The info you sent Judy will be helpful to us as well. We leave Saturday so all the first hand information is appreciated.
Chris

Posted by
48 posts

Quite a lengthy response, and a very informative and helpful one. Thanks again for the effort! We'll be in Turkey from Oct 24 to Nov 1, 2011.

Posted by
175 posts

Brenda, You are a sweetheart! Thanks for taking the time to write such a long reply to my questions. We're taking "Crossroads of Turkey" with www.gct.com. We will take the Balloon Ride and Whirling Dervishes(any thoughts) as optional tours. We usually travel independly in Europe (with Rick of course) but didn't have a comfort level doing Turkey on our own. Thanks again.
Judy

Posted by
964 posts

Wow, Brenda, what lovely response! I just want to add, I tried the water pipe when I was there this Spring on a RS tour. I didn't think I'd be able to, because I have asthma, but the people in the group ( a lot of doctors!) told me it would be OK- and it was! I really enjoyed it. The smoke is cool and not at all harsh. Have a lovely time! Am going back myself in 2 weeks, that's how much I liked Turkey.

Posted by
106 posts

I'm glad you all found this info helpful. I have to laugh, my husband tells me I talk a lot (highly extroverted) and apparently that shows through even on email.... Yes Judy I did attend a Whirling Dervish ceremony at a caravanaseri (camel stop) on the Silk Road about 40 min from Goreme (that made it extra special). It's about an hour long, there's silence and no photos. Premise is that everythign is cyclical/spins (from macro scale (seasons) down to electrons rotating around a nucleus)..so spinning brings you closer to God and do they spin! (I found myself wondering how they don't either fall over or projectile vomit at the end). I'm glad I saw it. Also -if you don't have your hotels finalized by now, FYI
we stayed in Sari Konak hotel ($140Euro) in Istanbul (Sultanahmet area, highly recommend, perfect location, great view from rooftop terrace, good breakfast). We stayed at Local Cave Hotel ($150 Euro) in Goreme and would NOT recommend (overpriced - 90% of the hotels are cave hotels, pick another. Definitely stay in Goreme while in Cappadocia (as opposed to Urgup or wherever - Goreme is most central, has best rock formations). Try the dried fruit that looks like vanilla beans on steroids (huge, black in color) it's chewy but really good. Have no idea what it is. We stayed at Hotel Nazar in Selcuk and would recommend that hotel as well ($44 Euro). Also if you do go to Ephesus, pay extra to go into the terrace houses, the mosaics on the floor are worth the extra money.

Posted by
106 posts

PS Maggie, I am rather sad I didn't try the water pipe, but I don't smoke and thought I wouldn't like it. Plus I admittedly was shy about putting my lips on something that maybe tons of others had (hygiene?) -- but felt that it was rude to ask a question like that, so I abstained. Now I wish I hadn't. Guess I'll have to go back ;-)

Posted by
956 posts

Brenda, I'm curious about vaccinations as I've been reading the CDC recommendations. Did you get Hep A or B shots before travel, or have you had those previously? Any other vaccinations or malaria pills, etc?
Many thanks!

Posted by
106 posts

We had been on 8-10 international trips (Europe only) and had never gotten vaccinations, so I didn't think to investigate health matters for this trip - I learned of the CDC recommendations only about a week before we were supposed to leave. As it happened, Hurricane Irene then hit us and flooded our basement and left us without power for 4 days, so we never had an opportunity to act on getting any kind of shots b/c ourlives were turned upside down. Not sure if anyone else has suggestions?

Posted by
106 posts

no we didn't go into grocery stores - rarely do on vacation if we don't have kitchen facilities. I should have searched one out!!

Posted by
7 posts

I also just returned from Turkey and thought is was amusing that you mentioned having a hard time finding chocolate. Did you happen to go into any actual grocery stores? Every one I went into had an entire aisle (yes aisle, not just near the checkouts!) devoted to chocolate and candy. I was especially thrilled to see lots of my favorite British chocolate bars for super cheap compared to what I have to pay in the US! On the vaccine front - Hep A and B are a good idea for just about anywhere. Typhoid vaccine is also recommended for Turkey.

Posted by
175 posts

Amy, So glad to know where to find chocolate as I might have followed Brenda's M&M idea! We've always enjoyed going to grocery stores in different countries. Glad someone mentioned the vaccines too. Checked and we got them Sept. 2006 before we went to Asia, and they are good for 10 years. Grand Circle didn't say anything about them though. Sorry to hear about your flooded basement, Brenda, and right before your trip. This has been great thread on Turkey, and a week from today I'll be there! Thanks to everyone.
Judy

Posted by
3696 posts

The one thing I brought back and now I wish I had more are the Turkish cotton bath towels. they are so thin, yet so absorbent and take up such a little bit of room. I would throw out all my big fluffy non absorbent towels if I had brought back more than 2. I think its a reason to go back... also found my favorite candy bars there in grocery stores... Bounty Bars. We had a lot of variety in food and loved the Chicken Doner wrap sandwiches that were sold at little kiosks. We tried a variety of restaurants, and had lots of choices. I would go back in a minute.

Posted by
85 posts

Hey, It is a pleasure to read so many mail and information about my country and find so many people keen on Turkey,, I am Gokhan from Turkey Izmir(3rd biggest city near the seaside and very close to Selcuk... Please do not hesitate to keep in touch or asking any additional questions if any,,
Best regards and wishes from Turkey izmir,,,

Posted by
964 posts

Hi Brenda,
everyone gets their own mouthpiece for the water pipes- makes it quite safe and you get a souvenir to take home if you like. Cheers Maggie

Posted by
2023 posts

What is a cave hotel? Were sellers in the spice market pushy? Was the hotel in Sultanhamet quiet? I'm somewhat concerned about the early am prayer calls and cannot use earplugs. The rugs sound tempting but I don't think I'd make such a purchase under pressure-and every rug (Persian ones) I've bought I brought it home on a trial basis-but never took one back. Have checked into immunizations and the Hep one is in three parts(around $200)-the Tyf one is expensive-don't know if I will bother with them. Enjoying all your feedback on Turkey! We are going next May.

Posted by
106 posts

1) Sellers in the Spice Market were not aggressive, but they were in the Grand Bazaar. 2) A cave hotel is literally just that - a hotel room carved out of a rock formation or cave in the Cappadocia area in central Turkey. Just search google images for "Goreme cave hotel" and you will see photos. 3) Our hotel in Sultanahmet area of Istanbul (aka Old Town, near the major sites) was very quiet. (We stayed at the Sari Konak hotel.) It really depends on where you stay in Old Town as some hotels are located on very busy streets with lots of restaurants. My husband is a light sleeper and the call to prayer never woke him and we were right by the Blue Mosque. Neither of us used ear plugs. In fact, we wound up really enjoying the call to prayer - very soothing. (However, I will say that I've read other posts where people say they were disturbed by it.) We were not. Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
175 posts

It's Judy from Minnesota. We are in Antalya, Turkey now and everything is just amazing!! Had a cooking class today (tasty experience). The ancient cities, history, culture, food, people, markets, couldn't be better. Shopping is fun and inexperence. I love everything about Turkey. Many are Rick Steves' followers on our tour. We have a wonderful guide on the GCT tour and that really makes everything so interesting. Judy

Posted by
358 posts

We have been in Istanbul since friday and the weather has been really cold and rainy with the wind chill temp in the low 40's. Even at this time of the year there are so many tourists in Istanbul and the visit today to the Topkapi Palace was the worst experience I have had at any place in europe. Thus far I am not impressed with Istanbul and hopefully the rest of the week will be better seeing the New Town.

Posted by
106 posts

Judy, Glad to hear you are enjoying yourself!! Finding chocolate ok (LOL)? Did you wind up buying a carpet? Aren't you amazed at the shear number of Evil Eyes everywhere? Would love it hear more when you return. Byron
Sorry to hear of the lousy weather in Istanbul. Ironically when we were there in early September it was 98 degrees (seriously) and I didn't feel really comfortable wearing shorts (as a woman). I didn't like the Topkapi Palace either - try the Dolhmbrace (sp) Palace - it was closed when I was tehre but I heard it was nice by another set of American tourists we bumped into on our trip. Hope it gets better for you. Brenda

Posted by
358 posts

I may be in the minority as I do not like Istanbul that well. The high density population,lack of parks,every space occupied by a seller and the merchants hounding us every few feet in old town has gotten old. Will be glad to leave for Paris in 2 days. Other than 5-6 tourist sites not impressed by this city. My favorites are the Hagia Sofia,Chlora Church,and the Blue Mosque. Weather has improved and the rain gone for now.

Posted by
3696 posts

Byron... although I love Istanbul and had a wonderful trip there I can understand how, given the bad weather and all the hype about Turkey & Istanbul you might have expected something different. As far as parks, have you spent any time at the one that is on the main tram line right across from the children's court? In the summer it was wonderful.

Posted by
11 posts

Hi Brenda, I'm planning a trip for October 2012 and thought for sure I was going to Budapest (after going to Prague last year and just returning from Vienna), but these comments make Istanbul sound fascinating! Wish I had enough time and money to go to both next year. I only have a week, and 2 of those days will be traveling to and from my destination. Is Istanbul a good/great walking city? My preference has always been to use my own feet to get from one site to another. I love to stroll to take it all in! Also, if I go to Istanbul it would be the first time I would need to get a visa. I read on the Department of State travel website you can get it at the port of entry. Did you do this, and was it a fairly efficient, if not necessarily quick, process? Thanks for taking questions!

Posted by
3696 posts

@Shirley... it is a great walking city, or you can take the tram/bus... we walked most everywhere and only took the tram once and it was relly crowded, so we chose to walk. I have been to both Budapest and Istanbul and love both, but right now prefer Istanbul. You get your vis when you arrive... it took about 10 minutes in line and I forget what it cost but someone here will know. I think I had to have cash. I stayed right on the tram line at Old City Viva (per referral here) and it was great. Reasonable, great breakfast and right in the center...about halfway between the Spice Market and the Blue Mosque. We had a wonderful trip... summertime and beautiful weather.

Posted by
9110 posts

You can walk just about everywhere. The visa is twenty bucks (US, cash). The line is the only wait - - pay your money and you've got it. You'll see signs right before immigration.

Posted by
358 posts

I am in Paris after spending 8 days in Istanbul. The VISA is a easy process and costs 20 american dollars. They stamp your passport and a good way to make money for Turkey. The passport line was slow. Istanbul is not the easiest city to walk as some of the cobblestone roads are not well kept and the city is hilly. Most important thing is to have GOOD walking shoes. The tram line is crowded most of the time and prepare to stand. Fortunately there are not a lot of pickpockets in Istanbul on the trams. I did not use the subway as the RS book did not recomment using this from of transportation. The old town is nice however just about every shop keeper stands outside his shop and hounds you to come on inside. This was the worst thing about Istanbul along with the immense crowds. Every day at least 3-4 large cruse ship in town bringing thousands of tourists. I just finished a RS tour of Istanbul and the tour only used a bus one time. The tour guide had a tendency to walk fast and some of the members could not keep up. If anyone takes this tour you have to be in resonable condition as the tour takes you into some of the hilly streets of Istanbul.
I am glad I visited Instanbul however no desire to return. My wife feels the same way. Walking the streets of Paris is so much nicer.

Posted by
11 posts

Terry kathryn/Ed/Byron, Thank you for your insight and helpful comments. My mom and I will be traveling independently so we're going to read the RS guidebook and look at the pretty pictures in the DK Eyewitness guidebook for more information on the city and culture. Right now we're leaning towards Istanbul instead of Budapest for next year.

Posted by
106 posts

Shirley
It's a great walking city in the sense that the major attractions in Old Town (Sultanahmet) are close and we had no problem using the public transportation (tram, not subway) when we wanted to go see mosaics in the outskirts of town. LIke Byron said, though, it's an old old OLD city, so the cobblestones make it tough to walk if you do not have comfortable, rubber soled shoes (think Prague - all those little cobblestones some sections are uneven, etc). Byron is right in the sense that it is jam - packed - there are 15 million people living there, the merchants do call out to you repeatedly, there is a lot of 'jostling' in highly congested areas. Personally, I really enjoyed my time there (September of this year) and was happy I travelled there because I just love the history and the "exotic" (to me) culture. I'd also never travelled in a muslim country before and I found that highly educational. If you do decide on Istanbul, I'd spend 4 days there and then be sure to hit one of the beach towns or maybe Cappadocia (ie somewhere quieter and relaxing). Istanbul is so busy that when we got to our next destination (Italy), we found it a bit of a relief after all the hustle and bustle of a huge city. Similarly, you may need to "relax" after your stay in Istanbul. Brenda

Posted by
358 posts

Brenda you are right after visiting Istanbul I find Paris to be very relaxing. This morning I went to the local Boulangerie to get some breakfast rolls and later wandered into a large farmer's market in Bastille. Later went to the Marais for lunch and on sunday's this area is packed with people.
Sorry to hear about the earthquake near Ankara. Some of the RS tours we met in Istanbul were headed to Ankara. Since Istanbul lies in a major quake zone a 7.2 quake would be devasting to a city with large population and poorly constructed buildings.

Posted by
11 posts

Brenda, Istanbul's appeal to me is that I, too, consider the culture to be "exotic" and I think learning the history would be fun and educational. I'm also very curious to see what it is like traveling in a muslim country. I plan on being there for 5 days, so I'll look into spending one of those days outside Istanbul. And yes, I did think of Prague's cobblestones! I had good walking shoes at the time, and I'll make sure to have them again. I also was sorry to hear about the earthquake today. Devastating at any time, but now it's the cold/winter season.

Posted by
106 posts

You know, I really do think it's the weather (and maybe gender too?). I say this (half smiling) because a) weather...I went to Rome once, for a week. It rained the entire week, I got a $50 ticket because I didn't stamp my train ticket (didn'tknow I had to), and that pretty much soured me on Rome forever. I had a lousy time and pretty much won't ever go back there. In fact when people tell me they just love Rome I just shake my head in wonderment.... b) gender..... I say this with a smile: I liked Istanbul a lot but my husband couldn't take the heat (it literally was 100 degrees so he was constantly uncomfortable); was so sick of carpet salesmen that he threatened to pin a paper sign on his shirt that said, "NO!!! I DON'T WANT TO BUY AN F-ING CARPET!! LEAVE ME ALONE!!!"; and all the pushing/jostling made him short tempered. He told me he won't go back......he was SO much happier when we hit Italy and just had space and peace and quiet. Brenda

Posted by
5693 posts

@Bryon Seems you were out of your comfort zone and bad weather didn't help. I took the 7 day tour in May and LOVED Istanbul, crowds or not. During the free time I walked solo through all of old town and though approached a few times simply said "not interested," without smiling and was left alone. Even late at night after wandering to take night photos NEVER felt the slightest fear or worry. BTW 60 and female. As far as not enough parks, guess you didn't check out the large and fabulous Gulhane Park. I understand the weather wasn't ideal but the park along the waterfront is also wonderful. Crowds at the popular sites are nearly ALWAYS present. You either deal with them or you don't, like those looking at the Mona Lisa, visiting Notre Dame, trying to see David, the Changing of the Guard, etc.

Posted by
3696 posts

Its great that we all have such a different take on tourist destinations...if there were only one good place to go...we'd all be there (the crowds are bad enough as it is)...and for the record I am not in love with Rome either, and I had a great travel partner, wonderful weather on one trip, but I just don't need to go again.
(it was cold, windy and rainy the other trip)

Posted by
358 posts

My wife feels the same way as we are glad we visited Istanbul however a one and done city. The Hagia Sophia made the trip worth while as this is one of the most beautiful buildings I have seen in europe. The Blue Mosque was a close 2nd along with the Chora Church. I could have been happy not seeingthe Topkapi palace as the place was overun with rude tourists and the exhibits were difficult to see. The place seemed disorganized and our tour guide only took us into the Harem and it would have been impossible to have a tour in the exbibit area. The walks in the afternoon took us into some of the worst areas of Istanbul and people in our group commented how bad this walk was especially in the rain. The Bospherus cruise was nice and the spice market and Grand Bazarre was fun place to visit. I would not be able to tolerate heat and prefer cold to 100 degree temps.
The carpet shops sales people along with street vendors were obnoxious. The last 2 days the weather was great in the mid 60's and sunny. The meals with the RS group were average.

Posted by
964 posts

Just back from my second visit to Istanbul, and for me, it's a magical place. Yes, I agree the salespeople can be a bit OTT, especially the carpet guys- but you can just ignore them and keep walking. Or you can joke with them- most of them seem to enjoy some humour. Alternatively, learn the word for 'No' (hayir)

Posted by
964 posts

Just back from my second visit to Istanbul, and for me, it's a magical place. Yes, I agree the salespeople can be a bit OTT, especially the carpet guys- but you can just ignore them and keep walking. Or you can joke with them- most of them seem to enjoy some humour. Alternatively, learn the word for 'No' (hayir).