More of my photos from Turkey


Turkey Archives

September 12, 2006

first impressions of turkey

when i first arrived in the antalya airport yesterday at 6:30am with only 3 hours of sleep in the night, the signs in cyrillic were as unexpected as the mix of tourists that were with me on the airplane. i never realized that turkey is evidently a major tourist destination for europeans (especially germans) and russians. the english-speaking days of london, where i was just a week ago, were now far behind me.

after yawning my way through the $20 visa application process (which is not too complex, since the single step in the process is providing a $20 bill and my passport to the friendly officer behind the window) and clearing customs/immigration, i headed off to my pension (cheap hotel / hostel) to check in, have turkish breakfast on the pension's roof cafe, and collapse into bed to sleep until 3pm.

since then, i've been up and wandering around antalya, seeing the roman harbor (which is now a marina), checking out the various sights to see, and getting a few snapshots . the heat and humidity and general tourist infrastructure (such as the plethora of internet cafes) has been very welcome, reminding me a lot of my time spent in southeast asia.

the people in turkey have been extremely friendly, and i've really felt welcomed by everyone since i arrived here. in addition, the serious amount of history here (for example, the area around antalya has evidence of human habitation going back 200,000 years!), not to mention the excellent ruins, is a definite draw. i'm off this afternoon to check out antalya's Kaleici Museum, catch up with the group of german archaeology students staying at my pension, and then head over to the Antalya Museum tomorrow morning (which i hear has an excellent collection). in addition, i've been enjoying the excellent turkish cuisine at a couple of great restaurants.

one side note: with the return to a country that gets lots of tourists comes the return of getting the occasional unwanted pitch from overly aggressive store owners or people trying to run a scam on you. when i need to avoid the worst of these, i simply turn into "hungarian andy". (this doesn't mean that i'm one of those people that lie about which country i'm from... i can't say i'm a fan of that practice at all. this is just a simple artificial language barrier i use to avoid specific unwanted conversations.) since i've been to hungary many times, and really enjoy the country, i've managed to pick up a little conversational hungarian to make it easier to communicate in hungary. what i do is if people walk up to me with offers of carpets, boat trips, fantastic discounts, offers to change money, or anything else that is clearly not what i want to do, i simply smile and respond with "no thanks" in hungarian ("Nem Köszönöm!").

since almost none of the hawkers or scammers i run into speak hungarian, this is usually a serious conversation-ender. if they try to restart the conversation in english/german/spanish, or ask "Do you speak English?", i reply with "Beszél magyarul?" or "Do you speak Hungarian?". the person then quickly moves off to find a mark who is less of a hassle to deal with. (and of course, if i do run into some actual hungarians, so much the better! while i don't often encounter hungarian tourists away from eastern europe, i'm always glad to meet new people to talk with.) it's amazing what an artificial language barrier can do to head off conversations that you don't want to have. of course, the key is to only use this when you really know you don't want to talk with someone, otherwise you can miss out on a great chance to talk with some local people and get to know what life in that city is really like.

this takes care of aggressive carpet sellers, which are the only real hassle i've run into here so far.

i know that i'm only scratching the surface of turkey by spending my one week here in antalya and istanbul, but i'm already mentally planning my next (and much longer) visit to turkey. i've got about one more day in antalya, and then i'm flying up to istanbul to explore until my flight to tokyo on the 18th.

September 14, 2006

hot end-of-summer days in antalya

there's a quiet still heat in the streets of antalya today, as horse-drawn carriages of fruit pause in the street, and clusters of men loiter outside their businesses in the street to half-heartedly call out to potential customers or unaccompanied western women. it's not enough heat to kill all activity, but it's enough to slow you down and encourage a casual loiter down the sun-drenched alleys of kaleici.

i just engaged in one of the strangest horse-trades in my life with the wild-haired manager of owl books, the only second-hand english-language bookstore in antalya. in exchange for my copy of "Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi", i received a copy of Armistead Maupin's "More Tales of the City" (for some san francisco nostalgia), a dog-eared copy of The Economist from january ("The best MAGAZINE!"), and a single pear ("The best pear you WILL EVER EAT!"). let me make it clear that the only thing that i actually asked for in return for the Belushi book was the Maupin book. i can see no way that owl books actually turned a profit on this transaction, and it was quite different from any of the painfully serious negotiations that i did with the "book exchanges" in vietnam. it all somehow was distinctly turkish, confusing, and wonderful. when in antalya, buy all your books from this guy.

besides exchanging books, i spent yesterday in a rental car with two americans i'd met at dinner the night before, speeding off to the ruins at termessos. it was here that i finally had a chance to experience my first turkish ruins, and termessos has some quite impressive ones. then we passed by the many aqueducts that cut across the turkish countryside as we headed to the rather odd karain cave, and finally returned home after some misadventures trying to find some local waterfalls.

the one problem in the day was that we accidentally filled up our gas tank when we first took the rental car out (since we received the car with an empty tank and had to get some gas for the day), which means in turkey that you just put US$70 worth of gas in your car! considering the car rental cost was about US$25 for the day, and that we only used about 1/6 of the tank during our day, this was pretty shocking. however, as i predicted, when we returned the car and negotiated with the car rental guy the conversation ensued where no, he can't use the gas, yes, maybe i have a friend who would buy the gas (break out the siphon!), and well, rather than pay you in cash for the gas do you perhaps need any textiles? somehow we managed to walk away from this with most of our money back for the gas, unburdened by any carpets.

tonight i'm booked on a US$67 flight to istanbul, where i'll stay for the next several days exploring the city and its environs, and i'm sure more turkish antics will ensue there.

September 16, 2006

istanbul reflections

i've been in istanbul for a few days now and am having an excellent time. i've already hit the main tourist sites, made a pledge to myself to get a history book on the ottoman empire in the next bookstore i go into, and drink with random backpackers until late in the evening.

evenings involve glasses of efes pilsner with other backpackers are usually accompanied with a game of backgammon on my portable set with a somewhat unwilling backpacker whom i rope into a game or four. all generations of the turks seem to be in love with the game of backgammon -- i will have to play with a turk at some point, but given my relative lack of skill at the game, i will no doubt get demolished in the game unless i roll lots of double-sixes.

it's a cliche to say that istanbul is steeped in history, and yet it's absolutely true. from the stalls in the grand bazaar (whose food stalls yield some of the best kebabs in town to the crowds of locals) to the basilica cistern (one of my favorite places, since i love underground feats of engineering and waterworks), this city has a rich past and both the local sights and culture reflect this.

as part of seeing the major sights around istanbul, i went to aya sofya. i'll never forget standing in aya sofya for the first time, amazed by the history and the design, and in shock realizing that all those history classes i never paid attention to in high school were all actually quite interesting and relevant in ways i never fully comprehended at the time and maybe never even fully appreciated before now.

i'm headed out to tokyo in a few days via almost 24 worth of flights and connections, so this will be my last post until then!

About Turkey

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to gone living in the Turkey category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

The Netherlands is the previous category.

UAE is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.