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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.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 12, 2006 5:37 PM.

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