X-Posted, so if this is familiar, you can stop reading.
Thanks to everyone who helped us plan our trip. First off, apologies for typos and inconsistencies with diacritics. I tried to proof but I know I missed things, and I was frankly too lazy to go back and insert cedillas and the like where they needed to go.
I first toyed with the idea of Turkey a few years ago, but it wasn’t until this year that we finally made it.
I can’t begin to tell you how much we loved Turkey and its people. I never thought a city could bump Paris as my 2nd favorite destination city (Hong Kong is the first), but I think Istanbul had done it. My husband and I are already making plans to go back next year.
As a warning, I’ll probably spend more time on logistics in my report—which I’m hoping can help others—than on the details of the major sites (and sights!), since I think those are well covered by other folks.
From my research a few years ago, I knew it would be Selcuk (for Ephesus), Cappadocia, and Istanbul. We like to settle into cities, so I wanted about a week for Istanbul, leaving about a week to split between Selcuk and the Cappadocia region. Your advice helped us decide on two full days in Selcuk (vs. my original one day), and then we had three full days for Cappadocia.
In Selcuk, Hotel Bella was always the only choice, because of their vantage point overlooking St. John’s Basilica. (I just couldn’t escape the romance of that!) Booking was easy; I sent them an email, they responded promptly, I sent them our credit card info, and got a prompt confirmation.
For Istanbul, if our trip from a few years ago had panned out we would probably have stayed in Sultanahmet. Now, though, with a few years of thinking behind me, I thought briefly about staying in Sirecki (probably the Neorion) but given we had 6 full days we thought being away from tourist central would be a good idea. Plus, we decided we really preferred apartments for stays of more than a few days. I ended up booking http://www.vrbo.com/265004, due to the airy photos and the incredible view from the terrace. I also had the owner book our airport pickup.
For Cappadocia, as well as our internal flights, I went through Turkish Heritage Travel (THT). I had decided to go the “safe” route of booking two of their small group tours and Butterfly Balloons, so I thought I’d might as well take advantage of the rest of their services. In hindsight, I wish I’d just done some of these things myself. As you can imagine, by the time I emailed them I pretty much knew everything I wanted, down to the internal flight numbers, specific days for tours, and the hotels I wanted. What I got back was a standard response with a standard package, and a suggested booking into one of the Kelebek sister hotels. I went back to them, deleting most of their suggestions, shuffling dates around back to what I had sent them, and reiterating that I wanted one of two specific hotels depending on the specific rooms available (Goreme Suites or Aydinli House---I had first emailed Cappadocia Cave Suites, whose photos I’d fallen in love with a few years ago, but they didn’t respond to any of the emails through their web form or directly.)
They came back again with yet another THT hotel choice, and there were still a few things I had to confirm. I threw up my hands and emailed Aydinli House directly with my specific room requests. Their prompt and friendly response was a relief. I’m not sure if the issue was the specific travel agent I got or what, but with all the back and forth and frustration I could have just booked even all the internal flights myself in less time by the time everything got sorted out.
Once we got to Turkey, everything THT booked for us worked perfectly, so I have no complaints there. Plus, it was nice having everything pre-paid so I had one less thing to worry about. However, I regretted not contacting Murat at Travel Atelier (although it seemed silly if I was going to use mainly THT’s tours) or just doing most of it myself. I think if I had done less research and was willing to just go with whatever they suggested, it would have worked fine. My mistake was making all the decisions before I contacted them and then expecting they’d just follow my itinerary.
I also learned a number of tourist phrases for the trip, but I rarely had to use anything other than greetings. In Goreme and Selcuk, which obviously cater so much to tourists, many people we encountered spoke enough English for us to get by. It was less so in Istanbul, understandably, but a few words and many hands gestured sufficed.
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Falling Hard for Turkey – Sept. 14 – 28, 2012
X-Posted, so if this is familiar, you can stop reading.