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Trip Report Just back from Turkey

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I'm just back from almost two weeks in Turkey. Since I always get such great tips from the Fodors forums, I always like to give back! I traveled with my husband and Mom and we visited Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Ephesus. Overall we LOVED Turkey and found the sights unbelievable. The food was fantastic and the people were very warm and friendly.

Istanbul:
We stayed at the Adamar Hotel in the Sultanhamet District. For those of you debating between the old and new districts, I would definitely recommend old. All the big tourist sights are in walking distance and there's lots of great restaurants. True, there isn't a huge "nightlife" aspect, but that was fine with us. As for the Adamar, while the location was top-notch and the view from the rooftop was amazing, I can't really recommend the hotel. It was super noisy! The Call to Prayer never bothered us-- it was the street noise and the noises inside the hotel. We heard showers and toilets flushing all night and never got a decent night's sleep!
Most hotels offer free airport pickup and that worked out well for us.

Here are a few general notes about Istanbul and some of the sights:
If you plan to use a credit card for a hotel or larger purchase, we found that AMX is not widely accepted. AMX apparently charges a steep rate to merchants. Visa and MC were accepted.
The trams were easy to use, but the places to buy the tokens for the trams were sometimes not very handy, so if you'll be using the tram, it might help to buy a few tokens ahead of time. They were 1.50 lira.
CROWDS! We didn't expect it to be so crowded! There are big tour groups and buses everywhere.
With crowds in mind, if you visit the Topkapi Palace (and you should!!), head straight for the Harem and then the Treasury. By the time we finished both the lines were huge.
At Topkapi the kitchen area is closed for renovations and will apparently be closed for quite some time.
The Suleyman Mosque is still undergoing renovations and is closed. I don't think it is worth the effort to walk to see the exterior and tombs.
We took a 1.5 hour Bosphorus Cruise with the Turyol cruise and found that to be PLENTY. I think a 6 hour cruise, recommended a lot, would have been too much for us.
We didn't love the Galata Bridge area. It was jam packed with people! We went to catch the tour boat...and so my husband could get one of the fresh fish sandwiches...and for the Spice Market. It was really so crowded that you had no personal space. It is hard not to recommend the Spice Market because it will be on everyone's "must see", but it was smaller than I imagined, and even on a weekday just soooo crowded.
The Arasta Bazaar, located behind the Blue Mosque, was a nice shopping location. No merchants yelling for your attention and lots of shops with anything you could want. We did the whole Grand Bazaar thing, but actually purchased more at the Arasta Bazaar because it was just less sensory overload.
We didn't have a bad meal the entire trip, but we really enjoyed "The Han" restaurant near Topkapi. It is one of those places full of couches where you sit on the floor with a small table to eat. I'm sure it was very touristy, but it was busy every night and it was delicious.

Cappadocia:
We originally decided the Cappadocia vs. Ephesus question that troubles a lot of Turkey travelers by telling ourselves Cappadocia is such a unique landscape...and while Ephesus would be awesome...we have seen ruins before.
With so much to see, we booked a 2 day guided tour through Argeus tours. WISE CHOICE! We flew Turkish Air to Kayesi on a Sunday and returned on Monday evening.
We stayed overnight at the Serinn Cave hotels in Urgup. I've seen the hotel called the "Ritz Carlton" of Cappadocia and I can't agree. It was nice but away from the town. All the hotels in Urgup are really cave hotels, and I would recommend staying closer to the city center so you could be near restaurants. We did eat at "Ziggy's Cafe" in Urgup and it was tasty.
We are so glad we did the guided tour, because there's so much to see in Cappadocia. The spots are reasonably close together, but it would have been impossible to interpret the cave paintings and see as much without our great guide. We hit all the highlights, including one of the underground cities. Our guide also made sure we had a traditional lunch-- baked in clay pots for hours-- which was so yummy.
A note on BEES! They were everywhere! I'm allergic and glad I had my Epi-pen because apparently the bees never go away. Just beware if you are also allergic or just hate them.
Cappadocia was a highlight for us and we definitely say GO!

Ephesus:
We didn't plan to go to Ephesus. We didn't think we would have time! But we actually covered everything we wanted to see in Istanbul and decided to do a one-day tour. It was a LONG day- flying to Izmir and back- but we enjoyed it. Our hotel called around for us and all the prices were around the same- 250 euro- which included the airport transfers, flight, tour, and lunch. Our flight was on Atlas Air, which was nice, to Izmir and Pegasus, which was okay but not great, on the return.
The tour itself started with a trip to the Virgin Mary's home. Then to Ephesus. We felt like more time could have been devoted to Ephesus, but we did see all the highlights. The Library was amazing. What we didn't like...and what all the tours seem to do...was the carpet factory stop at the end. We weren't in the market for a carpet and it was just a waste of time for us. Our return flight had us back in Istanbul by 2100.

So those are the highlights. Please free free to ask any questions!

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