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Trip Report Turkey Trip Report

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My husband and I just got back from our 12 day trip to Turkey and I wanted to report on our stay. First of all, we felt entirely safe throughout our whole trip. The only evidence of concern, (and a little unnerving, but reassuring), was increased levels of screening at the airports in Turkey, as compared to the states. We spent the first night in Istanbul, 3 nights in Urgup (Cappadocia), 3 nights in Kusadasi and then 4 nights in Istanbul.
We stayed in the Blue House in Sultanhamet while in Istanbul. We loved the location of the hotel (view of the Blue Mosque out our window) and staying in the Old City; at the end of the day we loved to stroll through the lit up, fountained, stunning area. Across from our hotel was also a very cool restaurant, Mesale, which had a 3 piece Turkish musical group every night, a fun way to end the evening. Our room in the Blue House was a little cramped, but not sure whether I’d give up the location and view for the size of the room. On our last night we had a drink down the street on the roof top terrace of the Seven Hills Hotel and Restaurant, it had an astounding 360 panoramic view of the whole Sultanhamet area and Bosphorous, highly recommend this experience. We ended up eating at one upscale, modern Turkish restaurant, Yeni Lokatani in the Tunel area, it was fantastic. (Of note, it was hard to get reservations at the last minute at many restaurants, I would recommend making them in advance if you care about eating at particular ones). Ate at Matbah Ottoman Cuisine Restaurant, beautiful space and terrific food and three nights on a small side street off Divan Yolu, at Rumeli Café and twice at Nar Doner and Kebab. Really enjoyed the lively experience and good food, too tired at the end of the day of sightseeing to travel too far for dinner! Had hoped to eat at Ulus 29 on OC’s recommendation, but with traffic might have been an hour cab ride from our hotel. By the way, thank you so much OC for all of your input and insight during our planning phase. Loved Istanbul, the street scenes, fantastic mosques and museums (especially the Topkapi and Harem!) Did a Culinary Walking Tour with Turkish Flavours, which we enjoyed.
Loved Cappadocia. Had a guide for 3 days, so didn’t have to worry about having to get around on our own. The beauty of the area was fantastic and the history of the caves and the people who carved them and inhabited them was fascinating. One of the highlights of our 3 days there was hiking in the Red Valley. We definitely could have used more time, only had an hour, could have spent much more. Our only other disappointment was that we were closed out of the balloon ride we had hoped to take because of bad weather! Stayed at Serinn House, lovely, small cave hotel. Erin, the owner, was terrific and even drove us down to the town for dinner each night. In retrospect, might have preferred a larger hotel a little closer to town, so we could have gotten around a little more easily ourselves (though we were exhausted at the end of the day) and also would have had more sitting areas or places to congregate and meet people. Ate at 3 very good restaurants, Ziggy’s, Han Ciragan and Muti, the latter being the most upscale and beautiful setting.
In Kusadasi we stayed at LaVista Boutique Hotel, which I would highly recommend, a short stroll down the hill to town and a fantastic setting with an infinity pool overlooking the Aegean and every room oceanfront and a suite. We ate at two restaurants, the first night at Kazim Usta (on the hotel and travel agent’s recommendation), a traditional fish restaurant on the water, very good food, not fantastic interior design, very basic and traditional. The second night we ate at Marivista, on the main drag of the waterfront, excellent pasta and a nice break from the traditional Turkish food we had been eating so far. We loved our day at Ephesus, such an amazing Roman city. The second day we had a car and drove ourselves to Didyma (very cool) and Pirene. In between we went to a restaurant on the water called Karina, another fish restaurant with terrific food. We really enjoyed driving around the area, it was quite beautiful. I commented above on our total Istanbul experience.
I would note that in retrospect, I should have pushed back with the travel agent on something my husband and I know about how we like to travel. We prefer to do our sightseeing in a major city first and then end our trip with the more natural and relaxing parts of a trip. It was harder to come home from a vacation after experiencing the intensity and exhaustion of Istanbul (I tend to push to see everything!)
All said, we loved the immersion in the history of this incredible, relatively small piece of land, going back thousands of years and many civilizations. We loved the incredible diversity of the beauty of the geography, from the seas (Marmara and Aegean),and the Bosphorous, to the hills, streets and bazaars of Istanbul, to the fairy chimneys and limestone caves of Cappadocia to the beautiful hill towns , olive groves and vineyards dotting the countryside.
We were fortunate to have 4 guides throughout the country who brought the history and richness of Turkey to life. They also gave us a firsthand insight in to the feelings about the politics and direction of the current situation in Turkey. In general, these guides represented the many Turks we met at restaurants, shops, museums, etc, who were most gracious and warm. We were completely intrigued and smitten with the history, sounds, sights and flavors of this country and find ourselves very invested in the hopes that it will be all that it can be for itself and its people.

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