Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

For a Taste of Four Cultures on Two Contınents

For a Taste of Four Cultures on Two Contınents

Aug 8th, 2016, 12:55 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,647
For a Taste of Four Cultures on Two Contınents

This is my fourth annual thread on Turkey for the travel planner, the curious, for the adventurer, for the seeker of new tastes, colours, fashions, friends, history, archeology, fairy tales, the absurd, beaches, mountains, canyons, rafting, spelunking, cycling, cruising, sailing, windsurfing, skiing, continent hopping, soccer, basketball and for the social and political globalist.

I will try to post information on safety issues, roads and routes, driving and flying, and maybe even hiking while covering the economic, financial, social and political situation as background for your visit.

This first post will be on the July 15 attempted coup and its short term effects effect on the traveler.

This is the first time I have heard of a (still) secular country which had a coup attempt by a semi-clandestine religious fundamentalist organized elite movement with mass dimensions.

The FG group I have written about in earlier threads were the perpetrators of the coup attempt. I was aware of their deeply entrenched moles in the Police Force, the Judiciary and the Ministry of Education, but did not realize the extent of their infiltration in the armed forces. Just as I am writing this, a former high level functionary of the group is saying on TV that the group probably had involved up to 90% of the armed forces.

Apparently they had full control of all military academy admissions, entrance examinations and the departments involved with evaluation of soldiers and officers for promotions and postings for twenty years or more.

The president admitted that he had walked hand in hand with this group, not fully realizing the level of their involvement as a support for his aims and ambitions to become the unique leader in full control of all aspects of governance, just because he believed that they both appeared to trod with and for God.

Even though the president, his party members, deputies and even ministers had deep relations with Gulen and his followers, he did not realize that his aide-de-camp and some of his most trusted advisers were Gulen assignees.

The coup was attempted prematurely because the president's military aide was present when a list of high level Gulenists were delivered to the president. Realizing that the game was up, the coup was attempted immediately the next evening with no real planning, organization or logistics.

There was no time to try to involve most military command and the public and after a period of uncertainty the Gulenist ranks within the armed forces started turning, not taking orders, giving themselves up to the police and admitting they had made a big mistake.

Was this because the group had grown too big to control or were the religious teachings of the group leadership too illogical or was it that they had no benefits to offer to the lower ranks of their followers?

There were large rallies against the coup most nights, organized by the president for almost a whole month, but with no violence or unruly behaviour. Lots of flag waving, some chanting crowds, many bussed to the meeting sites with municipality vehicles.

Except for the closing of the major airports for just over three days, there was no interruption of tourist transportation.

Although people openly talk of possible United states involvement in aiding and abetting Gulen and his movement, this view is not extended to American tourists, unless they act as intelligence agency personnel.

I recently had a single male visitor who is an American reporter on vacation and a personal quest, and he had no problems in enjoying Istanbul and a day trip to the Aegean..

Security at all Turkish airports may be the highest of any airport anywhere. There are spot checks of vehicles within the city and no influx of Syrian refugees breaking your heart with their plight in areas where you will be sightseeing.

However, the threat of ISIS is a valid one just as it is for some other European countries, so the traveler is advised to stay clear of potential targets.

I will write of more matters soon.
otherchelebi is offline  
Aug 8th, 2016, 01:40 PM
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 6,249
Thank you.
IMDonehere is offline  
Aug 8th, 2016, 01:42 PM
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 7,763
Yes, thanks for posting.
sparkchaser is offline  
Aug 8th, 2016, 05:39 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 20,955
Continued wishes for your health and safety, and that of your family and friends.
kja is offline  
Aug 8th, 2016, 11:25 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 16,857
Thanks OC
patronage is a dangerous thing
bilboburgler is offline  
Aug 9th, 2016, 12:35 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 365
Even before the coup attempt I noticed an increased security presence on my motorcycle trip from Antalya to Boğazkale and back during Ramazan.

More checkpoints than I remember, but I wasn't stopped when they realised I was English. I became quite good at saying "Afedersiniz, anlamıyorum, Ben İngilizim". Not once did I have to show my documents.
Croesus is offline  
Aug 9th, 2016, 12:36 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 365
P.S. Crazy traffic in rush hour Konya!
Croesus is offline  
Aug 9th, 2016, 12:54 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,647
Thank you for reading the long introduction.

Here's a personal note on religion, sin and absolution.

Islam and Catholicism provide easy absolution from sins. There are specified ranks to absolve the atoning Catholic and there are self-appointed religious leaders for absolution in Islam, although the common perception is that if one atones, God will most probably forgive certain but not specified or documented sins and most evil deeds as long as they were for an acceptable aim.

I will not comment on whether the lack of a mechanism for atonement in other Christian sects, Judaism and Eastern religions makes their followers more ethical. That may depend on your use and understanding of the concept of original sin, or route to Nirvana, or the strength of your ancestors, or the current struggle between various gods or their whimsy in involving themselves in human affairs.

A major difference between Islam and the two other major Semitic religions is that Islam has only taken the stories of Judeo-Christian texts like creation, Noah, Moses, Job, Abraham, etc., but not the sections on the Ten Commandments. Some of the ten are mentioned in passing as sins but not with the sledge hammer force of Judaism and Christianity.

I will use the word "Anatolian" rather than "Turkish" when I write about the culture of the people within the State of Turkey, whether they be subjects or citizens.
The reason is that the Anatolian culture is not purely Islamic but a mish-mash of Hittite, Lydian, Phrygian, Greek, Persian, Arabic, shamanic, Roman, Byzantine, Christianity, Judaism and what comes out of all this in the form of "Light or Diet belief structures which may change or appear to change at short notice depending on opportunity, practicality, risk and defense of the 'Ego' and 'core family."
As a result any type of despotism or strong authority will supercede any religion or belief system. Lying, cheating, stealing, even killing for the good cause of self and family can be permissible as long as you believe you can get away with it due to gaps in law, your misunderstanding of the laws, your view of God, your connections in high places, the availability of the funds to by your worldly or other worldly absolution, and so forth.

Naturally, not everyone in Anatolia thinks this way. There are true religious believers with high ethics as there are true believers in human rights and personal freedoms. It all depends on the quality or type of family upbringing and formal education rather than the strength of the mosque, the church or the legal system.

The above portrayal does not pose a risk for the traveler, because the people are extremely opportunistic and there is always a strong belief that if one helps others, there will be a reward of some sort in terms of being helped some uncertain time in the future or in the other world, because that is taught as part of the system of absolution and can easily and cheaply be used.

Except for the government and/or religious perception of authorities regarding crime, the people are usually comfortable with the modern and universal legal concept of 'personal liability.' Hence the nationality, ethnicity or religion of a tourist will not make him guilty for the sins of his country, government, religion.

If people you meet ask you where you are coming from, it is an attempt to identify you in relation to people he knows from your country, family members who traveled there or some technology or product of that part of the world, rather than to decide to love or hate you.

And if someone tries to debate the involvement of a United States intelligence agency or government in affairs of Syria, Turkey, Iraq or start asking you about the coming presidential elections, it is usually because they are truly interested and not because they are trying to pick a fight. However, you should use your common sense in this situation.

Next, the heat, weather expectations, beaches, some very common and uncommon hiking areas.

And then prices, budgets, costs.
otherchelebi is offline  
Aug 9th, 2016, 06:39 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 1,429
I was in your beautiful country in 2012. Loved every minute of my trip. Things sure have changed since then.
MarthaT is offline  
Aug 13th, 2016, 08:18 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,648
Thank you, OC, for your insightful and broad explanation of the situation in Turkey today. It is a pleasure to hear from you and to know that you and yours are faring well.
MarnieWDC is offline  
Aug 13th, 2016, 05:23 PM
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 16
My husband and I have been awaiting your return and look forward to reading and learning. We hope to visit Istanbul in the spring and try to record every bit of information that will make our trip even more enjoyable.
ceeast1 is offline  
Aug 15th, 2016, 01:28 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,647
Thank you, Martha, Marnie & ceeast.

- Blaming the United states (while pronouncing America with three 'a's ) and EU but not pronouncing any single country, is still an official pastime and page filler in the media.

All TV including CNNTurk and newspapers with one exception have ceased following world affairs, preferring to write of the courage of the glorious leader in facing the enemy which he had befriended and used till three years ago.

So far, about 82,000 personnel have been sacked from governmental institutions which include most universities and hospitals; 16 TV stations, 23 radios, 45 newspapers, 29 publishers, 15 universities, 19 syndicates, 35 medical institutions, 109 student housing, 104 foundations, 1934 schools.

!9,000 detained, 10,000 arrested including 37 journalists, 64 local administrators, 157 generals and 2,070 other high level military officers.

All of the above were carried out without due process of law, but based on the 'emergency' powers the government gave itself.

I am sorry for sharing this bleak picture which does not impact the traveler to Turkey in terms of safety but probably will mean that there will be too many unhappy people who may be dragging their feet in providing services, and a possible increase in over-zealous sales activity of merchants and restaurants at the historic peninsula and the grand bazaar.

Here is a warning regarding lodging in the Istiklal, Beyoglu, Pera, Galata Tower areas. The Beyoglu municipality, increasing the entertainment tax and alcohol permit rates while restricting sidewalk seating and also targeting bookstore in their search for unacceptable publications, have managed to change the area in a very short time.

Currently, almost all bookstores, all art galleries, concert locations, most cinemas, theatres have closed down as well as any medium to high-end shops and restaurants. The clientelle has changed not only in numbers from Four million on a Saturday to one and a half million, but also, in terms of their quality.

The middle class young cannot find anything that interests them and the previously visited restaurants on the side streets are giving way to shady bars, with some of the smaller hotels starting to rent rooms by the hour to stay afloat.

So, I will recommend Cihangir for medium price range authntic cosmopolitan Istanbul neighborhood and culture, Nisantasi-Tesvikiye for high-end and the Bosphorus which unfortunately has few hotels most of which on the expensive side, although the prices ave been reduced. I.E. Radisson Blu Boshorus now has rooms starting at $150.

Otherwise, prefer the Historic peninsula or even consider Kadikoy on the Asian side which is only a 20 minute invigorating ferry ride to the historic peninsula.

I will repeat something I wrote earlier:

Do not decide to cancel your visit thinking your travels will benefit the authoritarian government.
There are already over two hundred thousand jobless in the tourism sector not in any way related to above political statistics. This means almost one million individuals who have lost their livelihood and careers. So, arrival of tourists will keep the industry from losing more. You will be visiting to help those and not the government.
otherchelebi is offline  
Aug 18th, 2016, 12:10 PM
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 582
Thanks for keeping us posted !
ashwinb is offline  
Aug 19th, 2016, 12:01 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,647
hello ashwin.

Istanbul and all beach and historic areas appear quite safe.

There have not been any fanatic fundamentalist attacks in quite some time, also some possibility that some of those which occurred in the last few years were somehow arranged or assisted by the FG group which attempted the coup.

The attacks against the security forces are continuing in the Eastern and Southeastern regions. Cappadocia has seen no violence whatsoever.

There was some flooding at the Western Blacksea cities of Bartin (which has some interesting Ottoman wooden houses) and Amasra with its castle, landscape, beaches and fish restaurants.

Inland from this area, Pinarbasi with its two canyons and a terrific waterfall reached via an eery path surrounded by lichen covered trees, and Kastamonu and Safranbolu with their restored old wooden mansions vie for attention with Ilgaz mountain resort and the roasted chick peas and special lamb pilav of Corum, on the way to the antique/modern city of Amasya.
otherchelebi is offline  
Aug 20th, 2016, 01:31 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,647
Here is a very friendly blog about being an expat in Istanbul :

otherchelebi is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 12:23 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,647
It has been almost one month.

The witch hunt continues. Almost 100,000 detained under emergency law, meaning with no recourse to the courts, except possibly to the Constitutional Court and the International Court of Human Rights in Den Haag.

Another 200,000 or more fired from positions with the government, including over 50,000 teachers and 2-3,000 academics.
Over 100 schools and 21 universities taken over, closed or converted
All Kurdish media raided and journalists detained.
All known FG supporting industry confiscated, employees laid off and owners detained, including one bank many textile factories, at least one hospital, etc.
Those who banked with the Bank are all suspects and some are detained, including credit card users or whose salaries were automatically deposited.

The number of students at religious schools have increased from 70,000 in 2002 to over one million in 2016. The ministry of education discovered that many of the Sunni religion school text books were unacceptable possibly because they were prepared by or through the FG group. It is interesting that these books have been in use for many years and were investigated only after the FG coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

It is all a bit like the 1915 Armenian atrocities, the wealth tax of the 1940's and the events of 1955 against minorities, or the Mccarthy era of United States.

In terms of tourism,

Some archeological excavations, including the 26 year digs at Ephesus sponsored and conducted by the Austrian Archeological Society were stopped or taken over by unqualified government employees as at Gobeklitepe. The reason given was that Austria was becoming fascistic.

Relations with Russia were improved and first official Russian groups started arriving in Antalya resorts last week.

A new major archeological discovery was near Ordu, central Black Sea region. A marble Kybele (Earth Goddess) statue was discovered on its original pedestal.

There was an IS related warning to German and British foreign missions for this weekend. Nothing, so far.

Schools opening this Monday, and I would advise tourists to Istanbul to walk or take public transport rather than taxis.

Some parts of Istanbul are becoming more conservative or less tourist friendly. I would advise women and/or camera bearing males to stay away from the back streets of Fatih, Carsamba, Eyup, Balat, Fener.

For modern women, public buses and minibuses in Istanbul are becoming unhealthy. So far, no problems on metro and trams.

Buses and minibuses at touristic regions of Turkey are fine. At cities of Central and Eastern Anatolia like Konya, Malatya, Sivas, Erzurum, tokat, Yozgat, Gumushane, I will advise all travelers to dress modestly.

There are tens of thousands of hate hashtag messages on Twitter against heathens, atheists, imperialists, foreign agents, European heads of state and those who do not adore the president and his party.

If things do not change in the next few years, we will probably see more fundamentalism and xenophobia among the new Islamist youth and the replacement of those laid off from universities and government employment. At that stage, travel to Istanbul may need some precautions.
otherchelebi is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 12:35 AM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 20,955
Thanks so much for this update, otherchelebi.

Can you elaborate a bit on what you mean when you say, "For modern women, public buses and minibuses in Istanbul are becoming unhealthy"?

I hope you and yours are well. You continue to have my best wishes.
kja is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 03:31 AM
Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 2,302
You are clearly the most interesting poster on this forum.

I found your blog, how can I contact you on your blog ?
(not really used to going on others' blogs - you are a first for me).
WoinParis is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 04:23 AM
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 564
Otherchelebi, I love your writing g style. Are you a Turkish citizen or an American living in Turkey?

As someone who has been to Istanbul three times (2010, 2014, and 2016), I can attest to your comment about Istiklal Street. This used to be a great place to hang out, with both a cultural and a fun aspect. But now it has a tacky and low class vibe to it.
Loacker is offline  
Sep 17th, 2016, 09:53 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 4,647
Thanks kja, we are all fine.

I meant those who are dressed fashionably and stand out among a crowd of drab colours and empty eyes, thus drawing attention.

WoinParis, thank you for the compliment.

You can comment on any of the entries of either of my blogs or on the last entry. Or you can write directly to me at [email protected] which I use only for these occasions and for comments on my book.

My book of essays, poetry and travel is on Amazon but has only fourteen short pieces in English. (name as above)

You can also comment on my reviews at Amazon USA. Some of the reviews related to Turkey are on Evliya Celebi, Landscapes From My Country by Nazim Hikmet and one of John Freely's books.
I have reviews of Anthony Burgess, Gore Vidal, Edward Whittemore, Jerome K. Jerome, John Barth, etc. in addition to some science fiction, films like "Youth" "Midnight in Paris" "The Guard" etc, risk and insurance books and two fountain pens and a board game.

Loacker, I feel flattered again. I was born in Istanbul to Ottoman parents, Have studied in Istanbul through my undergraduate years and in Denver, Colorado for my graduate degrees.

I also tweet copiously. https://twitter.com/ahmetcelebiler
otherchelebi is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:53 PM.