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Visiting Exciting Turkey in the Throes of Restoration

Visiting Exciting Turkey in the Throes of Restoration

Old Aug 31st, 2014, 04:11 PM
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Visiting Exciting Turkey in the Throes of Restoration

This thread follows the year long thread titled :

DW and I have been in Chicago since August 8 and will be retuening to istanbul on September 6.

We ate at some good, some decent and some not so good restaurants. I and DW both cooked at our condo which the tenant had vacated and which took us a week to furnish.

We dutifully went to blues and jazz clubs and mostly enjoyed it. We also took a one nighter to Starved Rock and environs which was OK. DD and SIL were good to us, acting as if they enjoyed our company.

Meanwhile in Turkey,
-The Presidential election took place with the former PM winning with 51.6% of the voters preferring an authoritarian leadership.
- He picked his successor to be the former Minister of Foreign Affairs who botched up all international relations for Turkey during his lackluster career. (I think he looks like Grandvizier Iznogoud of french Hall of Comics Fame)
- There is still a ban on the media regarding the two month old kidnapping by ISIS of the 49 Mosul Consulate personnel, who are almost forgotten.
- Foreign visitors to Turkey have increase again this year.
- Cruise ships visits to Istanbul are still a matter of concern for other visitors in terms of scheduling museum, mosque, church, palace, cistern, hamam visits.
- There are no major protests and no mass movements.
- There is occasional violence between groups in some poorer neighborhoods outside main areas of the city between groups and the police or among some groups. Most recent was a Kurdish group claiming to have killed one and wounded two ISIS members.
- The country still receives enough warm or hot funds and/or investment to keep interest rates low and Turkish Lira over valued.
- The president and PM talk of the restoration of (possibly the religious rule) of the Ottoman Empire.
- United States has no real strategy regarding Turkey and its neighbors, Iraq, Syria, Iran, lebanon Georgia, Ukrain, Russia with Obama, Department of State, CIA and NSA having their own unshared agendas which somehow do not mesh or mesh well.
- Turkish foreign relations are based on whims, fantasies, ignorance, lack of experience and knowledge of all other cultures as well as global dynamics, showing a derth of depth and awareness of time.
- Turkish Intelligence operations are under surveillance of most of the major international powers, surviving locally only by denying everyting that becomes public through the International media, Snowden and/or Wikileaks.

- Istanbul hotel prices are going up although new hotels are being built. Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, Four Seasons and Accor groups have multiple locations.
- There are some new locations on the Bosphorus, possibly increasing demand for the Water Taxi.
- Cappadocia, Ephesus, Pamukkale are still drawing the biggest crowds.
- There are new car rental companies and the regulars increasing their fleets, thus keeping prices at reasonable levels.
- THY has backed down from price increases and local flights are still reasonable with THY, Anadolu jet, Pegassus, Atlas Jet, Bora jet and Onur Air, as long as you reserve and/or buy tickets early.

I shall add some of my previous responses to frequently asked question to this thread, like day trips from istanbul, Bosphorus cruises and excursions, etc.

Here is the link to eating fish in Istanbul, in view of the Fishing season starting :

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Old Sep 1st, 2014, 07:28 AM
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Thanks OC, looking forward to more updates for my upcoming trip to your country March 2015.

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Old Sep 5th, 2014, 08:25 AM
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We will be back in istanbul this weekend and I will be able to report if I see visible changes although I do not expect to see any.

The restoration in the title of the thread applies to both physical and political historic structures both actions can have disastrous consequences if done by laymen with the wrong aims and objectives.

There are reports to back up my advice to miss out Bodrum and immediate environs as being over-priced.

Gazi airport has opened to the West of Antalya. So flights from Istanbul to Alanya and areas such as Anamur are now possible.

This opens new vistas and possibilities for the visitor who is interested in roughing it in areas less known and full of mystery and great natural beauty as well as unexcavated history from pirate coves to sink holes, risky caves to huge antique cities. mountains to lush forests, canyons to stand alone Byzantine monasteries.

We visited Starved Rock 90 minutes from Chicago. The area opened up by Gazi airport has much more than rocks starved for your visits and joys.
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Old Sep 6th, 2014, 01:55 PM
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It'll be interesting times for the "new state" of Turkey over the coming years...

How will they deal with the 100th anniversary of the "Armenian genocide" in April next year?

Will the "west" arm the Kurdish peshmerga against the Islamic State? With what repercussions concerning Kurdish demands for statehood?

Will the 4.6 billion Turkish lira per annum budget for the state control of Sunni Islam (also known as the "Diyanet", the "Ministry of Religious Affairs" - a secular state? you have to be joking!) be increased now that there is an "Islamist" president with a majority in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (their parliament)?

Interesting times (apparently the Chinese curse is an urban myth). But it looks like the Ottomans are coming back to bite them in the arse 100 years on.
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Old Sep 7th, 2014, 12:38 PM
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Croesus, it is difficult for all governments and conditioned subjects or even citizens to deal with the massacres committed by former governments, subjects or citizens of any country.

Turkey was established on a part of the Ottoman Empire. The founder of Turkey managed to get Constantinople to be included in Turkey but could not get Tessaloniki where he was born or Mosul and Kerkuk where the oil is. Instead, he was allowed by Britain and France lands inhabited by Kurds and by Russia, the lands partially inhabited by Armenians and partially by other Anatolians, including Turkes.

The people of the nation built in 1923 are to a very high percentage Moslem but not necessarily Turkish unless you define "Turkish" as people who believe themselves to be Turkish.

In the past 1,500 years possibly 2-300,000 Turks migrated to Anatolia from the East and the North. At those times, the population of the area was approximately 2.5-3 Million. The former peoples were Assyrian, Hittite, Phoenician, Phrygian, Lykian, Lydian, Greek, Roman, Celt, Arab, Karian, Ionian, Venetian, Genovese, Georgian, Armenian, etc.

All these people mingled and mixed. There were many Christian Turks and Moslems of other races.

The famous 17th Century Ottoman traveler/writer Evliya Chelebi (from whom I took my name) wrote of those of Turkish and Gypsy origin as the lowest of the races of the Ottoman Empire in terms of wealth, power, education.

The Ottomans conducted mass expulsions massacres of different peoples in their atrocious history. The larget and worst one was the one that the Armenians suffered.

Some of these events have never been written about. The next most remembered one was the expulsion, cleansing and massacre of Alevites (A religion which follows the Koran to only a certain extent but does not accept the sayings of Mohammed or those of later Sunni authorities and which also differs from Shiites in being very liberal, with paganistic undertones, mixed gender praying, singing and dancing, wine drinking, etc.) in the 16th century immediately after gaining the Khalifate upon conquest of Egypt by the ottoman Sultan.

The Ottomans never considered themselves Turks and were not after the 15th Century.

They called their land Rome (Roum) and the capital of the empire was called Constantinople. The name Istanbul replaced Constantinople after 1923 when Turkey was founded on part of the remains of the Ottoman Empire.

Mustafa Kemal who established the new country needed the symbols for nation building. he also had seen how the empire had broken up in terms of both race and religion. So, he conducted another mass expulsion of most Orthodox Christians of Greek and Turkish origin to greece and received into Turkey the similarly large expelled group of Moslems from Greece, Parts of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. This was about Two million or more people each way between 1922 and 1938.

This was a very inhuman event but I can see how it helped Turkey to stay as a nation till now without breaking up and also how Turkey managed to stay out of World War II.

The Sunni islamic structure had always been a major problem for the Ottoman emperors and had received lip service and certain favors. The instrument Mustafa kemal came up with to keep it in check was the Directorate of religious affairs which not only paid the salaries of all the Moslem clergy but also told them what to talk about at every Friday sermon. He also banned all sects, their edifices, leaders, clothing, etc.

He was successful for another 12 years after his death. But, religious fundamentalism started rearing its head in 1950 with the multi party system and finally came into power in 2002 with the assistance of United States who misguidedly thought that having what the great thinkers in the US called "Moderate Islam" would solve most problems of the Moslem Middle East and North Africa.

Well, we have seen the mess in North africa, Iraq and Syria so far. Cannot say "God" save Turkey of a similar future because both the United States and ISIS believe in ONE GOD meaning it must be the same one????? (unless you follow the Brahmans and Buddhists in Gore Vidal's "Creation" wher the hero, when telling them about one God, "The WiseOne" is told, "Oh yes; we have many one Gods here also.")

No travel related problems so far and possibly till end of next Summer or the 2015 elections whichever comes first unless Tayyip Erdogan, the new President and Head Man also starts complaining about major physical discomforts due to "Black Magic" as the Thai premier general Whatshisname has done.
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Old Sep 9th, 2014, 08:39 AM
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Turkey is in a conundrum regarding how to respond to US demands regarding ISIS (in view of the 49 hostages from the Mosul consulate who were ordered to stay put before ISIS invaded) and Russia with whom trade is at an all time high).

This is reflected in value of TL which suddenly started falling today, down about 2% against USD and 1.5% against Euro.

We found restaurant prices to have gone up. Yesterday, the simple fish restaurant at Kandilli, Sunanin Yeri charged three of us TL170 (about $77) for three; two bonito, one portion horse mackerel, 3 salads, two raki. Bonito prices are down to $2/fish at the fish market and horse mackerel sells for about $4/kilo, so you can see how much the restaurant over charges. However, the view was terrific as usual and the weather was fine eating outdoors only one meter from the side of the Bosphorus at a hight of two feet from sea level.

Tonight, The Federation of Afro-Asian Insurance Companies Pool Technical Committee has a dinner at possibly the most expensive Bosphorus hotel, les Ottoman. It also happens to be my birthday and the managers of the pool are sending me a company limo to take me and Eser to the dinner as a very gracious gesture.
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Old Sep 9th, 2014, 09:24 AM
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Happy Birthday OC.
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Old Sep 12th, 2014, 12:27 PM
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Thanks IMDonehere, although I heve definitely past the age when people hit the "delete" button the moment they see the word "Birthday".

I just accept the first word, "Happy" these years and recommend that free application to you also.

Turkey is now speaking with a mouth full of cotton wool (not candy floss) regarding ISIS.

There are rumors that ISIS is blackmailing Turkey with not only slaughtering the 49 hostages from the Mosul consulate but also by threatening to attack targets within Turkey.

Now these targets could be the American sites like the air bases, consulates, etc. but it could also mean Turkish government and public buildings and even shopping malls and resorts.

Hence, as far as travelers to Turkey and residents are concerned, the later Turkey comes out of the closet as an arch enemy of ISIS, the better it is to the visitor and also to the resident.

The hope and that is a rather weak hope, is that Turkey will immediately step up its activities to unearth all ISIS cells within Turkey, arrest all leaders, make sure new cells are not allowed to be established and to survive while controling the Syrian and Iraq borders with an iron fist.

Turkey also has to reconsider its foreign policy vis-a-vis Iraq government, Kurds, Egyptian Government, Syria, Assad, Hammas, Israel, Lebanon, Yemen, and possibly other countries as soon as possible, forgetting the foolish and unfounded ambition of taking over from the Ottoman Sultans.

My brother-in-law and his French wife will be flying to SouthEastern Turkey in three weeks time to visit Mardin, Midyat, Hasankeyf, Halfeti and Gaziantep. I have urged them to do this since it may not be possible in another year or two.

I just hope that I will not be giving advice to only backpacking adventurers in the coming years or visitors to certain "safe" enclaves in istanbul, but ISIS is definitely a vey real regional threat which promises to grow very fast and multiply like an amoeba, with brainwashed American and European citizens somehow joining them, being attracted by the violence.
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Old Sep 12th, 2014, 12:31 PM
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Thanks for the insight. We usually don't get a full picture.
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Old Sep 14th, 2014, 10:22 AM
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Thanks for the thread OC!!

I have urged them to do this since it may not be possible in another year or two.
That's scary, I was planning an East Turkey trip(Mardin-Van and the rest of East Turkey) sometime in the next 1-1.5 years.
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Old Sep 14th, 2014, 11:00 AM
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OC, my daughter and I met a wonderful newlywed couple in Siena, Italy back in 2010. They were on honeymoon from their home in Turkey and encouraged us to come visit when we could.

I'm sorry to say, we have been unable to get there, yet. And it saddens me to think that it may now never happen.

I pray for swift resolution to the curse that is ISIS. And I will keep positive thoughts for all of those fighting the good fight in Turkey.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2014, 11:48 AM
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Sarge56, I hope you make it here some time soon.

Ashwin and other planners for an Eastern Turkey visit,

This looks like a bad time. There is a great deal of unrest in the region. The local population are extremely unhappy because :

1. The government is not doing anything to advance the democratization process.
2. There are 130,000 new refugees just the last four days who need help and who are depleting the scant resources of the towns and villages of the area.
3. The 300,000 or more refugees who have settled down in the major cities of Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Mardin,Urfa and Kilis have already been a major issue by replacing the already semi-employed local work force by accepting lower than the minimum wage.

4. Many of the inhabitants have relatives and friends among those being attacked by ISIL in Iraq and Northern Syria, while the Turkish government refuses to arm the Kurds at those locations or allow Turkish citizens to cross the border with weapons to help fight against ISIL when previously the borders were open to ISIL.

5. ISIL has threatened Turkey with attacks against civilian targets if Turkey moves against ISIL.

6. ISIL continues to recruit from Koranic and other religious schools in Turkey at at least ten or more major cities in a very organized way, training and brain washing the recruits for a month or so before sending them across the borders. The government turns a blind eye to these activities.

In view of all that, If I were you, would I cancel my plans to visit Istanbul, Cappadocia and Ephesus?
This depends on your risk appetite and circumstances.
At my age and circumstances, knowing that this is probably my one chance, I would go ahead with it.

If I were young, I would say, "What me Worry?" and do it.

At middle age with children who may still need me, I would limit my visit to Istanbul and/or possibly to the Lykian cities, staying at smaller towns and boutique hotels rather than big chains and big cities or resorts.

Driving in the West will be very safe and pleasant, visiting from Gallipoli or Nicaea down through Troy, assos, Aizanoi, Pergamom, Sardis, Bozdag, Birgi, Ephesus, Priene, Miletus, Herakleia, Milas, Mugla, Tlos, Xanthos, Letoon, Pinara, Patara, Myra, Arycanda, Olympos, Chimaera, Termessos, Perge, Aspendos, Side, Anemurium, Kelenderis, Olba, etc.
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Old Sep 24th, 2014, 08:24 AM
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My husband and I have a 12 day trip planned in Cappadocia, Kusadasi/Ephesus and Istanbul October 15-27. I have been so looking forward to it! I have been convincing my husband and myself that terrorism is random and unpredictable and that the risk is low in any given area or time frame. This last post is raising my anxiety and causing me to wonder if we're misguided in coming to Turkey now. We are of the age that postponing the trip might put it much lower on the bucket list. You spoke of Istanbul and Ephesus being safe, you didn't mention Cappadocia. I don't have a sense whether other tourists are cancelling their plans or those who are coming now are feeling anxious and unsafe in their travels. There are no state dept warnings. OC, or forum members, any comments on the above?
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Old Sep 24th, 2014, 11:51 AM
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I'm planning a trip to Turkey in September 2015. My husband and I have been talking about a back-up plan over the past few days. I appreciate your thoughts OC and will continue to follow this thread.

Seagulls please follow-up when you return from your trip. Safe travels!
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Old Sep 24th, 2014, 12:23 PM
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Seagulls, there is nothing happening at the moment anywhere in Turkey except the Southeast regions bordering on Iraq and Syria where the violence is between the local people and the security forces and not against foreign nationals or even domestic tourists and Cappadocia is sufficiently far from the area.

My warning is based on the risk of getting caught up in the wide spread unrest rather than being a target. This is very important.

Unless ISIL starts carrying out threats in other countries, I would not worry about getting to Turkey including Cappadocia.

I just wished to warn against that possibility.

Please do not change your plans unless you read the definite code red from the State department, but be on the look out for news of how the war against ISIL develops.

Basically, ISIL is threatening US and UK at the moment and possibly also France as well as some of the Gulf countries and saudi Arabia for taking direct action against them. This may be just flack because we do not know of their abilities, organization and structure, except for the fact that they seem to have received recruits from most Western European countries and North America. This means that there are some indoctrination and training centers in all these countries. Whether they are also trained enough to act violently or to be successful is still a moot question.

So, at this time, the risks in Turkey are not any larger than at any of the major European and North American cities.

I shall continue posting here and more frequently if I believe there is any increase in risk.

For my political, literary, philosophical, satirical, sarcastic and funny output you can follow me on Twitter:


If you find some of my tweets alarmist consider that poetic license (or Political license) and check my thread here.

A gift to cheer you up, report of a recent short trip near Nicaea :

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Old Sep 25th, 2014, 09:27 AM
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OC,thanks for your clarification and reassurance. I think I'll now spend my energies on researching restaurants! I'll relook at your comments on Fish in Istanbul, but welcome any recommendations for a "special" restaurant to celebrate our 40th anniversary! Thanks!
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Old Sep 25th, 2014, 11:34 AM
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seagulls, and I was thinking we were special at just past 36th anniversary! -

Consider the following :

- Ulus 29 at Ulus, on a hill with terrific view. Some Turkish specialties and its own bakery. very French-like eclectic.
Excellent service and ambience. $$$$

Reserve to get table at front with best view. Also has good wine cellar.

- Mia Mensa : Our favorite Italian with a Turkish touch. Smack on the Bosphorus. At Kurucesme. Next to Assk Kafe (meaning Luvvv Caffee) very appropriate. feel young with the others at the Assk kafe before or after dinner. Excellent view. you may be able to see the moon rise above the old military high school across on the Asian side.
Reservation required. $$$

- Feriye : At Ortakoy seaside. Fabulous view of Ortakoy mosque, first bridge and Asian side. has some early Ottoman dishes as well as regional specialties from parts of Turkey.
Service will be decent if they are not hosting a reception, wedding, etc. Check when you call for reservation. $$$$
reserve only if seaside table is available.

- Sunset, at Ulus, just below Ulus 29. Similar view and immaculate service as well as popular bar to Ulus 29. mediterranean cuisine. Possibly best wine cellar in Turkey.
Currently beyond my means though I personally know the owner.
$$$$$. reservation needed. Get table at edge (Summer) or window (colder weather) Baris(h), the owner will remember my (actual)name if you get to speak to him.

The above are all very romantic with great ambience, food and good service, They are the best to combine all).

Second group :

Muze De Changa: At Sabanci Museum, Emirgan (currently includes Miro exhibition) Dinner allows you free entry to museum. Sea view from hill in an idyllic setting inside a park. Restaurant inside ambience not very romantic. Best fusion food in Turkey. Excellent service. Better value for your $$$-$$$$ than most in terms of creative food and offering. Decent wines, better priced than all others. One of my short published pieces was written there, after the Rodin exhibition.

Aleko-Deniz Ati : One of the last old Greek style sea side fish restaurants in istanbul, At Yenikoy (further up the Bosphorus than others). You must reserve a seaside table. Excellent meze and fish. Not as romantic as the others, but you get the "Old world" feeling from the restaurant and the service. $$$.

Bebek Balikcisi : Fish restaurant at Bebek. Must reserve seaside table. Good meze and fish, but $$$$-$$$$$

Les Ambassadeur: at bebek Hotel, partially below sea level. Immaculate service and rather upscale serious ambience. Decent food including fish and other Turkish and eclectic. $$$$

Les Ottoman : Restored old sea side mansion at Kurucesme. The hotel rooms are 800-4,500 Euros at the hotel. Food decent. (I was there at a business dinner a few weeks ago by chance on my birthday. Could get there an hour early with my wife to have a great time sipping our wine while waiting for the others and watching the moon rise just next to the bridge connectin the two continents) Service was excellent. great location in Summer. May have heaters on the pier for cooler nights. Check when reserving. $$$$$

I realize that all of the above are rather expensive restaurants, but you can get away with a reasonable bill at Mia Mensa and at Changa or find romance at:

Sunanin Yeri at Kandilli, on the Asian side. across from Rumeli fortress all lit up, eating just a few feet from the lapping Bosphorus waters next to the old ferry landing.

Take ferry to Uskudar from Eminonu, Kabatas or Besiktas. Take taxi to Kadilli.

Or ask your hotel reception to arrange a sea taxi to take you to Kandilli from Kabatas (will pick you just behind the gas station at last stop of tram)

The season is Bonito. Prefer grilled. Their horse mackerel is the best (follow my instructions in eating it). $$-$$$

You spend part of what you save from the food on the sea taxi.

You can either return the same way or take a taxi directly since there should be less traffic at that time although the taxi may cost you close to the sea taxi.

Bon appetit.
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Old Sep 28th, 2014, 01:33 AM
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Just as I expected, there are now some travel advisories in place regarding your stay in the major cities of Turkey from Denmark, Great Britain, France.

They basically advise the visitors to stay away from crowds in the streets and any visible protests, altercation, etc.

As I wrote earlier, Turkey has not yet taken any direct action against IS (ISIL) so the citizens, and especially the institutions of those countries who are actively bombing IS at this stage are more exposed everywhere in the world, rather than any specific Turkish targets.

At this stage, I would try to steer away from underground transport and crowded locations with easy entry in Paris, London and New York, more so than in Istanbul.

I am not posting my yellow or red alerts, but just a "Be Aware" note. Take care.
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Old Sep 29th, 2014, 02:55 PM
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I left Turkey with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth due to some unsavory graffiti regarding the Gaza situation. I was there July 4-August 1, 2015.

My views are contained here:


My blog is here:


The photos of Istanbul, which contain a couple of the the graffiti are here:


A saw a number of other graffiti photos but felt I had to be circumspect taking them so there are only 2.

While individual Turks were almost all very nice to me (excepting the burglars who you can read about in the blog and the police afterward), I came away feeling very conflicted. With two trips to Turkey under my belt, I probably will not return as there are lots of other places I would like to see.

Happy travels wherever you go!
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Old Sep 30th, 2014, 01:38 AM
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With the Turkish hostages released by ISIL, Turkey should have no more reasons for dragging its feet in supporting the coalition and especially the PYD (Norther Syrian Kurds) who are under violent attack from ISIL directly at the Turkish border.

But the Turkish government's cognitive dissonance and the problems they have in handling foreign policy on the basis of cause-effect relationships is sinking it deeper into the morass.

By not acting against ISIL at the border, Turkey found itself allowing almost 200,000 more refugees into the country, and if ISIL takes full contol of Kobani area, the refugee numbers may swell up to 400,000. Take note that thiese numbers are in addition to the 1.1 Million Syrian refugees already in the country.

A further complication may be the Mausoleum of Suleiman Shah, situated about 35 kilometers within Syria but accepted to be Turkish land, where a 30 or so strong Turkish military presence is always kept. The rumor is that this is the current threat and blackmail of ISIL, who seems to have layed siege to this island or peninsula on a river housing the mausoleum.

We are witnessing an increased number of occasions of both ignorance and arrogance in speeches at the United Nations, at opening ceremonies in Turkey and at the World Economic Forum.

If I were not mad at their attempts to Islamicize Turkey and their authoritarianism, I could probably pity them but they do not even deserve my condescension.

In view of above, there is still no further risk from any terrorist groups in Turkey for foreign visitors, except in the areas very close to Iraq and Syria.

Check further warnings if you hear Turkey initiating any attacks against ISIL or joining the bombing missions of the coalition.
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