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Visiting Turkey for Fun and Adventure, Oasis or Chaos

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Visiting Turkey for Fun and Adventure, Oasis or Chaos

Old Aug 1st, 2015, 03:21 AM
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Visiting Turkey for Fun and Adventure, Oasis or Chaos

This thread follows on the last two one year threads, describing the political, social, economic, meteorological and psychological environment in Turkey and posting frequently to report changing terms and conditions as they reflect on the safety, purse and comfort of the traveler to Turkey.

I also respond to questions, occasionally give tid bits of information which do not warrant a thread of their own, dig out some of my older posts when the need arises and give links to interesting relevant sites or some personal ones.

I change my profile picture every few months also, thus allowing the reader to keep up with my aging process. The previous one was with my new and first grandchild. This one is with my wife at her most recent birthday.

Here's her blog with photographs from some of our Turkish trips as well as those taken from our balcony.
https://www.blogger.com/profile/13777888122227948100

my blogs are also listed on her profile


The most recent blog entry is the "blue moon" which rose in all its glory last night:
http://bluemoonoverthebosphorus.blogspot.com.tr/

To start the new edition, here are the current conditions in Turkey :

Political :

- It is a mess with no party winning a majority in last June 7 elections, The incumbent managing to stay in power until a coalition is former (seems impossible), a minority government is formed (also seems impossible) or new elections are held (highest possibility)

- In the meantime the government has taken advantage of its almost illegal power to conduct war against Kurdish Terrorist/guerilla fighters with whom they were negotiating peace and democracy until just a few months ago. The president and the PM believe that this will bring them more votes and a good majority in the coming early elections.

However, their bombing of PKK bases within Norther Iraq and even a few within Turkish borders (over 500 sorties in the last week) has brought reprisals against the Turkish armed and security forces as well as large possibly defense related construction and shows of foce on some Sotheastern region highways, making those areas of the country risky if not downright dangerour for visitors.

- This situation is likely to continue till December 2015 and may last longer depending on date and outcome of elections.

Social

- Turkey has a majority of
Sunni moslems, 55-60 million
Alevis 15-20 million
Shiite & other Moslem sects 1-3 million
Christians (Greek, Armenian, Russian, Syrian Orthodox and others) 500,000
Jews 100,000- 150,000
Yazidis, Zoroastrians and other 50,000-100,000

Yet, of the majority of Sunni Moslems, less than 30% regularly pray at mosque or at home. This is not a very religious society, although the men and their imposed traditions have forced many women to cover their heads, arms and legs as a habit rather than as a requirement of their belief.

- There are a large number of NGOs on all types of issues including gay, LGBT and women's rights.
- There are are a huge number of Islamic charities and foundations but also a few but very significant secular educational foundations.
- It is a male dominated society but Istanbul especially has a large number of high level women professionals, CEOs and Board Members. The Parliament has less than 20% women deputies.
- Education system is poor with non-achievers teaching a rote learning based curriculum to 5-18 year olds. Public universities are controled almost fully by the Islamist government with only a few exceptions like the Bosphorus University in Istanbul, Hacettepe and Middle Eastern technical University in Ankara. There are also some decent private universities.
- Although there is a great deal of censorship on TV, some channels manage to get away with some anti-government talk shows and others with films and Series involving more violence and sex than the government would accept.
- There are approximately 100 TV channels fully supporting the government, a similar number of radios and three quarters of the national press. However the objective or opposition media have more viewers and readers.


Economic

- The Islamist government actually performed quite well for 13 years in power mostly because of the support of Saudi Arabia and some of the Gulf countries which not only sent them aid but also invested heavily in Turkey.

- However, this process keeping the Turkish Lira overvalued, resulted in decrease in domestic production and exports and a large increase in imports. Another result of this situation was higher unemployment and higher urbanization with the accompanied "frustration of rising expectations."

- Currently, the Turkish Lira having lost value, the visitor to Turkey from the United States and even from Europe will find Turkish trip a very good value even in the more expensive cities of Istanbul, Bodrum and Antalya.

Psychological

- Turks are known to be a friendly and hospitable people throughout history and visitors who report on Fodors and Trip Advisor have verified this.

- The problems with the educational system, the family environment and the thousands of years of authoritarian rule in these lands have made the locals not aggressively but slyly paranoid of their neigbours, relatives, business partnes and even spouses and children.
Fortunately, this does not apply to foreign visitors where they follow the maxim, "innocent until proven guilty."

- Turks are very communicative, like to socialize and chat and can divulge rather personal information. Do not be upset because you do not have to reciprocate. Especially less educated Turkish women would love to share with foreign women.

I will write short general introductions on the geography, geology, climate, history, archeology, nature, scenery, transportation and cuisine of the country in forthcoming posts.

Today :

It is hot everywhere. Istanbul is about 90 F and humid. I am staying home and wandering if it would actually be less costly to go shopping in a mall rather than use up such expensive electricity cooling myself at home. Eser is visiting grandson just in from Cesme/Izmir trip.

Nothing very different on the TV regarding the Southeast, Syria Iraq, PKK, ISIS.

TL lost against USD and Euro again yesterday. now at 2,756 to $1 and 3.04 to E1.

Israeli and Russian tourists to Turkey down about 20% from last year, tourists from Arab countries up.

A reasonable dinner with some raki or a glass or two of wine can still be bought for %30-40 but not at any Bosphorus seaside or popular locations. I enjoy a very very cold Efes beer but only within the first three minutes of its arrival to the table, but tend to forget about it afterwards.

Turkish Kalecik Karasi grapes make quite smooth wines, merlots are also smooth and a bit more fruity. Okuzgozu is a bit more fruity and goes well with meats. Bogazkere grapes make tanini wine but keep well.

Kavaklidere, Doluca, Buzbag are old wine brands, but there are many new ones which have good vintages and types with Sarafin the best and Corbus or Corvus Bozcaada island following.

The Angora and Yakut I used to like, I do not find as good anymore. Kavaklider Selection, Doluca, Antik,Kav and DLC are still decent for cheap to medium priced wines.

I get carried away.

I will be around until September 8, then disappear for a week and be back again,
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 04:03 AM
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on for the new ride
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 06:02 AM
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Signing on...
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 06:06 AM
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Thanks, very interesting!
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 06:35 AM
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Thank you as always. The people are extraordinarily friendly and ready for a joke. The food is sensational and the sights are varied and seductive. It became one of our favorite countries that we have visited.

OC, you are not getting older, just your pictures. Say hello to your family for us.
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 06:36 AM
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Am staying tuned
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 07:33 AM
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Thanks for the update and congratulations on the arrival your new grandchild.
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 07:40 AM
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signing in here too.

Are you sure that there is no picture of you in your attic, OC, which gets older every year while you remain the same?
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 10:07 AM
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Thanks for this, OC! Yes, nice picture.
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 10:16 AM
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I just looked at your photo. You look like the maitre' d at your favorite manti restaurant.
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 02:05 PM
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As I recall, you are not a fan of the restaurants in the Sultenahmet Area... But our first night arriving at dinner time after an overnight flight from Chicago, I'm sure we'll be too tired to go too far from the tourist area. I'm wondering if you could recommend someplace close. We're staying at the hotel Hotel Amira, but don't mind walking a bit. Casual but authentic is what we're looking for. Thanks
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 02:32 PM
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Check Sarnic restaurant. It has been many years since we ate there but it continues to get good reviews on TA and a TA friend Gone to the Dogs loves it. This is not that close to your hotel.

A restaurant that has always been popular and is closer to your hotel is Balikci Sabahattin, where you may be required to get a fixed menu of too many plates of starters (meze) and side dishes plus fish for a not very cheap price.

I think that you could try the hotel Amira restaurant or House hotel suites and spa restaurant nearby after a tiring flight or any nearby simple place which offers pide and kebap to good effect also.

You can also start walking towards the Sarnic, checking the places you see on your route and stop at one that you like or continue if none look good. This walk will give you good sense of your location vis a vis the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace and their grandeur at night.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 04:04 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions.
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Old Aug 7th, 2015, 03:25 AM
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In the Western half of the country including Cappadocia and the Black sea Coast there is no change regarding safety.

Southeast and East is getting worse with open skirmishing between security forces and the PKK. Unfortunately the armed forces and the police are acting like occupational forces at a colonized country.

Also unfortunately United States wrongly considers the Turkish government action against PKK as self-defense and gives its blessing, not realizing that the local population needs to be defended against the Turkish government activity more than against terrorists.

We will be flying to Antalya early September for a four day stay at a resort with our DD and SIL from Chicago, who will arrive in Istanbul before. And we are not concerned about safety. (the kids will have an additional 5 days after that in Athens and Chania, Crete by themselves after giving us the four day Club Med holiday as a birthday present)

Vegetables and fruit are still cheap in Turkey but meat has become twice as expensive as European averages. Restaurant prices are moving up fast but not for vegetarians.

Hot humid weather has hit Istanbul badly these days. Today it is about 91-92 F with 80 humidity.

I was out shopping at Metro (like Cosco) yesterday dazed by the heat and made some stupid purchases like 100 packs of different size trash bags but forgot to pick up the sea bass which was on sale and which we were going to grill last night. (but did not forget the fresh lemon grass, coriander and ginger for the sea bass marinade or the arugula for the salad)

Construction of the suspension bridge over Izmit bay is moving quite fast. This will reduce driving time to Iznik, Bursa, Balikesir, Ayvalik, Izmir, Ephesus, Bodrum, etc. from Istanbul. That is, if you can make it to the bridge very early in the morning when the traffic density is still low. Expected opening will be sometime in late 2016.
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Old Aug 7th, 2015, 06:43 PM
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Will be flying to Istanbul on Turkish air Septmber 4th. Will we be meeting your kids on the plane��
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Old Aug 7th, 2015, 07:39 PM
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Saving for me

Thanks !
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Old Aug 8th, 2015, 01:23 PM
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soods, that's great news. My son-in-law will be on that flight with you. Ceylan will fly to istanbul a week earlier to spend some nostalgic time with us and be spoilt some more.

You can check what he looks like from the wedding photographs on my blog. Also it is easy to recognize his walk which is like what I would visualize tiggger would do, sort of bouncy gait.

We find him a physically, emotionally, culturally and intellectually excellent match for our daughter in addition to loving him as a son.
He is sociable and pleasant.

http://ahmetcafercelebiler.blogspot....&max-results=4
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Old Aug 8th, 2015, 08:40 PM
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How fun for you and your daughter. We look forward to seeking out your son in law to say hello! Interesting description, love the American icon comparison! You and he are very fortunate to have each other as family, your affection for him is tangible. I'm sure he feels the same for you. Enjoy your time together...it's almost here...
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Old Aug 10th, 2015, 12:45 AM
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Thanks Soods.

The attacks against security forces are continuing.

There was also some shooting at the American consulate in istanbul last night. This was definitely an amateur move or a provocation by an intelligence agency since the shooting was with rifles and the American consulate is a fortress which can withstand missiles.
(my older DD worked as a trainee architect during its construction)

There have been some threats against Turkish government by ISIS. However, they were like the supposed bombing of ISIS locations by Turkish armed forces. Most experts agree that the secret support and hold-harmless agreement between ISIS and Turkish government is still valid despite the opening of the American airbase in Turkey to US drones and fighter planes for sortees against ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria.

The heat abated somewhat in Istanbul and is currently 84 F but with 75% humidity at our balcony at 11:15 AM.

USD 1 = TL 2.77

(you can actually get this rate at couple of locations deep down the Grand Bazaar and slightly less on the street two above Rustem Pasha mosque.) Airport rates, dominated by banks, will be about 2.7 or even less. Taksim-Istiklal rates will be in between.
Never exchange at hotels, restaurants, shops. The worst is usually exchanging in your own country.

Using ATMs with debit cards, for local currency is usually subject to some charges and commissions or bank preferred exchange rates but allows you to travel with less risk of carrying cash.

At my age, and having learned of the best locations for exchanging TL into English Pounds in London, Swiss Franks in Zurich and French Franks in Paris in the Paleozoic, I still find myself tempted to carry unnecessarily large amounts of cash. Even though my cards will give me USD and Euro statements, they still charge ATM or cash advance fees.

There are some very interesting 3D replications and images of the 8-10,000 year old neolithic village of Catalhoyuk, near Konya in Central Anatolia, being prepared at an American Univerity.

I have always found Konya uninteresting and not worth a stopover except for followers of the mystic Roumi. However, if you wish to imagine civilizations before the Biblical Garden of Eden and the Flood, a village with no streets, where inhabitants entered homes through holes on the roof, Catalhoyuk is well worth a visit, especially combined with the lush valley and caves of Manazan near Karaman.

A trip that includes these sites with Alacahoyuk, Yazili Kaya and Hattusas to the North of Cappadocia and then Cappadocia itself gives a totally different perspective than one that tours the Lycian Way, Karia and Ephesus and/or Bithynia.

Unfortunately, there is very little remaining from the Celtic kingdom which lasted quite a few hundred years after Alexander the Great's invasion and then as part of the Roman Empire. But some artifacts can be found at smaller local museums at towns like Amasya or at Ankara.

The simple Penguin Historic Atlas of the Middle East gives a summary of all the various peoples, kingdoms and civilizations which once held sway on these lands and is fun to check before starting your visit.
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Old Aug 13th, 2015, 06:10 AM
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I will not call it an all out civil strife bu the PKK and the government forces appear to be close to a free for all. We read or hear about deaths of soldiers and policemen with TV coverage of their funerals and body counts of the PKK as released by the government.

There have not been any ISIS body counts at all, which probably means, if nothing else, that most places in Turkey are safe for tourists.

About two weeks ago there was some provocation against the Chinese government by the pro government media, writing of supposed bans of fasting for the Moslems of Eastern China. At that time, some Korean tourists were attacked and chased but were saved from a beating by the police. The leader of the nationalist Party, MHP, stated that his followers cannot be blamed because "there is no way they could differentiate between the types of slanted eyes"

We are anxiously hoping for a decisive strong public figure to suddenly rise up and conquer the hearts and minds of the people.

My estimate is that the timing for that to occur may coincide with the great Marmara Sea earthquake which may affect Istanbul catastrophically or not, to occur sometime within the coming thirty years according to Insurance/Reinsurance companies, geologists, and sooth sayers.

By the way, to put your mind at ease or to scare you off totally, both Turkey and Greece and the Mediterranean Sea in between with all those lovely islands, lie on some well known fault lines which can easily produce up to 7.5 or even slightly more magnitude eathquakes, some with accompanying tsunamis.

The area is usually hit by tens of small tremors every day, small enough that they are not felt by the inhabitants, due to the movement of the North African and the Asian continental shelves.

The story of the flood was traced back to large earth movements, with Atlantic Ocean shellfish fossils in tthe black sea and the depths of the Bosphorus.

In fact, a theory is that Catalhoyuk in central Anatolia and the whole of Mesopotamian culture is due to the migration of more advanced tribes from the shores of the Black Sea which was once a very large lake. The Dardanelles and Bosphorus sraits were opened up by some large upheavals and huge amounts of Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean water started pouring down into the lake. Apparently, it took a long time for the lake to fill and since it was impossible to cross on the West and the East was very mountaineous and dangerous, people like Noah built arcs to cross to the South and take with them their tehcnological advance. The arch was one such advance. I am not sure if Piers Anthony (SciFi writer) would agree though.

Istanbul on season averages with somewhat more humidity.
Our family get together getting closer. Political solutions appear further away.

Just made Paella (no chicken) with Thai ingredients and Bulgur instead of rice. Hugely recommended.
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