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WAY off the tourist rid-my impressions of Turkey

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Houston, Texas
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WAY off the tourist rid-my impressions of Turkey

Good Morning all,

First, I want to thank ya’ll again for your guidance on what to do in Turkey, although I did almost none of them *smile*. As you know my trip was to be different from other TAers because of the fact that I was meeting members of my husband’s family for the first time and thus was not living the life of a tourist.

My time in Istanbul was a very hurried 4 days of sightseeing. I was fortunate in that my father in law chartered a private van for travel so there wasn’t a lot of walking and I had only 3 terrifying taxi rides. I did the usual: Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Bosporus Boat tour, the Grand Bizarre and the Cistern. Beyond that, I was off the tourist grid. The other days I met with the President of Fethiye University and one of the directors of Stv. We visited the tombs of the conquerer of Istanbul and several mosques (his family is very devout). We had cay in a cute caybache next to Topkapi in Gulhanae Park were I was introduced to the Kumpir. Another night was spent on top of the highest hill in Istanbul at another caybache eating dondurma, helva, gozleme, pamuk seker and waiting for the lights to shine across the city.

We traveled from Istanbul to Eskisehir by bus(5 hours but easily could have been 3 or so) and I learned that Turkish bus stops were great. Clean restrooms (I’m a neat nick) and decent food. In Eskisehir, I was able to get a better grasp of daily life in Turkey. Grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and the intolerable habit of “hurry up and wait.” As I mentioned, my husband’s family is religious so most of the women I met were housewives (his sisters are teachers on holiday). It was just assumed that my husband would handle things while my father in law was working or back in Ankara at work. He had to drive every mile, tote every bag.. it was maddening to me. The countless visits by women who were content to sit and swelter, complain about the heat, yet do nothing about it. Friendly and warm, yes; but after six days of sitting, smiling and not understanding much of what was said was mind-numbing. There isn’t English programming readily available and since my in-laws are over 50 and that isn’t their full time home.. no internet. My son fell ill with Strep which was not treated correctly by the ENT that we visited and it returned with a vengeance on our return from Efes. We took him to the local hospital which was an excursion in the bizarre. IN the emergency room there was dried blood on the floor, filthy sinks, an over worked doctor and nurses drinking tea while reading “The Secret”. How they could consume ANYTHING in that filth was beyond me. We did get to another doctor who fixed him right up. So my opinion on Turkish doctors is kinda low..2 out of 3 medical facilities were… odd.

From Eskisehir we traveled by car to Selcuk were we stayed at two different hotels: the Sumeli and Hitite, worlds apart. We visited Efes, Mary’s House and the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers. We then drove down to Kusadasi and on to Denizli. From Denizli we went back to Eskisehir and on to Ankara were I am typing now. Presently, there’s water rationing which has affected us today.

My impression of the Turks: I got quite a few stares actually constantly. While in Istanbul it was of no consequence but as we traveled through the smaller towns and while in Eskisehir and especially in Ankara, people actually stopped and stared. *shakes head* I took it as whatever. People that I actually spoke to were incredibly warm and genuine. As a tourist, I don’t believe that you see how the average Joe lives. While at the Armada, I was unaware of what Turks contend with as far as substandard housing, lack of opportunity and an average annual income of 12K. Surely, there is a rising middle class and an upper class but it is small. Even though my husband’s family did not live in the ever present apartment but in their own home, it lacked many of the common comforts that apartment dwellers in the US take for granted.

Here in Ankara, I met two ladies who were French Turk and German Turk respectively. When I asked if they would move here and live one said, “Turkey is beautiful country but it is not a place to live.” I would have to agree.

Will I return? I seriously doubt that it will be anytime soon. His brother and sisters are planning to visit us. Definitely three weeks was too long but I do appreciate the new perspective I have on life.

Note: Once we returned, while waiting for an elevator at the airport in Houston, a Turkish woman literally pushed me out of the way to try to get on. I stopped her and told her in Turkish that my husband was on the elevator. She was so slow to move that the elevator left leaving me behind. Her husband was extremely embarrassed while he heard me explain to my mother that Turks in Turkey would NEVER behave in that manner.

I guess I’m really back in the good ol US.

London, United...
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11. Re: WAY off the tourist rid-my impressions of Turkey

BR - I love the newly-wed and squirrels story!! I used to have a friend from the deep South somewhere (New Orleans way I think) and she confirmed that they used to eat said rodents!

Arzu - lovely sentiments! But nowadays in UK (in London at least!) shops are open later - a lot of our "corner shops" are run by Turks now and they are open until 10 or midnight at night, 7 days a week! Some major supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsburys) are open 24 hours some days, etc. I remember when I was a teenager, London's Oxford Street used to close at midday on Saturdays - and of course NO stores or supermarkets were open on Sundays. And the pubs used to be open from 11.30 to 2.30 and then reopen 5 to 10.30 or so (11 if you were lucky!) and now are open all day, and most of them even sell food... - so yes, life has changed a lot over here!

I think in many ways Turkey is like the UK was back in the 1950's or so. OK virtually everybody has all the "mod cons" BR was asking about, but society is still very traditional, family orientated, males ruling the homes (or thinking they do!) etc. I suppose the "sitting around" was the "Visiting" thing - and they were on holiday as well! Nowadays in the UK it seems families hardly ever spend time or even eat meals together - the kids are always doing something out of the home or else are in their rooms on their computers etc, whereas in Turkey families tend to live near one another and visit all the time. But I am surprised CounselorLady to read how your husband was expected to do everything - cos even in small towns a lot of women drive, work outside the home etc., and as your relatives are educated and working women I wouldn't have thought they'd be so chauvinistic. In fact in many ways I think Turkish women are the backbones of society - they're the ones you see doing the shopping, and cooking (although I know a lot of Turk men cook very well as well) and the childminding, and the washing, and the working in the gardens and vegetable patches, and looking after the animals and working the fields...

(By the way - the "shake head" thing - I imagined that was you shaking your head - sort of in disbelief at their reactions!)

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12. Re: WAY off the tourist rid-my impressions of Turkey

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the accounts above - and I can't wait to visit Turkey later in the year.

I appreciated the last post I read that pointed out that really "life is what you make it" in a nutshell and where ever we travel, there is the poor and the rich and the pleasant and the not so pleasant and it all depends on our own perspective and upbringing really.

I believe that the whole reason to travel is to experience the way other

people live, the customs, the differences and to rejoice in all these things.

I live in what is described as "the lucky country" - Australia but we also

have water restrictions, and not all people can afford to buy different

appliances, some can't even afford to eat or even have a roof over

their heads. I expect to see this everywhere.

Turkey will be different to my country - that's why I want to travel and see what I haven't seen before!

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13. Re: WAY off the tourist rid-my impressions of Turkey


I was there in England between 2002-2005 so I know tesco had 24 hours service and other local shops stay open till late but it was still not enough for me because I was used to the liveliness of Istanbul 24 hours! :) Also I lived in country side which is much more quiter than London. But you know what now I miss that tranquility and sometimes want to go back and live in a quiet country side in Scotland!


You are welcome here any time. You know we have a very emotional historical connection as well. I dont know whether you have been in Gallipoli but the words of Ataturk there still shakes me when I read :

""Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now living in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace," Ataturk said. "There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours."

Mount Dora, Florida
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14. Re: WAY off the tourist rid-my impressions of Turkey

Dear arzu, What a lovely essay. It really should be printed in some international newspaper. We could all use more patience when dealing with our fellow man, be he a Turkish citizen half way around the world, or our neighboor next door.

Perrysburg, Ohio
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15. Re: WAY off the tourist rid-my impressions of Turkey

Hi all,

The reason I love to travel is because I love to see and experience all of the different cultures that exist in the world today. I find it fascinating to meet with and talk to people who reside somewhere other than the U.S., and I love to chat with them about their views on politics, day to day life and the world in general. While some of the people I met in Turkey didn't speak English, many more spoke enough English for me to be able to converse with them (even if at times we needed to resort to really funning looking gestures.) It may sometimes take a bit of effort, but it is well worth whatever effort is expended.

I don't think one should compare a country one visits to his or her own country, because every country is different. Not better, not worse...just different. That's what makes traveling so fascinating. If we expect the places we visit to be the same as where we live, there is really no point in going anywhere and we might as well just stay home and save our money. I think those of us who travel need to be able to recognize and appreciate that each country has something beautiful and unique to offer its visitors.

I hope those of you traveling to Turkey in the future are able to experience all of the magnificent things that Turkey has to offer and also how exceptionally warm and welcoming the Turks are. Many people who vacation in Turkey return time and time again, which I think is proof positive that it's a great place to visit!

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16. Re: WAY off the tourist rid-my impressions of Turkey

I totally agree with Arzu on this matter. When i moved to the States first, I had a huge cultural shock I hated everything there. After 4 years, when I moved back to Turkey, I had another cultural shock and missed Boston terribly... But now, I love both places... I think, you shouldn't marry to a foreigner, you shouldn't work or live in a foreign country unless you really appreciate the cultural differences.

By the way, because of the global warming, most homes have A/C in Istanbul now. Also dryer, micowave and all other appliances are commonly used in big cities, too.

London, United...
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17. Re: WAY off the tourist rid-my impressions of Turkey

Hi VR, you were talking about life in KayaKoyu:

"Here in the village some people have their fridge and washing machine outside, as for 6 months you basically live outside".

In Gocek there is a house which also has an enormous safe in the garden!! (a big one, about 5 foot tall, with a big wheel thing to open the door!) It always looks like something Butch Cassidy had stolen - but now I realise, it just is to save them from having to go insides to get their money out!

18. Re: WAY off the tourist rid-my impressions of Turkey

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