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How has Turkey changed since way back when...

Colorado
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How has Turkey changed since way back when...

Way back when, I was a young man, in the seventies, I was in the Air Force, stationed at Inchilik. I was fortunate enough to have reliable transportation and when I could take time away from my duties I traveled as far and wide as I could with an AF friend. I fell in love with the country and people and have always wanted to return with my wife to show her the country. Now I have finally made plans to do this, of course I am much older and things have certainly changed physically for both me and Turkey, but how?

Because of our ages we have signed for a guided tour but we will spend several days on our own in Istanbul before. I should point out that I have never been in Istanbul, just passed through on entering and leaving the country. How is crime in the city, I hear that one must be careful re taxis, but walking around, in the evening? I do recall that everyone back then on base got what we called the TT's or Turkish Trots (or just Trots). Now I read that there are foodie tours in the country. So, do we need to care still about cleanliness, food preparation, the TT's, other illnesses or concerns?

What maps and books do you recommend? I assume I can find and download various PDFs regarding public transportation in Istanbul. Are there any good sites for tourist/travel info, sites with walking tours? I am a photographer and am interested in photographer/blog sites with information on where to go and shoot, photo galleries, etc. Are there day guides we could hire, particularly photographers?

By the way, I frequent Trip Advisor forums for all our trips and this one seems to be one of the best. Not only do I look forward to the trip but to spending more time here too. So, thanks ahead.

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Turkey
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1. Re: How has Turkey changed since way back when...

You'll love it. Istanbul has only changed for the better (IMhO) since my family lived there in the early 70's.

The problem with taxis is that the city was never designed for the automobile (unlike US towns). It is amazingly hilly, the streets can be very narrow, and many are ONE-WAY only. So the driver may APPEAR to be taking you on a wild-goose chase (if so, sit back and enjoy the views - why not?), but more likely, you've stepped into the cab when he's facing the wrong way on the wrong side of the Golden Horn, in rush hour, and he thinks you want to get to your hotel by the quickest route, not the cheapest.

Just make sure the meter is on when you set off. If you're a keen photographer, why not get a shot of him and his vehicle (the licence number is shown in huge letters on the side).

Taxis stationed at major hotels, or called for you by your hotel, will be decent guys. Taxis waiting by the tourist spots may not be such fun.

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The Golden Horn Hotel
The Golden Horn Hotel
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2. Re: How has Turkey changed since way back when...

I'm planning my first trip to Istanbul so I can't help with much what you ask. But I can recommend a map. Others might have a greater experience of other, better maps so see what they say first. But I can suggest the Insight Fleximap.

I use this range for everywhere I travel in the world. It's small enough for your back pocket, has the clearest mapping I've found and is laminated so is rugged enough to be in and out a lot. (Something I'm led to believe might be necessary in Istanbul's rabbit warren of streets.)

What's more, Insight have published an updated version of the Istanbul Fleximap just this week. So you can be sure the information on there is bang up to date.

I'm waiting for mine to come in the post...!

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The Istanbul Hotel
The Istanbul Hotel
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tampa
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3. Re: How has Turkey changed since way back when...

I also was stationed in turkey back in th 1960's. I have had the pleasure of visiting Istanbul twice in the last few years. The changes are enormous. Cleann streets, good food without worries, great people and wonderful memories, go and enjoy and not worry about what is was like then,,

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Mount Dora, Florida
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4. Re: How has Turkey changed since way back when...

Hi NikonBoy, It is always exciting when former Air Force people return to Turkey. My husband was stationed at Karamursel in the 1960's. We lived there for two years, and then we did not return until 2007. Turkey had changed.

We have spent more than 200 days in Turkey since 2007, and every time we land in Istanbul I still have a little shock at the growth I see. Turkey is a modern country with excellent roads. There are millions of modern automobiles. The water is safe to drink (although, just like in most US cities, not particularly tasty, so we drink bottled water). When we lived in Turkey in the '60's we could not eat dairy products or meat. We soaked all of our produce in Clorox before we brought it into our kitchen.

All of this has changed. We love dairy in Turkey, especially the thick yogurt and the yogurt drink Ayran. We love Turkish ice cream. We eat every type of meat and seafood available in the market. I do not eat kokorec, but only because I do not eat intestines not because I am concerned about food safety. We drink freshly squeezed fruit juice from sidewalk stands.

Tummy problems are no more frequent in Turkey than any other country. I have never been ill with a food illness in Turkey, not when we lived there in the '60's and not since we have started returning every year. I think most Turkish restaurants are cleaner than many in the US.

You really do not need a guide. Get a good map and a good guide book. I like DK Eyewitness. Others prefer Rick Steves. Go to turkeytravelplanner for detailed information on specific places. I also like allaboutturkey.com. These web sites have been created by people I know and trust to provide the most accurate information possible.

The public transportation system in Istanbul is modern, efficient and inexpensive. You can study the system in the back of DK Eyewitness and when you reach Istanbul you will know exactly where to do go and what to do.

If you remember any of your Turkish from the days when you traveled around the country you might want to brush up. You will not need it because there is someone on every block who speaks English, but Turkish people love it when you speak a few words.

My husband is also a photographer. He just carries his camera everywhere we go because you never know when a good photo opportunity will happen. He does enjoy taking photos in some specific places. He likes the lines and shadows in Aya Sofya. He likes to take photos of the Blue Mosque from various elevations. He likes the top floor of the Hotel Nena and the terrace of the Blue Hotel. As you move around the city you will discover the shots you want to take. My husband spends lots of time in the Cisterns, where he really enjoys the lines, water, shadow and light. We like to take a ferry back from Kadikoy at sunset. There are thousands of places to take memorable photos.

We did use a day guide one year who had a passion for photography as a personal hobby. I do not think he provided information that my husband could not discover easily for himself. I do not think it is necessary provided you are familiar with your equipment. Flash photography is prohibited in some of the historic buildings. If you use a slow shutter speed in a dark room you may feel the need to use a tripod, but these are often also prohibited. My husband carries a small monopod around his neck for those situations.

There are a couple of unpleasant problems with taxi drivers, but they are easy to prevent, and we can discuss them as your plans develop. I use a taxi almost every day I am in Istanbul. They are efficient and exceptional inexpensive.

You will simply be astounded at the 21st Century Turkey you will discover when you return. From the swift internet connections provided by fibre optics to the fact that every single person in Turkey seems to have at least one cell phone, from the beautiful apartment complexes to the hundreds of high-rise business buildings, from the fast ferries that deliver you swiftly to the shore to the ultra-modern mass transit system, the progress this country has made in forty years is just astonishing.

We are happy to help you organize your plans and answer whatever questions you have. When we returned in 2007 I was much worse than a person who had never visited Turkey. I had a question about every single thing we had experienced in the '60's. This forum, and the patient man who owned our hotel answered well over 100 questions I asked, but when we arrived we were fully prepared, and we did not waste a single minute hunting for anything.

We have tried to convince some of the other people who were in Turkey with my husband to return. All of these men lived on the base and rarely left it with the exception of an occasional trip to Istanbul. I finally concluded that even though most of them were there for 18 to 24 months, they were actually isolated on the base, and they never really appreciated the Turkish hospitality we discovered because we lived off the base and on the local economy. How wonderful that you experienced so much of the country while you were there forty years ago. I know you will love returning.

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Blue Mosque
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Nena Hotel
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Colorado
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5. Re: How has Turkey changed since way back when...

I thank everyone so much for your responses and inputs for our upcoming trip. You have allayed some small fears and made the trip something even more to look forward to. I especially enjoyed updates from those who had been stationed in Turkey and returned. And, yes, "Busy Retired", it seems like most of those who have been stationed in Turkey or on other assignments have rarely left the bases to travel around.

To visit Turkey this coming April was a spur of the moment decision as we have just returned from a month long stay in Japan. The trip offer was too good to turn away from and my wife, who I have been promising to take to Turkey, put her foot down and said that it was this tour on none. I am glad she did and as I read this forum I suspect that this may be just one of several trips to Turkey in the future.

We are arriving before our tour and will spend about three days in Istanbul in the old city. I hope to arrange a "The Secrets of Istanbul walking tour" during that stay but will otherwise walk around on our own.

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6. Re: How has Turkey changed since way back when...

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