MAY 28TH 2000 - THE NORTH SHORE NEWS
TALK TURKEY FOR HISTORY AND BARGAINS!
OK so you waited for the cheap fares to take the gang back to their roots in The UK. Your hand shook when the gas pump registered $50 and climbing. Must be a hole in this pint-sized rental car. Pounds for Dollars, how can anyone afford to live in this place? As you leave, teeming suntanned masses surround you at Heathrow and you have nothing but pallor to show for your extravaganza. Remember those cheap return fares to Turkey chalked in the window of the local Travel Agent?
Go wild. Forget taking Aunt Nellie and the kids for Sole Meuniere, they were happy to have you to stay anyway. Save the cash for a week in Turkey where $2 is worth around 1,000,000 Turkish Lire and climbing, and send them a postcard
.In Istambul alone there’s enough to keep a history buff or a serious shopper going for a day or a month. A skyline of Mosques and Minarets from around 2000 years ago surround The Golden Horn where Constantine founded Constantinople as the Capital of the world at the juncture of the Bosphorous and Marmaris seas.
From your hotel in Sultanahmet you can walk to the best spots. Barter for that rug bargain at The Grand Bazaar with over 4000 shops under one ancient roof. Wander through the Harem then gaze in wonder at the jewel encrusted dessert dishes, gold thrones and staggering opulence collected by former Sultans at Topkapi Palace. Visit the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofia where frescoes of the Virgin Mary are a reminder of a Christian past. $2 will buy you a good dinner or a day long cruise on The Bosphorous. The comfortable American run Hotel Empress Zoe cost me US$40 for a room with a view and a marble bathroom. The price negotiated by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org included a buffet breakfast in the private courtyard.
If you can tear yourself away, buses are the answer in Turkey. Convenient, comfortable and cheap with lots of over the top service. Tea, coffee and endless rounds of lemon flavored hand cleanser are offered as you travel through the ever changing countryside of lakes, pine forests and vast plains. For those in a rush there’s a great Airport network as well as an extensive rail system for train buffs.
Before dashing off for that Mediterranean, Aegean or Black Sea suntan you might want to stop in Konya, the center of the Whirling Dervishes, or Selcuk for that day of scrambling over the Roman ruins at Ephesus. How about a night among the cave dwellers of Cappadocia to visit the ancient underground cities and cave churches.
This is a huge country with a mature tourist infrastructure and a European flavor. There are enough ruins to keep the most jaded rock hounds interested for year.s At the Mediterranean resorts of Western Anatolia a bikini and an English pub seem a natural fit beside a Roman harbor. You can still find that deserted beach or that quiet island.
So there you are at an open air bistro in Antalya. It’s late September and your body burns from a day at the beach. You need a light sweater. The bill arrives and there’s still change from ten bucks after you’ve both scoffed a plate of roast lamb and a very passable bottle of red wine. You wander up the quiet alley in Kaleici to your room in the renovated Ottoman pension where breakfast in the courtyard is included in the US$20 price.
A pang of guilt takes over as you write the postcard.
Dear Aunt Nellie, wish you were here, miss you and the kids already ---------------- .
The sadness of the recent earthquakes and the political problems with the Kurds have kept the tourists away in droves, but, it is like saying don’t visit the US because of an earthquake in San Francisco, or Britain because of the IRA. The kindly Turks are pragmatic people and will happily bargain to fill an empty bed in an already reasonably priced hotel. Even the restaurateurs will negotiate to fill a table. Tourism is the mainstay
of this beautiful country and with 120% inflation, their misfortunes are your opportunities.
IF YOU GO
VISAS: Not required for Canadians – so jump the queue at Istambul Airport.
GETTING THERE: BA flies Vancouver/London/Istambul but better to search the internet or British Travel Agents for excursion fares for the London/Istambul portion.
USEFUL GUIDE: Lonely Planet which now covers a wide range of accommodation/restaurants.
SAFETY: Despite occasional Kurdish threats, I saw no problems and was treated with the usual Middle Eastern honesty and helpfulness.