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10 days in turkey

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10 days in turkey

I wanted to thank TA for all the advice and the knowledge that's part of these forums. I had a wonderful time in Turkey and my ten days only whetted my appetite for more. What follows is a brief trip report in my effort to give back. I'm still trying to sort through the hundreds of photos I took but I'll post those links shortly as well.

I flew Delta from NYC's JFK airport. I am beginning to really dislike Delta's terminals 2 &3 at JFK - they're just poorly structured and the security lines are horrendous. But as the ticket itself was paid for with miles, I can't complain too much. The 10-hour flight was fairly smooth and in about 90 minutes following landing at Ataturk, I was on the Metro and on my way to Istanbul. Reading the guidebooks helped, in that I had my two jetons to make the transfer to the tram and take it to the Sultanahmet stop.

I had booked the night at the Orient Hostel on Aykbyk Cad, but in typical fashion I got turned around and took a really long way in getting to the hotel. Of course this long way meant that I actually got to see some sights along the way, i.e. the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya. That, along with the Saturday mid-morning atmosphere, was pretty cool. Unfortunately I didn't appreciate that quite as much as I would have liked without my luggage!

I arrived at my hostel single - one with a small window and a sink but little else - and a little exhausted from the travels, I actually took a nap, so it was pretty late that day when I wandered out. I decided to just wander without the benefits of a map, and wandered along the city walls to the gates onto the grounds of Topkapi palace, then onto the part between the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya. An early dinner was a doner kebap and some ice cream, and then a lot of wandering getting used to the streets around the area and also to find an ATM. Of course the most convenient one, on Divan Yolu, did not work for me.

After dinner I wandered around some more and dragged out my Rick Steves guide and followed the path for his Old Town back streets walk. I ended up at the Blue Mosque right around sunset and it was awesome to hear the call to prayer with the sunset sky. Great photo ops. I also ended up wandering through the Arasta bazaar later that evening - some stores were still open - and browsed through their wares.

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1. Re: 10 days in turkey

Days 2 and 3 were spent in Seljuk. Day 2 started with a 7:!5 Am flight on Atlasjet from IST to Izmir's airport. Thanks to enigma's tip, I was able to get on their free shuttle to Seljuk with no problems. About an hour's ride later, the driver let me and another traveler off across from the Seljuk otogar.

My home for the next two nights was the Australia and New Zealand hostel. It was a short walk but again my map-reading abilities were a little in need of a tune-up. I did make it there, and loved the roof terrace. My plans for that day were to visit Priene, Didyma, and Miletus but there were no tours that day. So... I decided to figure out how dolmuses worked and do it myself. I did make it to Didyma, but it was long ride with two transfers - one at Kusadasi and one at Soke. Getting there was not very difficult, and I ended up having lunch in one of the restaurants across from the site. I was less sure about being able to catch a dolmus back, but only had to wait about 20 minutes before one came back. I spent a little time wandering through the touristy bazaar at Kusadai before getting back to Seljuk.

As I got off the dolmus at the Seljuk otogar, I saw the sign for one going to Sirince, and having read about the town in the hills, decided I had time to make it there as well, and I did. Sirince was a fairly atmospheric hill town, but also overrun with tourists. The dolmus nearly had to fight it's way to it's location through a host of tour buses and tourists alike.

I had fun wandering through the market, and picked up quite the first of many gifts on this trip. I'm usually not a shopper, but there was so much to shop for that interested me that I had fun. But to get away from the tourists, you really do have to go up into the back streets of the town. There, not only will you run into "real people" but also their home-run businesses, kids running in the streets, women doing embroidery, etc. Also lots of peppers drying on racks and grape vines that were plump with grapes. Lots of great photo ops.

I saw sunset on the ride back down on the second to last dolmus run of the day, and rounded out the day with a wander through the streets of Seljuk. That's also when I came across one of the most friendly shop keepers i've met in my travels in Julia, who is proprietress of a shop that has some wonderful jewelry and other souvenirs. We ended up talking for a time - her store is one of the ones open late - and finally returning back to the hostel.

My second day in Selcuk was taken up by the star attraction of Ephesus. I started out early and decided to stretch my legs a little and walk up to the site. This did mean that I was going against most of the tourist flow but that was ok by me. I rented the audio guide and found that it covered most of the information in the lonely planet guide.

The library of celsus is the main attraction, but the site really is well-preserved and there are lots of places to stop off and learn how the society and culture flourished. I was grateful not to be part of a tour so that I could enjoy the ebb and flow of people but also really take in the site without rushing. And seeing the hordes of other tourists go through the main street did emulate a little of what a bustling city may have been like.

By the time I wandered back down and returned the audio guide, I was ready to take the dolmus back to town, along with a few other travelers. After lunch in town - I'd managed to spend four hours at Ephesus - it was time to visit some of Seljuk's sites. I started with getting lost on my way to the hostel, and winding up at Isa Bey Camii... so that's where I started, followed by the Basilica of St. John. I enjoyed the views from the site of the basilica, but was tired from all the walking around. The early evening was spent on the roof terrace at the hostel, which has gorgeous views, downloading and backing up photos and plotting the next leg of my trip.

A stroll through the streets of Selcuk and another stop through Julia's store and I called it a night in Selcuk - the next day was going to be another early day.

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2. Re: 10 days in turkey

Days 4, 5 & 6 were spent in the middle of the country. Day 4 started with an early morning car ride back to Izmir's airport and a sunexpress flight to Kayseri. My hotel - Ufuk Pension at Goreme - had arranged for a shuttle pick-up. I enjoyed the views on the hour-long ride in and was dropped off outside the pension, which is on its way out of town along the road to Goreme open air museum.

I spent a couple of hours walking around town and getting to know the streets, as well as checking out various tourist agencies for tours in the area. After lunch, I headed out of town and decided to start with the Goreme open air museum. I also rented the audio guide here and found it to be pretty useful in its narrations. Some of the restored frescoes are really incredible.

After returning the guide, I decided to follow the directions to walk to rose valley - except that I ended up finding a couple of stray dogs instead who insisted on chasing me back out of their territory. Since I was the only two-legged animal around, I decided to follow their instructions and gave up on trying to follow the map I'd gotten from the town's tourist information office on my own. I was back in town by 5 PM and able to join one of the many walking tours, so made it to rose valley after all, just not all under my own steam.

This tour had been late in picking people up, so it was a little bit of a rush, without time for a lot of stops, in order for us to get to the top to be able to watch the sun set. Definitely worth the walk.

The next day I had decided on a day tour that also went through the Ihlara valley among others. The tour was through HIro tour and pretty horrendous - and I posted something on the Cappadoccia forums earlier. I'll post another review of the travel agency online. I would encourage others on the tour to do the same, as not only did the agency's manager lie to my face about what the tour included, their guide did not do any guiding and when I complained to the Owner, he told me to get out of his office. All in all, it left a bad taste in my mouth, and I'll acknowledge that you get what you pay for. Regardless, I highly encourage travelers not to utilize this travel agency because of their lack of courtesy to travelers. If the Owner had acknowledged the shortcoming of its tour it would have been a completely different matter. He tried to make it all my issue, when I was only one of seven other people in his office complaining about the service. So did the guide, who I ran into later, getting on another tour bus.

Anyhow, on a more positive note, Derinkuyu is pretty cool. Of course, with our group of 30 people it was nearly impossible to properly enjoy it. It should definitely be on the list for visiting, but try to get there earlier. Most of the tours that are offered get to the city mid-morning, so an early morning visit will likely be a less crowded. There were times when I did feel the walls closing in on me - both given the large group that I was part of [not as advertised] but also the other groups that were on our heels.

The Ihlara valley is also gorgeous and very peaceful, once you get away from the groups. I let the larger group get ahead of me - as did a group of four tourists from Romania, and when I put some distance, was totally able to enjoy the sound of the water in the river running beside us, as well as the caves [that we didn't have time to climb up to] along the canyon walls on either side of us.

The "hike" ends at a set of touristy restaurants where we are served our meals. We don't actually get to go into Belisirma village [also not as advertised], but get back on the bus and head to the Selimiye monastery, then a stop at an onyx shop [not advertised] and Pigeon valley, which we get to see from above.

After the argument with Hiro Travel, I really was done and decided to take an earlier than anticipated bus to Konya the next day. For reference, Suha buses had the most number of departures - something like 6 or 8 per day. Their bus was pretty comfortable but doesn't take any bathroom breaks.

The Konya otogar is a little ways out of town. A note to travelers - the only lockers are at the Otogar and there is no place in Konya to stow your luggage. I didn't heed my own advice so I was a little stuck and could not make the most of my time in Konya. I took a dolmus to the Rumi museum and the people at the tourist info office were nice enough to let me leave my bags there for a while. The audio guide for the Rumi Museum also provides a lot of information both on the man and also the times that he lives and the history of sufiism. It is more of a shrine for sufis than it is a museum, and most of the tourists here are "locals".

In addition to this, I also managed to visit a couple of mosques nearby before the tourist office closed at 5 and got my bags. I headed to the location where the Havas bus to the airport departed, and as I was really early for this, passed time at a nearby cafe until it came time for the bus to arrive. Another note for travelers: if Konya is going to be a stopover on your way elsewhere, utilize the lockers at the otogar. The havas shuttle also stops by the otogar [close to where the dolmuses depart] so you can pick it up there to continue on to the airport.

Konya's airport is pretty small so they only allow you to the gate area a few minutes before the flight. The Turkish airlines flight left and landed on time and I was back in Istanbul for my last three days. Since this was a late night arrival, I had scheduled for a transfer to my hotel - Old City Esma Hostel. This location was right on Divan Yolu so very accessible, and I found it much more accessible for the next three days than Aykbyk Cad had been, especially for the things on my agenda for the next three days in Istanbul.

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3. Re: 10 days in turkey

sjk, Thank you very much for such wonderfully detailed report full of very useful tips for future travellers. We made a note of your complaints about Hiro Tours. I sure am glad you took Atlas jet so you could get the free and convenient airport transfer to Selcuk. We also had lots of recommendations for Julia and her store at Selcuk before, so it was nice to see those recommendations confirmed. I suppose the last 3 days report is coming up soon,

enigma...

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4. Re: 10 days in turkey

Great report, can't wait to read the last few days!

Please do make sure you post a review of Hiro, as we already suggested, so it does not just get buried on the Cappadocia forum. You can easily pretty much "copy & paste" your Cappadocia forum post as a review, so it wouldn't be too much effort re-typing it all!

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5. Re: 10 days in turkey

Hope to finish up Istanbul later today ... My best part if the trip by far. And yep, also catching up on various reviews so will be making sure I post the review.

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6. Re: 10 days in turkey

And now for the last days of this trip in Istanbul....

I stayed four nights at the Old City Esma Inn, which has the dubious pleasure of being just a few doors up from the McDonald's on Divan Yolu. I will reluctantly admit that yes I did go to McDonald's but only because it was 1 AM and I was tired and hungry on the night I arrived back in Istanbul, and the guys at the desk did not have any other options for me for more local fare.

A couple of words about the hotel and my room... I had asked for a room away from noise, and boy did I get it... it was decent sized with a single bed and shared toilet/bath across the hall but the one nice-sized window opened onto some sort of shaft. Really weird. But essentially except for the fan there was no outdoor ventilation. The other rooms did have windows, so I would specify. But for 30-euros a night it fit my budget. The other thing to keep in mind is that they do have a roof terrace for breakfast, but there is no other space for you to "hang out" except for your room. So while it's a "hostel", it's more of a hotel feel. The other thing is that the shared baths get pretty busy in the mornings, as there is not a separate bathroom / sink and shower - it's all in one room and there are two of them on the third floor but I'm not sure how many rooms share them. Other than that, the staff was friendly and the location was great for my explorations.

So Day 7 of the trip dawned nice and sunny and at 9:15 AM I was at the doors of the Basilica Cistern. What a cool place. I used the Rick Steves guidebook for information, but really spent the next 1:45 wandering through the hallways and having a blast taking photographs without a tripod. The lighting creates such wonderful lights and shadows and reflections in the water, with the eerie music echoing off the ceiling and domes.... I loved it, as evidenced by the 90 minutes longer I spent here than the average visitor. I did miss my wide angle lens, but the 18-200 mm I had on my D90 with VR did pretty well. I'll let you judge that from the results [to be posted soon]. I somewhat missed my tripod, but I've gotten adept at utilizing natural supports to take longer exposures, and the railings and floor made for great shots. I'm sure the security thought me a little weird, as did some fellow travelers, but I had a couple of other photographers join me so I wasn't the only oddball out!

I finally drew myself away from the mysteries of the cisterns to cross the street and join the throng entering the Aya Sofya. My advantage of early morning over, I resigned myself to spending the next hour jostling for position with the hordes. Turned out, it wasn't so bad overall, and once again I was fortunate to be able to dwell to my heart's content, not being part of the herd of tourists that only get 30-45 minutes to enjoy the mysteries of a 1800-year old structure. Me, I spent something like 4 hours and still was reluctant to leave. I used both Rick Steves' walk and the audio guide to get the highlights. All I have to say is WOW... Really glad I got to see it without the scaffolding. Wow. Since I'm a construction professional, I couldn't help but think that in those days with the technology they had, they built a structure that has survived for hundreds of years, and that my current project is likely not to survive my lifetime.

I would really encourage visitors to Istanbul to take the time to really explore the Aya Sofya and do it without a tour. Having spent several hours here, I had time to wait for tour groups to clear out to admire the mosaics and the architecture, and didn't have to jostle for position. Definitely head upstairs to the various galleries, not just for the mosaics but also for the views across to the domes of the Blue Mosque and out over the Bosphorous, not to mention the feeling of walking up the ramps in the eerie light.

Finally it was hunger pangs, and wanting to get some shopping done in the grand bazaar that drove me out. This was Saturday, and I had a long list of people to get gifts for. Thus fortified with a stop at the hotel, a fresh bottle of water, food in my stomach and fresh SD cards in my camera, I followed Rick Steve's - yes him again! - grand bazaar walk into the heart of the area. I was disappointed to not see the inside of the Nurosmaniya Camii, but it looked like it was undergoing renovation.

I started the walk where the goldsmiths are, and needed to pull my shades back on to couteract the glare. Wow! I was expecting something similar to the bazaars of Cairo or Aswan, and it was similar, just larger, roofed and very busy. There was a nice mingling of locals among the many tourists. I'm not at all sure how walking tours can keep people together in there, and once again was glad I could wander, and get lost, at will. A few times I wandered out of bazaar into neighboring ones that definitely served "real people" not us tourists... not a single "hand made" piece of pottery in sight.

I did manage to get most of my shopping list taken care of between this foray, and shorter one to the spice bazaar a little later. I ended up leaving to follow the walk to the book bazaar and the mosque adjacent to it. I next walked up to the Sulemaniye mosque and spent some time admiring it. By the time I exited, the crowds in the street had dispersed and the stores were all closed, it being after the maghrib [sunset] prayer, and I was pretty much alone on the streets with the trash left over from the day's sales. I decided to continue walking towards Rustem Pasha Camii, although it was a little eerie being the only one on the street. The mosque, though was completely worth the trip. The tile work is awesome, and the location and geometry is also pretty cool.

Finally, wanting to get back to where the other people were, I hurried through the completely vacant streets and ended up at the new mosque and the Eminonu tram stop, which I took back to Sultanahmet and my hotel. Dinner that night was eaten on the rooftop of the hotel, while plotting the following day's adventures and resting my very tired feet!

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7. Re: 10 days in turkey

Day 8 - another beautiful day in Istanbul. Today's agenda: Topkapi Palace, then heading out of Sultanahmet. Also wanted to post a correction to Day 7 - which was a Friday, not Saturday. So yes, I was going to go into one of the most popular attractions on a Saturday of all days. And yes, it was very crowded.

I was there right around 9 AM when the doors first opened, and after getting my ticket then an audio guide, I headed straight for the harem. The audio guide narration is actually pretty good, comparatively speaking. And yes, while the tickets are a little steep, completely worth it. It's a brief look into the personal life of the era, and the architecture and tile work is stunning. Once again, I lingered in this area for at least a couple of hours, taking my time in wading through this history and having a blast with the photography.

I then followed Rick again through the treasury exhibits, the summer places. One of my favorite places - showing my geekiness I'm sure - was the library. I loved both the airiness of the room, and the cushions and floor level inviting you to grab a book and settle in. The best surprise came in the form of a group that showed up around 1:00-ish and performed mehters... Not sure if that is the name of the band or the type of music, but both the costumes and the music was awesome. They performed right outside the gate of felicity, and seeing especially the reactions of the Turkish tourists who understood the language, and the children, was pretty neat to watch. And I loved the rhythm of the music.. Once the band concluded and left, so did I, wanting to finish up my bazaar tour from the day before.

One of the things that I had missed in Konya [yes, I know, big miss], was going to a sufi ceremony. The Istanbul mevelevhane seems to have improved their website a bit, and through the help of the front desk staff at my hotel, I was able to have my name written on the list of reservations. It appears that they meet at different locations depending on the day of the week. The location that I went to was down the road from the Aykbyk Camii. After only getting turned around a couple of times, I was able to walk there relatively quickly and made it in just before the music started.

I'm not sure if this was a ceremony or put on just for tourists, but it was a dark room with a number of chairs [for 50-60 people] with a floor area left open for the dervishes to whirl. The entire thing took about 45 minutes, with a brief introduction, then about 20 minutes of sufi music [instrumental and vocal], followed by about 30 minutes or so of music with the dervishes whirling.

Since my last-minute decision to attend the performance vs. leaving Sultanahmet had somewhat delayed my day's plans, and it was already nearly 9:00 PM, I called this an early evening and headed out in the search for food. This time, I branched out a little and ended up somewhere in Gulhane for a decent adana kabap. I couldn't identify the place, but one of a number of eateries. My one goal was to find a place that didn't have a lot of western-looking tourists inside :).

I trudged home satisfied but tired, and looking forward to yet another day in this wonderful city!

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8. Re: 10 days in turkey

Day 9 - my last full day in Istanbul. Today I was determined to see more of the city than just the sites in Sultanahmet. As the day dawned again with blue skies and sunshine, I had an ambitious agenda.

I started out making my way to Eminonu to try to catch the early ferry to the Golden Horn stop of Ayvansaray, with the intent to walk up to the Chora Church. However, I read the schedule incorrectly. It was Sunday, and the ferry didn't start to run until much later in the day. Hmm.... minor setback but instead I got a cab and was whisked there in about 15 minutes and 12 TL. I spent the next 40 minutes looking around the neighborhood, getting to know the cats and having breakfast in the cafe across from the church until it opened at 9 AM.

The mosaics and frescoes in the church are really fantastic. I didn't get the audio guide but used - yes - Rick's narratives to admire the art. The best view for me was actually seeing the inner part of the church itself for a brief two-minute period without any other tourists, and with the light coming in through the windows.

I actually managed to leave the church in an hour, and followed some of the back streets through the Fener and Balat. Yes, I followed a general recommendation in Rick Steves' walk again, but pretty much followed my nose down a street if I found it interesting. As a result, I did get turned around a few times, but ended up at the Greek Patriarchate as the walk does. There was a baptism ceremony that was being prepared for, so it was neat to see the parents and family gathering. Following that, I ended up getting a snack and tea at a local bakery on my way back to the main street. Since when I needed a taxi there were none to be found - and how ironic that it doesn't matter what city you are in under the circumstances - I started walking back in the direction of the Galata bridge. Thankfully I hadn't gone too much further when a cab nearly mowed me down trying to see if I wanted to get in, but did whisk me to the bridge in a few minutes.

Part two of the day - and my wanderings through Balat and Fener had made me behind schedule - were going to consist of exploring Istiklal Cad and Taksim. i was going to start at Taksim and work my way to Galata tower, but for some reason got Karakoy stop confused with Kabatsh - don't ask me how! - and so ended up reversing my itinerary and walked uphill, starting with Galata.

Galata tower has great views, but the railing is a little rickety and on a Sunday afternoon, it is pretty mobbed with people trying to get a good view. Regardless I completed my circuit and took my pictures then continued to wander to the start of the nostalgic tram and Istiklal.

I felt like I'd traveled to another European city, with the proliferation of stores and the architecture of the street. Perhaps with more time I may have lingered and looked into some of the arcades and shops - many of which were open on Sunday - but on this my last day I found myself ticking off the sights mentioned in the guide book and, after a brief stop for golzeme and a drink, I continued my march up to Taksim. There, I proceeded to find the funicular and pretty much came back down to Eminonu.

Part 3 - crossing to another continent. After reading so many posts about the Asian part of Istanbul, I couldn't not set foot on Asia. So once again I was back at the Eminonu docks and getting on the ferry to Kadikoy. The views from the deck are fantastic, and I relaxed and watched the sea gulls vie for bits of simit, and enjoy the sea air while enjoying the short [!25 minute] cruise to Asia.

Upon landing, I looked for the tram tracks and essentially followed the tram line on foot around Kadikoy. The feel of this part of Istanbul is so different from what I had already seen that I was really glad I made the effort. It probably took me a couple of hours, with a few stops, to follow the tram around. Since it was Sunday, I was a little anxious about missing the last ferry, but I managed to stop off at some of the places that enigma had suggested in his posts for dessert. Instead of dining at Ciya, I got one of their kebab entrees to go, and settled in by the docks to watch the boats come in for a while, then got back on the ferry for a "sunset" cruise back to the docks.

The only thing on my list that I wasn't sure I would be able to accomplish, as it was past 8 when I docked, was a bosphorous cruise. However, today was my day, and as I was getting ready to take the underpass to the tram stop, I heard hawkers calling for people to board their... Bosphorous tour boat! For 10TL, they went for 1.45 and just a bit past the first bridge. Yep, I got on, paid my 10 TL and found a seat at the back of the boat. The boat left around 8"30 once they had filled up some, and it really was the perfect ending to a fantastic day for me. I sat in the back and enjoyed by ciya kebap while watching the palaces, lit up in their nightly glory, go by.

By the time the boat docked, I was feeling the fatigue from the really long day, and wishing I had another week to spend in this city.... unfortunately, however, my time was limited to a few hours :(

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9. Re: 10 days in turkey

Day 10 ... I really wasn't sure that everything I had would actually fit in my bags, as I had really indulged my shopping gene, but thankfully after some re-organization, I was able to get my bags packed the night before.

This morning, I had only a couple of hours before I had to head to the airport for a 12:15 flight back to reality, aka NYC, so I had set an alarm and gotten up early. The thought had been to perhaps get a massage at the Chemberlitas hamami, which was not too far from the hotel. However, as I stepped out on the street bright and early on a Monday morning, and found myself to be one of just a handful of people around, I decided instead to enjoy one last wander around vs. being enclosed. I already knew that I would make an effort to visit this place again, so would have my turn in a hamam some other time.

Of course, first order of business was getting some food, and found a simit sarayi open for simit and tea. I had this sitting on one of the benches outside the courtyard of the blue mosque. One of my best moments of the trip came after I finished breakfast, which was to see the mosque without any of the other mobs of tourists around, definitely making it worth it for me. I wandered inside, and was able to take in the beauty of this in relative silence - except for the vacuum cleaner, of course :)

It was a perfect end to a fantastic visit. Architecture, history, food, geography... .I realized from this quick visit how vast Turkey's treasures are, and that I was barely able to scratch the surface. I hope to come back one day soon to finish what I started on this trip....

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10. Re: 10 days in turkey

Couple of logistical items

I used a couple of guidebooks for planning purposes. I like the Rough Guides setup and the depth of information it provides on the history and architecture so I had the RG Turkey in my bag. As I've already mentioned a few times, I also had the Rick Steves guide for Istanbul. While it's very specific and limited in its scope, I like the scope of the various walks as it gives me a starting point and general guide for starting to explore, instead of trying to thread the sites together on my own. Both were last published in 2010, and most of the information is still relevant but the prices have increased by 15-25% on average. The only other piece of information that I found incorrect was that the Konya tourist office has moved... it's now closer to the Mevlana Museum - behind it.

For Istanbul, I had some copies of the Lonely Planet Turkey, which was issued in 2011 and was updated. I still prefer the RG format, though.

I would consider myself a semi-budget traveler... At this point in my life I've sort of moved past dorm beds and rooms, but still look for a budget-friendly hotel as I'm a solo female traveler. My rooms in Istanbul were all 30-euro/night with shared bath. Those in other parts of Turkey were 30-40 TL/night for a single with bath.

I realized that even in ten days, there are not enough meals to properly do Turkey's cuisine justice :).

I also learned that while early morning and late night flights / trains are great, they are not necessarily budget-friendly as getting to/from the airport can add up.

I had read time and again on this forum that Istanbul requires 3-4 days to do it justice but I was skeptical. To get anything more than just the basics in Sultanahmet, please listen to the experts and allow yourself at least three days! They are telling it to you like it is. Of course I spent more time than recommended at a few sights, but could easily spend another week in Istanbul, wandering the back streets around Sultanahmet, properly exploring the area between Taksim and Galata, spending some more time in other parts of Asian Istanbul, and of course visiting the Princes islands.

Luggage: i have a go-lite convertible backpack/handbag that's sized for an international carry-on. I was able to take it as carry-on on the atlas jet flight as they didn't weigh it. Turkish arilines and sun express both weighed it and it weighed more than their carry-on allowance [my bag was ~ 8kg] so I had to check it, but at no cost. I also had a small day pack and a north face small messenger bag, which i used interchangeably depending on where I was. I realized I could have easily taken a wheeled carry-on on this trip without any issues.

Money: I used ATMs pretty much exclusively and used cash for all my purchases as well. Being in the right frame of mind, I found it fun to bargain at the bazaar for my purchases. The key was a willingness to walk away when my price was not met.

Restaurants: as a solo traveler, I usually find it more comfortable to get take-out from the restaurants than to eat in. I did a combination of both on this trip, and didn't really find myself the object of any undue attention either way. And don't miss out on desserts! Yum!

Solo female travels... No problems. With the one exception of Hiro, I had no issues whatsoever. No undue harassment due to being female or a solo traveler. Of course when necessary the "family" was waiting for me back at the hotel room but generally people were friendly and helpful. The language was more a barrier in terms of being able to have conversation. A couple of words, especially knowing "where is" and "hello" was helpful. A smile and a look of cluelessness go a long way. Only time I felt "creeped out" were when the junkyard dogs were chasing me in Cappadocia, and when I was wandering down deserted market streets behind the spice bazaar after dark with noone else around. In retrospect, these were not my best decisions ;)

Well, that's it for now... have to go sort through 3000+ photos now.

Here's to going back to Turkey soon!

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