"A Turkish Winter Wonderland" Turkey by batgirl1001
Turkey Travel Guide: 24,655 reviews and 70,947 photos
Turkey in winter has many surprises. It can be surprisingly cold in many areas of Turkey and surprisingly warmer than you expect in some others. The weather, like the country of Turkey and its people; can truly surprise you. It's up to the visitor to take in everything that is Turkey and enjoy the scenery as you moves from place to place in the country. That's the magic of the country. You truly do not need to understand Turkey to enjoy what this country has to offer. You just have to experience it for yourself.
Turkey is a huge country, that is bigger than it appears on the world map. It is larger than France, larger than Spain & Portugal combined and if Turkey is consider part of Europe, it is the second largest country after Russia.
Hence travelling around Turkey is a rather huge undertaking in logistics and planning especially if you intend to do it independently. We found Turkey not to be too easy to get around especially if we compare to countries like France, Spain and UKwhere we could rely on a number of efficient public transport methods to get around affodable.
For Turkey, the means for travelling around is either by bus or train with bus being the more affordable and efficient method of public transport. Air flights are still not as cheap as it could be in Turkey but we think that this scenerio will change very soon as more and more budget airlines are shooting up in Turkey. But for now, flying domestically around Turkey usually involves a transfer in Istanbul (mainly) or Ankara and is regarded as rather expensive way to see Turkey.
The bus system is still the best way to see Turkey and because of the long distances between many of Turkey's attractions, it meant long bus journeys for us.
Passing through villages, towns and cities, the buses offer a passing glimpse into the life of the ordinary Turkish folk. We found to our dismay, most Turkish cities and towns to be rather drab and dismal, filled often with modern blockish, dull-coloured houses and low-rise apartments along dusty streets. There were also numerous half-built or empty houses and apartments as well. Turkish towns and cities in general, are nothing to look at. This surprised us because what we saw in Istanbul, we would see in the rest of Turkey. But that is not to be. Traditional houses or ottoman-style houses were not to be.
But there is a distinct difference in the people of Turkey and it is evident in their physical make-up. The Turkish folk runs the gamut from the Caucasian-featured, blond-haired and green-eyed features which were more commonly found in the western regions of Turkey to the olive skin, more Middle-eastern physical appearance prevalent mainly in the eastern regions of Turkey.
That's what we love about Turkey beyond just its helpful and friendly people, it's unique wondrous landscapes and geographical phenomenons, its curious blend of East meets West and it's rather unique position of being Islamic and yet westernised.....is the reason that Turkey and the Turkish people have their charms.....and that is indeed a Turkey Surprise.
Turkey is a diversed country. Size-wise it is about 780,000 sq kms and population-wise, it is nearly 70 million people. Turkey lies on a volatile, geographic area that is prone to earthquakes and seismic activity due to a fault line running through the entire country. However its landscape is very varied and Turkey is blessed with rich, fertile soil and dramatic natural wonders which is the product of such geothermal and seismic activity.
Everywhere we went, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is highly reverred in Turkey. His profile can be seen everywhere, even in small towns and villages, his biographies are in many bookshops around the country and his photo adorns many Turkish houses. Kemal Ataturk is the pop cultural phenomenon of Turkey in much the same way we think of Che Guevera and Mao Zedong as being larger than life. In Turkey, Kemal Ataturk is larger than anyone alive or dead.
Turkish people are proud of their country and surprisingly very patriotic even if they don't always agree with the government's policies all the time. They wear their flaf proudly. We first witness a case of Turkish pride when we saw vehicles after vehicles in Nevsehir, adorned with the Turkish flag, all travelling on the same road.
Thinking it was a soccer match or a local election, we asked our guide who has won. Ugur, our guide in Cappadocia informed us that the entourage was heading to the airport and that the vehicles are escorts accompanying the pilgrims who are going to Mecca for their haj.
We feel that we need to mention that bird flu has now reached Turkey and that there are human fatalities from this disease now in Turkey. Personally we think it is a good idea if tourists and travellers to Turkey take some necessary precautions against this disease rather than an all-out ban in going to Turkey.
First, avoid live and dead, raw poultry altogether. As it is common for people in Turkey especially in villages or towns to live with farm animals, it may be necessary to avoid visiting farms, remote villages and towns where farm animals roam free.
Any method of cooking over 70 degrees celsius will kill the virus H5N1, the lethal strain of bird flu. Hence it is safe to consume poultry and eggs, provided it is properly cooked. Avoid raw or undercooked chicken and soft-boiled eggs. We know how hard it is to avoid chicken and eggs altogether as it is an ingredient available in most Turkish foods. Unless you plan to turn vegan in Turkey, we advise proper eating.
Get a flu vaccine before travelling to Turkey. The flu vaccine will not prevent you from contracting bird flu but it will prevent the bird flu virus from mutating into the common human flu in your body which is easily contagious, should you happen to contract bird flu.
Tamilflu should only be used if you are on the frontline of contracting bird flu or high at risk in contracting it. If not, you are unneccessarily using the vaccine and may cause the disease to develop immunity to Tamilflu and render it useless. It should also be known that some people develop side effects to Tamilflu and it should only be used with doctor's advise.
It is no surprise that bird flu is now present in Turkey and considered an emergency threat. People in Turkey have no knowlegde of bird flu. When we travelled around Turkey, we asked a couple of Turkish people about bird flu and no one has a clue about it or have heard about this disease.
This sorry state of affairs seems to indicate the government's slow response to the disease and the threat it poses. There is a serious lack of information and dissemination of information in Turkey about bird flu and hence as a tourist and traveller it is best you take all the necessary precautions when visiting Turkey. It is unlikely we will encounter bird flu but being prepared and safe rather than sorry is better than being dead or very ill. Certainly it is not the reason why we go on holiday.......
Travelling independently in Turkey is not as easy as we hoped in comparison with many Western European countries, but it is possible, albeit harder, but definitely rewarding.
A better option for travellers is to arrive in Turkey independently and join the local tours to see the attractions. This combination offers a better way to see Turkey since many of the attractions are not easy to reach with public transportation and maximise your short stay in Turkey if your holiday period is limited.
For our efforts, we joined 4 tours: Hassle-Free, a tour of Pamukkale run by Kale/Koray Hotel and a tour of Cappadocia and Nemrut run by Hana Travel.
Of these, we distinctly disliked our tour of Pamukkale with Kale/Koray Hotel who cheated us 3 times over the 2 days we stayed in Pamukkale. We will like to urge travellers to be wary of the brothers who run these establishments as they have no qualms in taking your money and giving you shoddy service in return. If you still wish to stay at these establishments, please never engage their tours. There are numerous and better bonafide tour agencies in Pamukkale that do a far better job than them in showing you the travertines and Hieropolis.
Hana Travel in Cappadocia is fantastic because its Cappadocia tours were great (we really enjoyed ourselves) and Ugur managed to bring us all the way to Nemrut.....no less on December 14, 2005. (See picture).
So all those naysayers who say Nemrut is impossible in winter.....eat your heart out. It was a great sunny and warm-windy day when we climbed to the top of Nemrut. We had the whole place to ourselves and we were told that we were the only visitors around for weeks.
Hassle-Free Travel was another good tour that we enjoyed and we learned so much about Gallipoli and Troy. Most notable is our Troy guide, Mustafa who looks like an English professor and talks like one too, has a good sense of humour and a great delivery style that makes Troy sound interesting and alive in our minds, as well as being a true Troy buff who is clearly excited about his passion.
In Turkey we ventured from Istanbul-Ankara-Goreme-Kahta-Urfa-Goreme-Egirdir-Pamukkale-Selcuk-Canakkale-Istanbul taking over 13 days, a relative short period of time if you consider the distances we had to cover and the shorter days in winter.
We glimpse Southeast Anatolia and it is beautiful in winter and reminded me quite a lot of the beauty of New Zealand. Passing from Kayseri (the easternly city of Cappadocia), we witnessed a rather scenic, sweeping journey of beautiful forests, hills and mountains to grand valleys and cliffs, brooks and sweeping rivers right up to Karanmaras. We didn't know Turkey could be so beautiful in the east and certainly we were quite enjoying the trip.
Everywhere we went in Turkey and even more so in the remote, less populated eastern region, we were objects of curiousity. Specifically because we looked Asians and perhaps because we were not in a group tour, we had a whole lot of attention. We were approached countless times with the question "Japanese?" to which we replied "No, no Singaporean" and in which the questioner would have a quizzical look on his face as if I came from an entire different world if not planet altogether.
The attention and curious stares didn't bother us but it certainly meant that everything we did was observed closely. On occassions, I tried to be on my best behaviour (as if I am representing the people of Singapore)...hehe.
But the best thing we found out about Turkish people is their children. The kids are very, very bold and friendly. They would come right up to us and greet us, friendly and curious and asking lots of questions to practice their English with us. Their pugnacious and friendly banter is really charming and we found ourselves enjoying their presence. Even kids who cannot speak English yet would boldly come right in front of our faces, stare and smile and finally wave in delight. Who doesn't think Turkish kids are cute, huh?
- Pros:Turkey is Full of Suprises
- Cons:Every year, it gets more Expensive
Because Egirdir is situated right beside a lake, you can always get fresh seafood there. We had a sumptous seafood... more travel advice
Traditional Turkish Breakfast was the only thing we had daily that we didn't really enjoy while we travelled through... more travel advice
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