Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Oh! Beautiful Turkey

It’s been almost 2 months since we’ve returned from a recent trip to Turkey. And, I have to admit it has topped my list of must-visit places. Finally got a chance to pen my thoughts.

I’ll try my best to share all my experiences here on the blog, especially since it was the 1st time I travelled to an unchartered territory with my baby girl of 20 months. Trust me it wasn’t easy. But despite all that both me and my husband really enjoyed ourselves and from the videos and pics we’ve taken of our daughter, it seems she enjoyed it too (then again who wouldn’t enjoy being seated on a stroller and pushed uphill OR carried in the arms whenever she wanted). Guess you know what I mean. 

For most of the trip, the LonelyPlanet book about Turkey was our actual guide.  So for all those planning a trip to Turkey, grab yourself a copy or borrow it from a friend (like we did). And, don't forget to read it!

As much as people say June-Aug is the high season in Turkey, my take would be that unless you don’t have school going kids (who have vacations during that period only), avoid going there as it gets really hot. Per me the best time to visit Turkey is in May when the temperature is just about 20 degrees, the weather is pleasant and even a stroll in the shiny sun doesn’t hurt.  

We spent a total of 13 nights in Turkey out of which 7 in Istanbul, 2 in Oludeniz, 2 in Koshadasi & 2 in Bergama.

In Istanbul we were entirely on foot and used the trams to get from one place to another. Amongst the most popular places to visit and things to do include:
  • Sultan Ahmet Mosque (next to it is the Arasta Bazaar)
  • Aya Sofya
  • Suleimaniya Mosque
  • Dolmabache Palace
  • Beyzit Mosque
  • Topkappi Palace (must visit for Muslims) 
  • Bosphorous Cruise
  • Grand Bazaar (don’t buy anything from here coz everything is overly priced especially the carpets and kilims)
  • Spice Bazaar
  • Galata Tower (we had give this one a miss coz it meant going wayyyyyy uphill and then climbing 100s of steps...not possible with a toddler in tow)
  • Kora Church
  • Hodja Pasha Cultural Center Dance Show (http://www.hodjapasha.com/) ...a must watch!

From Istanbul , we took a 1 hr flight to Dalaman from where we rented a car (at the airport itself...had booked it online) and drove for approx. 1hr 40 mins to Fethiye Oludeniz. Allow me to share with you that Oludeniz is truly a beach lover’s paradise. It has the most amazing turquoise waters that you simply can’t resist taking a dip in. Check out the pics below to know what the beach looks like.

They have every possible water sport for you to experience. Plus, boat cruises that take you around the closest possible islands (we missed taking the cruise coz I fell sick that day...truly our loss). Perhaps that’s the reason why its major residents are British expats. Such is the impact that even the locals have adopted the British accent and literally every open air restaurant has a bar and a dance floor.  Unlike Istanbul, there are more than just kebabs and doners/durums (shawermas) to eat here. There are options for Italian, Chinese & even Indian cuisine. One of the places we tried was an Italian joint called Toscana Italiano right opposite our hotel. It was the only place that wasn’t noisy or crammed up. Not to mention their food was superb.
Piece of advice: don’t bother shopping here coz the prices for everything are hiked up to unbelievable rates compared to the other places in Turkey.

P.S - If you get a chance make sure to visit The Princess Islands.

Basically there is nothing much to see in Kusadasi except for just strolling along the corniche. It’s more a stopover to go and see Ephesus and Pammukale, though don’t stop yourself from a shopping a bit here, though be ready to bargain. We got some really cools tees, sweatshirts etc from here, and even the beautiful ceramic plates. Most of the proper ceramic shops actually have a factory in the backyard so to say, where they produce everything.

Once again this is a very small city. It’s more popular as a stopover to see Pergamon.
Tip: Great place for the most fantastic deals on carpets and kilms ;)

Shopping in Turkey
It almost impossible not to shop while in Turkey especially when you see every city carrying beautiful bright lamps, hand painted ceramics & tiles, hand woven carpets, rugs and kilims, beautiful cushion covers and ofcourse simply stunning Turkish jewellery. As far as we are concerned, let’s just say we did a fair bit of shopping of almost everything. The only thing missed were the lamps.

Piece of advice: Take your time in browsing around the shops and don’t forget to negotiate/bargain. Trust me you’ll be surprised at what their selling rate is and what they will eventually offer you as final price to buy ;)

IMPORTANT Tip: If you are travelling from Saudi Arabia, even by mistake don’t tell them. They will starting referring you as ‘Sheikh’ and will literally try selling you things at double the price.

When Travelling to Turkey with a toddler:
  • Proper Baby Carrier: Make sure you carry a proper sturdy stroller with you, preferably with a storage basket, and especially a rain cover.
  • Baby/Kiddy Sunglasses: are a must.
  • NO Elevators: In most of the hotels closer to the tourist spots there are NO elevators so be ready to climb stairs.
  • Don’t Worry about Excess Weight on Domestic Flights: Though the domestic flights have a max weight policy, we were lucky that the people at ATLAS JET did not charge us a penny for extra weight. Allow me to mention that our extra baggage weighed 50% extra of what is allowed
  • Always carry extra WATER, crisps, chocolates, candies with you while trotting around Turkey.
  • If renting a car online, make sure to get yourself a baby car seat. Our friends who travelled last year actually took one of their own ones from here. But we simply got the rent-a-car company to provide one.
  • Carry your own GPS – we borrowed one from our friends and my husband had entered all the coordinates for the hotels and places we were going to visit from here which made ALOT of difference while travelling by road. P.S - Make sure to find out where the nearest hospital or clinics are wherever you choose to stay. Trust me it helps. 
Truly hope this post is useful for those travelling to Turkey anytime soon. Least to say, we'll be back in Turkey for more. It's got a lot to offer.  

Turkish Ceramic Crafts

The Hodja Pasha Cultural Dance Show

Stunning Oludeniz Beach

 Theater of Pergamon - Steepest Theatre in the World (that's me there with my girl) 

Sultan Ahmet Mosque

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