In September 2015, I did a 9-day trip to Turkey with my partner, Sarah, and our friend Laura.
I’m a big fan of vacations to mark life changes and for personal growth. In particular, I subscribe to a concept that I learned from college lecture by the esteemed rapper Chuck D, “If you want to be more open minded, get a passport.”
That’s so true. Turkey checked all my boxes for a great vacation. I saw a great culture and am thinking about new ways to live well, I got a complete and total mental and physical break, I had fun, I learned a lot. I was with great people. Everything about Turkey was great.
Following are some notes about how to have a great trip there for yourself.
- Of the big tourist attractions, we liked Hagia Sophia best. This is the one we took the time to get an audio tour for.
- We did the most touristy/pricey Turkish Bath in-between Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. This was a good choice for first timers — I would have been lost without help from English speakers. As a bath/massage newbie, my verdict was a strong thumbs up. I had a great time.
- The Basilica Cistern was also very awesome.
- I wish we’d eaten on the Asia side every night. Ciya definitely lived up to the recommendations.
- We stayed in an AirBnB near Galata Tower and walked to almost everything.
- Late September is a great time to go. Weather was warm but crowds were starting to dissipate.
We flew to the Turkish coast and rented a car, flying into Dalaman and out of Antalya.
- We stayed in three “beach” hotels, Oledeniz, Pantara, Cirali.
- Oledeniz was a super chill beach town with lots of little restaurants and activities. The ocean there was amazing: warm, calm, blue.
- Pantara felt the least touristy. There were acres of ruins of an old town (home to St. Nicholas, i.e. Santa Claus). Beach there was the least nice.
- Cirali felt like a hidden gem. We loved it. We stayed in bungalows, swam, walked to old ruins, ate dinner on the beach, befriended the owner’s massively cute Anatolian Shepard. Highly recommend Arcadia Hotel on the beach there and just walking over to the ruins of Olympus.
- There was no ISIS, preparations for ISIS, heightened security or any of that. Turkey is a huge country and we were in very touristy areas. There was, however, a shooting in Oregon and two hikers were killed by grifters in the Bay Area. We were probably safer in Turkey.
- Lots of Turkish guys were into pranks and not just on tourists. My favorite: guy on a scooter grabbed back of the scooter in front of him at red light. Light turned green and front scooter guy couldn’t figure out why his scooter wasn’t moving. #classic
- Traffic was chaos. Americans would have been cursing, but Turks just dealt with every obstacle like it was normal. Not fully formed idea: American entitlement triggers anger when that entitlement is threatened, i.e. bicycles vs. car culture. I often leave the country and come back thinking that Americans have a lot of self-inflicted anger.
- I have some anxiety from previous travel that a misunderstanding is not going to work out in my favor. But all of the people who served us went out of their way to make sure we got what we were expecting. It just felt like hospitality was a point of pride.
- I did not pick up any of the language. Even saying thank you gave me fits: teşekkür ederim.