Before 7 days, it was the time of backpacking for my trip to turkey, and one of what really annoyed me was not being able to collect information (specially, financial) about turkey for the trip planning. I am writing here what happened with me during the trip and what I consider important for those who are going in a journey to turkey.
A to Z:
“ … With knowledge, comes responsibility … “
My first days starts at 10 PM at the gathering point somewhere in Syria, and as usual in any Syrian activity, there were a lot chaos around, however, me and my friend managed to find our bus out from 3 – 4 bus … The destination was Mersin, Turkey.
In the way to the borders there was nothing to see, because it was night, and generally, 3/4 of the way from our departure point to the borders consist of bold mountains and plans of sand and rocks.
When we reached the borders, our biggest nightmares was just beginning. There was a mosque near the gate way, so we was able to do our prayers, also, there was a Free Duty Zone so we could buy a some bottled water for exactly 0.5 $ at that time (There were almost all kinds of CHOCOLATE that I love in the market, but I resisted and spent no money on chocolate at that time). In the Free Duty Zone, you pay with USD, but there are people who would change money for you, if you want.
You can change money to Turkish Lira on your home land, or in Turkey, any how take a lot at the rate in http://www.xe.com/ucc/. As long as you are holding Dollars, it’s enough most of the time.
To explain what I mean by night mare … It’s enough to say that when we arrived at the borders it was before dawn by an hour … when we was released into the Turkish lands, it was like 9 a.m. … On the Syrian side, stamping the passport, doesn’t need the tourists to stay in the bus, but on the Turkish side, we had to stay in the bus ( enjoying the music of the engine sound ).
And off we go …
A clean newly-paved road was there to welcome us. In the time were making the trip, it was a holyday for the Muslims in the Islamic world, and some Turkish people was there with the television staff to welcome the new comers to the Turkish lands. I didn’t step down the bus to participate, because I already know the silly protocols that was going to implement down there, and I was more excited to see the first Turkish city, rather to appear on TV. I am not saying here that Turkish people are silly or any thing, they are very nice.
We were still heading to Mersin, and the path to Mersin was full of “corn” fields, very nice sight. And in no time, we arrive in Mersin. For me, the sight of the buildings alone was so stunning, buildings with nice modern design and variety of colors (Yellow, Red, Blue … no restrictions). We stop near a mall for about 1 hour or so, to wrap up our selves, and have lunch. In the mall, one of the myths was to collapse.
Before I go, and due to the poor information on the internet, and the myths in people minds that are out of date, I was told that a water bottle would cost about 300 Syria Pound (SYP) = 6.5 $ . And because of this myth I had to take a lot of water bottles with me to avoid buying water. Eventually I discovered that water bottles are never more expensive than in Syria, charging less than a dollar for a 1.5L water bottle. Water in the markets is spring water, in Turkish they write (Su) for water (abstract) and (Suyu, pronounced “Suyaeh”) is the water related to something, like “juice”, or “water of the spring”.
The shore of Mersin is very beautiful, and has a very long side walk along the whole shore as I saw from the horizon. Humidity is high and sun was “boiling” us. Like I always say, in the climate of hills, people get roasted, but in the climate of the shore, people get boiled 😉
A street is constructed parallel to the shore, and between the street and the shore lies a garden park where you can escape from the sun rays. On the program, we were to stay one night in Mersin, in a hotel. It was my first time to get a hotel room in Turkey. The hotel was 4 stars as I remember, however, the service was more than enough. TV is available but all channels speaks Turkish, which was a very big problem to us, because Syrians love to watch TV all the time, however, it was funny to watch Turkish speaking channel while understanding nothing and only trying to imitate them while laughing at our selves.
“ one word you may hear a lot would look like [ederum], there is no such word, this is [elerum] that means [I do]”
The hotel was 4 stars, even though, the bath room was very comfortable, the beds are nice and clean with good smell, the electricity sockets are well maintained (220V like in Syria), and best of all … the Wireless Internet Connection, which is secured with a password that can be acquired from the reception, it has a good speed and all the protocols I used were functional. A gift from the hotel was a Nescafe and a tea packet. Believe it or not!! I didn’t know that Nescafe was so black like this!!! hehe.
A water heater is a common equipment inside Turkish hotel rooms. An air conditioner existed but needed maintenance (gas refilling). A balcony was attached to the room which was a very nice place to take photos from. (be careful not to step on the dead cockroach :).
(I forgot to power-on the flash, hehe)
The dinner was extra-delicious as all the Turkish food is. If you have problems with spicy food, you should ask the waiter about the meals in the buffet, because in general, Turks like spicy food.
In general, hotels serves only breakfast and dinner. Dinner is the main meal that have the meat, and it is served at about 8 PM.
At night, some people went to the beach, but me and my friend didn’t, because frankly!! We didn’t know how to get to the beach, and we didn’t try to ask since one of our friends was hiking and went hiking with him. There was a water pool in the hotel, but wasn’t our best choice to join people there because the ultra-indecent women right there! (You may also find naked people on the beaches somewhere in Turkey, but I didn’t see any!)
There was many more places to visit in Mersin, but it wasn’t our destination.
Next morning we backpack and off we go!! Destination now is Cappadocia! in Nevşehir Province.
As we were leaving Mersin, the climate started to change. First we entered the mountainous region where there were newly constructed tunnels in the mountains that saved our and people’s time.
The mountains versants were formatted getting ready to put a metal net and pour cement on the versants and decorate them with stones.
The mountains were very beautiful and full with dense plans of green trees, and when we stopped for a rest we saw strange thing!!
(Şalgam Suyu = Juice of Shalgam) Like carrots but darker, maybe carrot pickles, I don’t know!!.
After the mountainous region, the climate started to convert to desert as approaching toward Cappadocia. Humidity started to lower but not the temperature.
After a long trip, with few green trees that appear on the rocky hills, we reached Cappadocia, and started to see the first signs of the ( City engraved in stone ) …
The photo on the above right, is the castle, you can enter for few pounds, but we didn’t have to pay anything to go in because it was the holydays maybe. Any way, you don’t ought to pay to go in, our guide told us we better not to pay for entrance because what we can see inside we can see from where we were standing, and there aren’t much more beautiful photos that can be taken there. Keep your eye on your group, because you may get lost in the old streets near the castle if you don’t pay attention.
The valley in Cappadocia has more than the engraved houses, it has also the natural phenomena described in Wikipedia as:
“ The rocks of Cappadocia near Göreme eroded into hundreds of spectacular pillars and minaret-like forms “
There are a lot souvenirs to be bought in there but I preferred not to buy anything; one very famous souvenir is the miniature of the Cappadocia castle.
At night, we were staying at a hotel that is far from the town center by about 10 minutes walking … but the path from the hotel to the markets is very sloppy and for old people, it’s better to ask the hotel for a car. In the market, try to negotiate with the sales man, to bring the prices as low as possible, usually you will be able to lower the prices by not showing too much interest in the goods, and trying to go away, then the shop keeper will call you back with lower price. If you don’t have time, just buy the things and go on (Turkey isn’t expensive after all). Most of the time, I found stickers with the price of the stuff all over the shops, but not always.
I stayed only one night in Cappadocia, so there aren’t so much to say about there … but there is a very important thing that the one should take care of which is the “Toilets” … In Turkey, there are squat toilets, and there are also raised-commode ones which is the main type in hotels, but the raised-commode have special thing for those how want to use water for cleaning after (The end of the process :), In Syria, raised commode have a water faucet near it, connected to a water tube which you should take (the end of it) by hand to the appropriate place to clean with the out going water … in Turkish toilets there is no tube, rather, the tube is a copper tube integrated in the toilet and only the nozzle at the end of the tube appears and directed to the bottom of the user (usually not directed properly), by the time I am writing this blog, and after reading the following link, I discovered that I miss understood the equipments, hehe 😉
From now on, we were taking a 13-14 hours trip to Istanbul, one of the most beautiful Mediterranean Pearls. Along the path, the one can see 2 noticeable things. The first one, is the [rain water treatment system], attached with the traffic system; even on the longest highways, the one can see a tunnel running along with the road that drives any drop of water that falls, to a specific gathering location, generally saying, there is no rain drop that falls on the Turkish lands that doesn’t get gathered some where to benefit from. The other clever behavior that the one can notice is the high dependence on Solar-power water heating systems for homes, that is for sure, saving hundreds of thousands and may be millions of dollars for the electrical network.
And as we were approaching Istanbul, we passed a location called Izmit where we had a rain fall, very intensive, but thanks to GOD and then to the rain water treatment system, all the water was drained and driven off the roads with no harms.
Istanbul is a very big city, spanning over an area equal to 1/2 the area of Lebanon, and having about 25 million person. For me, I speak Arabic and English, but for the Turkish people, Arabic was more understandable from English, they are rather poor in English, except in some places (e.g. the reception in the hotel, and the cashier in a big mall …). You can also find some young people in the street that looks like studying in a university, they will speak English very well. The most beautiful places are concentrated in the “Historical peninsula” as they call it, but there is something to say here. The high population and the large area of the city implies some security concerns, the criminal rate is higher than what we would find in Syria, so the guide explained to us how cautious we should be, specially that Syrians has the habit of putting their wallets in their back pockets exposing it to the public.
- Secure all of your stuff while walking in the streets.
- Avoid crowds.
- Have something for protection, since some one with a knife would appear to you, if you are walking in a narrow hidden paths.
- If your wallet have a a lot of money, try to keep most of them in the hotel before you go out, take only what you think you’ll need.
If you are going to move a lot inside the city, I advice you not to use the taxi at all, because simply, fuel is expensive in Turkey, thus, the taxi bills will be high. If you like bicycling I can’t be so useful here, because I don’t know the laws for bicycling inside the city, but to say the truth, I don’t remember that I saw someone bicycling in the city, it’s difficult to do so any how. The best transportation way I found personally is the Metro and the Tramway, you can always find maps of the railways on the internet, and you would also find a copy in the reception office. Entering any line of the network costs you 1.5 TL = 1 USD, changing to another line will cost the same (much cheaper than a taxi of course). There is also a transportation network of buses and ferries, but I didn’t use it so I can’t comment on it.
In the historical places, be sure of what you are doing before taking a photo, because it’s forbidden in some places to take photos, however, if this is applied somewhere, you should see some signs around to tell you this, so search for such sign before you try taking a photo. There are signs for “Free WiFi zones” also, take care of those as well ;).
It’s Preferred NOT to eat from the shops and restaurants in the historical places or near them, because the prices is usually 2 or 3 times the real value. Have lunch in the modern city.
Don’t return to your home country without having [Dondurma] which is a very delicious Turkish ice cream, and the [Döner] with 2 types: beef and chicken. Döner is also famous in Syria as [Shaoorma], but the Turkish “version” is much better.
Beside the historical value, the one can also find a very beautiful nature, specially in the Büyükada island that is about 1.5 hours far from the shores of Istanbul reached by ship. One of the 4 islands called [The Islands of the Princess’]. The sea there doesn’t have high humidity for some unobvious reasons, maybe temperature, but I liked it that way. On the islands there are only 2 ways of transportation which are;
- horse-drawn carriages.
Using vehicles in the island is forbidden, and there are only government vehicles (Emergency, Police … etc). I chose the bicycle ( I didn’t remember how to ride it at first, but in 10 minutes, all memories are refreshed). You can have a map for the road in the island, but you won’t needed it, because it’s enough to follow the line made by the houses “stool” on the road to know the path of the carriages which is the same as the bicycle. Use the map for shortcuts in case you run out of time, because you may not be able to estimate the time correctly if you choose the bicycle, because on the map, the slope of the street is not shown, so some portion is so sloppy upward, and will take time, while others are sloppy downward where you can ride faster.
Eat something with energy before you get on the ship, because you might feel a little bit cold on it.
Back to Syria:
We stayed in Istanbul only for 2 days, but that was never enough for such a city, we left a lot of sites unseen. You would need about 7 days for Istanbul alone. We got back to Syria, were prices went lower and quality did as well. Best wishes on your trip.