Discover Turkey, Travel

A Travel Agent’s Guide to Planning Your Trip to Turkey

by Mark Lauderdale

They say that ‘third time is a charm.’  My wife and I are preparing for our third trip to Turkey later this year as a land tour, and a fourth in 2022 as a cruise.  Let’s hope we get it right this time!  Actually, my wife always gets it right.  Let me explain first.  My wife taught ancient history throughout her career, so one of her dreams came true with 2 cruises to Turkey with the goal of seeing historical locations.  She was in heaven.  I followed in her footsteps, unaware of any Turkish history, never understanding what the sites meant historically.  Except for the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, I remember almost nothing about those two vacations.  Shame on me for not having done a better job of preparing for past vacations.

Things are different now.  I have become addicted to Turkish TV with English subtitles, and in addition to Istanbul, I have recently discovered several cities I want to visit in the country.  Was I smart?  Did I keep good notes?  Did I save web pages?  Until a month ago when I thought I would compose a helpful blog, I did most of those things poorly.  I have come up with a strategy that, if not perfect, at least is far better method to keep track of my bucket list for our next 2 visits to Turkey, and my plan can become equally helpful as a guide for any place on the planet anybody plans to visit one day. 

Let me tell you what I am doing now, and why I find it is the best method for me:

WORD DOCUMENT CALLED TURKEY

My living document on Turkey

Are you like me?  Do you keep notes and put them aside, and find that you have lost them?  Perhaps some are on index cards and others are magazine articles you have cut out to remember certain locations.  My word document is a constantly growing list broken down to include Istanbul, as well as other cities I want to visit.  I have included a few important web links as well.  Will I get to visit all of these cities during our 2021 land tour followed by our 2022 cruise?  No, of course not, but the information is there in case of a change of itinerary, or for any future visits. 

The list consists mainly of locations to visit.  My list includes the Sirkeci Station from the 19th century with the Orient Express.  You can also see whirling dervishes there.  We want to go to a Turkish bath and I found a few that look promising.  I have found English speaking walking tours of neighborhoods where fewer visitors venture.  The document also includes some foods that I think my wife and I should try (we have prepared many based on recipes we found after seeing them served on Turkish TV programs).  It includes a section on the history of Turkey.  I have left myself a note to determine which museums we want to see, but more important, it will serve as a reminder to go online shortly before the trip to determine which days of the week they are operating. 

Maiden’s Tower restaurant

I have also included some favorite restaurants to discover.  Did you know that the famous Maiden’s Tower in the Bosphorous in Istanbul has an upscale restaurant?  It is currently closed due to covid, but once it reopens my plan is to book dinner reservations there. 

One thing I added to my list was a location used in two Turkish dizis that I watched, one of which was Intersection.  The location is simply a small piece of land going out into the Bosphorous which is pretty much composed entirely of huge blocks of concrete.  I opened Google Maps for Istanbul, enlarged it to actual view, and was able to locate the spot quite easily starting at the Black Sea and working my way down the Bosphorous.   One dream is to actually watch the Zeybek dance, and maybe even take a dance lesson while in Turkey.  It is featured in several dizis at weddings.  I have seen it in The Ambassador’s Daughter, Seref Meselesi, and Black Money Love.  There are dozens of beautiful examples you can find with a search engine.

DESKTOP FOLDER OF PICTURES

This holds important pictures of places I want to visit so that I can visually remember what it is I want to see.  In Istanbul, for example, it includes jpg’s of the scene from Intersection with my cement blocks as well as pictures of the Galata Tower.  Also included are photos of the underground Byzantine cisterns in the heart of Sultanahmet and in Fatih (both free), as well as a photo of Trotsky’s house on Buyak Ada (“big island”) an hour ferry ride away in the Sea of Marmara.

WEB BROWSER BOOKMARK

Do you get lost in the world of bookmarks and bookmark folders you store in your web browser? I made one folder specifically for Turkey (and am doing the same for all countries I plan to visit in the next 5 years).  This is a simple method to find everything quickly.  Be sure to name the individual web pages carefully.  Sometimes pages become unavailable.  Just for example, if you bookmarked a specific page in Anatolya for the Dolmabahce Palace, be sure to include Dolmabahce Palace as part of your bookmark’s name.  If the page disappears, at least you will remember what it is you wanted to see.

TRAVEL GUIDES

For most of our previous travels around the globe we purchased travel guides.  My guide of choice is Eyewitness Travel Guides by DK Publishing.  We own several copies from previous trips around the world, but now we tend to borrow from the local library because it often becomes unnecessary to bring the books on vacation with us.  Remember, a book like this which is often a year or two old is still a great guide to get started.  Do you want to laugh?  The first travel guide I purchased in 1970 was called “Europe on $5 a day.”  Maybe it was $10.  Still a bargain!

A PERSONAL SECRET FROM A WORLD TRAVELER

Finally, one last tip which my wife and I have been using for almost 50 years.  Throughout the year we toss old clothes into a bin in the closet.   This generally includes clothes we no longer like, perhaps a shirt with a trivial stain, or something we would normally toss out.  As much as possible, we take all of these things with us on vacation.  Every day we toss out what we have worn from this collection.  What is the advantage?  We travel abroad with a full suitcase or two, and as we purchase items to bring home, our suitcases slowly but surely have emptied themselves out to make sufficient room for the new purchases due to the extra luggage space due as a result of having tossed aside our clothes.

I hope you have picked up a few suggestions that work for you.  If you care to contact me, please feel free to email me.

Mark Lauderdale

marklauderdalephotography@gmail.com


Article copyright (c) North America TEN & Mark Lauderdale

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