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Turkey is a country with a multiple identity, poised uneasily between East and West though, despite the tourist brochure cliché, it is less a bridge between the two than a battleground, a buffer zone whose various parts have been invaded and settled from every direction since the beginning of recorded history. The country is now keen to be accepted on equal terms by the West: long the only NATO member in the Middle East region and a major recipient of US military aid, it is now also vigorously pursuing EU membership as a means of assuring future prosperity and democracy. But despite Turkish involvement with Europe dating back to the twelfth century, it is by no stretch of the imagination a thoroughly Western nation, and the contradictions and fascinations persist.

Turkey is a vast country France would fit within its boundaries with plenty of room to spare incorporating characteristics of Middle Eastern and Aegean, as well as Balkan and trans-Caucasian, countries. Mosques coexist with Orthodox churches; Roman theatres and temples crumble alongside ancient Hittite cities; and dervish ceremonies or gypsy festivals are as much a part of the social landscape as classical music concerts or delirious sports fans. The one constant in all this and one of the things that makes Turkey such a rewarding place to travel is the Turkish people, whose reputation for friendliness and hospitality is richly deserved; indeed you risk causing offence by refusing to partake of it, and any transaction can be the springboard for further acquaintance. Close to the bigger resorts or tourist attractions, much of this is undoubtedly mercenary, but in most of the country the warmth and generosity is genuine all the more amazing when recent Turkish history has demonstrated that outsiders usually only bring trouble in their wake.

Politically, modern Turkey was a bold experiment, founded on the remaining Anatolian kernel of the Ottoman Empire, once among the worlds largest, and longest-lasting, imperial states. The country arose from defeat after World War I, almost entirely the creation of a single man of demonic energy and vision Kemal Atatürk. The Turkish War of Independence, fought against those victorious Allies intending to pursue imperialistic designs on Ottoman territory, has (with slightly stretched analogy Turkey was never a colony) often been seen as the prototype for all Third World "wars of liberation". It led to an explicitly secular Republic, though one in which almost all of the inhabitants are at least nominally Muslim (predominantly Sunni).

Turkeys heritage as home to the caliphate and numerous dervish orders, plus contemporary Islamist movements, still often deflects its moral compass south and east rather than northwest. Turks, except for a small minority in the southeast, are not Arabs, and loathe being mistaken for them; despite a heavy lacing of Persian and Arabic words, the Turkish language alone, unrelated to any neighbouring one except Azeri, is sufficient to set its speakers apart. The population is, however, in spite of official efforts to enforce uniformity, remarkably heterogeneous ethnically. When the Ottoman Empire imploded early in the twentieth century, large numbers of Muslim Slavs, Kurds, Greeks, Albanians, Crimean Tatars, Azeris, Daghestanlis, Abkhazians and Circassians to name only the most numerous non-Turkic groups streamed into Anatolia, the safest refuge in an age of anti-Ottoman Nationalism. This process has continued in recent years from formerly Soviet or Eastern Bloc territories (including even a few Christian Turks or Gaugaz from Moldavia), so that the diversity of the people endures, constituting one of the surprises of travel in Turkey.

There are equally large disparities in levels of development and income. Istanbul boasts clubs as expensive and exclusive as any in New York or London, while town-centre shops are full of imported luxury goods, yet in the chronically backward eastern interior youll encounter standards and modes of living scarcely changed from a century ago. Following a severe crash in early 2001, the Turkish economy languishes on the ropes and the country is heavily in debt, threatening the modernization process begun during the late nineteenth century. Its make-or-break time for a country aspiring to full EU membership: has Westernization struck deep roots in the culture, or does it extend no further than a mobile-phone- and credit-card-equipped urban élite?

Turkey has been continuously inhabited and fought over for close on ten millennia, as the layer-cake arrangement of many archeological sites and the numerous fortified heights testify. The juxtaposed ancient monuments mirror the bewildering succession of states Hittite, Urartian, Phrygian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Armeno-Georgian that held sway here before the twelfth century. There is also, of course, an overwhelming number of graceful Islamic monuments dating from the eleventh century onwards, as well as magnificent city bazaars, still holding their own despite the encroachments of chain stores and shopping malls. The countrys modern architecture is less pleasing, the consequence both of government policy since 1950 and of returned overseas workers eager to invest their earnings in real estate an ugliness manifest at the coastal resorts, where the beaches are rarely as good as the tourist-board hype. Indeed its inland Turkey Asiatic expanses of mountain, steppe, lake, even cloud forest that may leave a more vivid memory, especially when accented by some crumbling kervansaray, mosque or castle.

Download The Rough Guide to Turkey, 5th Edition epub
ISBN: 1843530716
ISBN13: 978-1843530718
Category: Travel
Subcategory: Asia
Author: Rough Guides
Language: English
Publisher: Rough Guides; 5th edition (July 28, 2003)
Pages: 1136 pages
ePUB size: 1286 kb
FB2 size: 1604 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 164
Other Formats: rtf lrf lrf txt

This was my wife and my second visit to Turkey. We're budget travelers/backpackers. The first time (1 month), we used the Lonely Planet, which wasn't great either. This time (6 weeks) we tried the Rough Guide. What a mistake! Here are some of the problems we had:
- Everything is written as if you have your own car. Lip service is paid to public/alternative forms of transport, but rarely is any useful information given.
- The author(s) must have had their own car, or relied heavily on taxis, because walking even a kilometer seems anathemic: the book frequently suggests that you bargain hard for a taxi if arriving someplace at odd hours, despite the fact that the city center and hotels area kilometer or less away. This pattern is repeated with sites as well: the author's favorite phrase must be: "really only practiable if you have your own transport..." Even a moderately fit person could get to many places that were described this way, even if you only walk 1km/hour.
- Consistent with the above, the author obviously zipped around on a $100+/day budget, because the budget accomidation options are poorly researched, often placed wrong on maps, or absent entirely.
- No sense of the relative merit of sites is given. If you want to wander aimlessly, and, in my opinion, waste your time, this book is fine. However, Turkey is large enough that even with plenty of time one can only hope to cover a fraction of the worthwhile places to visit: hence, we need some indication of the better places to spend our time.
- The overall tone of the book is seems to be geared towards a vacationer who wants to mix a little history with beach and booze. It seemed that the most important thing to note about a town was: where can you find liquor? What's the hip place? I would have liked to see more along the lines of interesting places to eat: for example, "this popular pastanesi is Antakya is visited for its..."
- Lack of a map for towns that many travelers will need to visit. Fortunately, many tourist office will have a town plan, assuming you can catch them during business hours. But no map for Gaziantep?? Give me a break. (The town is a transport hub, and worth visiting anyway for the stunning -- newly unearthed -- mosaics in the museum; far better than the renowned ones in Antakya.)
These are the big problems, the other minor inaccuracies and inconsistencies were so frequent that I became accustomed to them. At least now I know what to expect from Rough Guides!
Sermak Light
As always with the rough guide series, it hits the mark. What you need to know and points in the right direction for adventure.
Global Progression
We travel extensively all over the world and have consistently found the Rough Guide series to be the most in-depth, accurate, an useful. The guide to Turkey is no exception. On our trip last year, we used the Rough Guide to find many exceptional and cheap restaurants, often eating for less than $5 a meal for two. When we did not use the book to locate a place to eat, we were disappointed with overpriced, unimpressive fare. Likewise, the hotel we selected in Instanbul using the Rough Guide was exactly as the book described: well located (half-mile from Aya Sofia), incredible value, friendly staff, free Turkish tea, nice free breakfast, and very friendly staff. Venturing out of Instanbul without a car I think would be difficult, as the book points out. I think that is a fair warning, and the authors of the book should not be criticized for cautioning travelers that public transport outside of the cities is somewhat lacking. Another benefit of the Rough Guide is that it often includes interesting sites a little off the beaten path that other travelers often miss and complete enough descriptions to help you appreciate them.