Turkey is such a huge, highly diverse place of very different landscapes, cultures and people that a review of the country as a whole can hardly do it justice. As this was my fifth time in Turkey and Maria was there the second time, we hopefully developed quite a good feeling of Turkey as a travel destination.
Scenery: 9 out of 10
Turkey feels like a whole continent in the compact size of a country. You come in from the west over the hills of Thrace, wedged between the Black Sea north and the Marmara Sea south towards the pulsating heart of the country: Istanbul. The Black Sea stretches towards the east, framed by dramatic, green and partly forested mountain ranges. Southwards, Mediterranean Turkey is full of history and natural beauty, which gives Europeans best memories of Italy or Greece. The vast steppes, plains, rolling hills, mountains and rock formations of central Anatolia form the massive body of the nation. South of the majestic Taurus mountains in the east, the half desert territory borders with Iraq and Syria, while further north around massive Lake Van the wilderness of barely accessible mountain peaks forms the border with Iran, Armenia and Georgia.
There will be not many countries in the world offering such a grand variety – consequently, the high rating. It surely helps, that many of the settlements, be it cities or villages have a beautiful flair and fit in the landscapes. Naturally, not all can be gold – Turkey’s big issues are doubtless the pollution, for example in form of plastic along the roads nearly everywhere and the destruction of nature for the sake of rapid development.
People: 9 out of 10
The inhabitants of Turkey carry an age old, proud reputation of hospitality inside themselves. And they don’t fail of showing it to travelers, like they did for thousand of years. We couldn’t count the invitations to Chai on some days, we got invited to whole meals, fruits, snacks and even stays in houses without even trying to look needy. Turks are incredibly social humans and it is fantastic joining a bunch of old man in the crowded tea houses. While it might not be everybody’s feeling, we enjoyed the energy, warmth and closeness you can quickly have with former strangers. And even just watching people interact can be absolutely entertaining, seeing how loud, hectically and wildly gesticulating a bunch of Turks discusses some plain issue.
The other reputation Turkey has, especially among hitchhikers, is a rather negative one. And yes, this great army of amazing people has a solid number of deserters in its middle. It can be the truck driver, who sees no issue in groping foreign females, it might be the odd Kurdish boy full of frustration, throwing a stone after you or it might be just random people whose national pride beats out any idea of humanity, resulting in weird and dangerous political attitudes. Furthermore, it is very surprising how a country with a rather developed education system can produce so many people of all ages with really zero English knowledge – rather practice your Turkish to build bridges.
But still, the great number of people will be the best companions a traveler could wish for!
Food: 10 out of 10
We thought forth and back – but in terms of food we could find no big enough draw to refuse the highscore! Where to start? The whole diversity of country and culture reflects in the cuisine. And it surely helps that Turks just love to eat! Feel Arabic flavors here, Mediterranean and Balkan tastes there, a hint of Caucasus as well as a good chunk of Persia. The variety of dishes from big to small is amazing! While the full dishes are surely great, what pleases hungry travelers a lot is the quality of the snacks. Lahmacun or Pide can hardly be called fast food, most dishes are served with lots of fresh ingredients, green salad, herbs and lemons. If you still have room go for the incredible range of sweets or pastries! But even a very simple meal in a tea house involving Chai and Simit can be great. Besides the Chai that is everywhere, there are tasty drinkable things like Sahleb, juices and unlike in many other Muslim countries, even good beer and the old Raki can be found in most places. Honestly, it would be worth to visit Turkey just for the food! If you want to find something to complain, it would be that traveling as a vegetarian could be tough. Refusing to eat meat or fish means many dishes will not work out for you, as meat is a mainstay.
Prices: 6 out of 10
Alright, there must be a downside to all of this. One could surely be found in the steadily rising prices. Economically Turkey made big strides, standard of living increases, but consequently the prices in many places – especially in the bigger western Turkish cities and definitely in touristy areas. Of those, there are many – as Turkey is far from an off the beaten track destination. While you still can travel for very cheap, it would mean staying mostly away from traditional meals and sticking to the (great) snacks and smaller dishes. Accommodation can easily have European prices in some places and if the area is not touristy, hostel are rare – you rather find pretty grubby, cheap hotels of low value. Also transportation prices seem to increase. The buses are not as super cheap anymore, not a surprise considering the crazy price of petrol – fortunately the trains still mostly are. And it shall not be forgotten how incredible great hitchhiking works in Turkey!
Compared to many European countries Turkey still offers great value for the money, but slowly and steadily moves away from a shoestring price destination.
Overall: 9 out of 10
Turkey definitely set a high measuring stick for everything yet to come. Even though it was a difficult season to travel as winter was calling, we are glad that Turkey is so close to Europe, has an easy Visa policy and surely shall be visited again. And again. And gladly another time. We could even imagine of spending some longer time at some point in our lives in Turkey. It is just important to travel away from the touristy peak season and / or away from the touristy areas. We absolutely hope that this whole area stabilizes politically again, not just for the travelers, but even more so for the locals sake! And hopefully, hopefully many Turkish people will develop a pride for their land and not just for their nation…and start protecting the beautiful landscape.
Click here to see more pictures of beautiful Turkey.