Turkey has been another wonderful surprise with the friendliest
people since Thailand and a mixture of modern Western-style
development and Middle- Eastern history.
||Turkey - the country
Turkey is truly the
bridge between the Middle East and Western Europe. Although mostly
Muslim, it is a secular country where all visitors are welcome and many
viewpoints are tolerated. Merhaba is
the greeting you will normally hear - the "Gooday" of Turkey.
We visited for two years, staying at marinas on the
south coast during the winters and venturing inland by bus and
motor-home when the weather warmed.
We were reminded more than once that 'history' depends
on your viewpoint - signs at several historical sites discussed the
Latin Wars. We finally understood that the event being
described is known in Christian counties as The Crusades -
different views of the same wars.
Read on or pick a spot to explore our trip.
Until the end of the 19th century, Turkey was the
heart of the Ottoman Empire. During WWI it was aligned with
Germany and following the defeat of the Axis Powers, the Allies tried to
carve it up while Greece invaded to claim the western part of the
country. Kemal Mustafa, later to be known as Ataturk who
had led the defeat of Britain, Australia, and New Zealand at Gallipoli
rallied the country, overthrew the Sultans, and defeated the invaders.
Ataturk then went on to introduce the western alphabet
and numbers, a secular government, outlaw the veil in public buildings
and set the country on a path of modernization. Now, 70 years after his
death, Turkey is negotiating for entry into the European Union - a
vastly different path than that followed by its neighbors Iran, Iraq,
largest city in Turkey, this cosmopolitan city of 6 million people is a reminder of
the glory of the Ottoman Empire - with beautiful mosques and palaces.
Straddling the Bosporus, it guards the eastern end of the waterway between the
Black and Mediterranean Seas. Much of it is just a big, sprawling city, but the
heart of the city has cozy cafes, the wonderful Grand Bazaar, the Top Kapi
and Aya Sofia palaces, and of course the Blue Mosque, the prime
mosque in Turkey.
We visited Istanbul several times and enjoyed the
hustle and bustle of this great city at the boundary between Asia
and Europe. On one stay we were guests of the premier
Atakoy Yacht Club and parked our motor-home in a prime spot with
views of the Strait - a privilege costing the locals thousands of $$
the eastern and southern coasts of Turkey the Mediterranean is a beautiful blue
sea with a backdrop
steep mountains, sometimes green and lush but mostly dry and brown. We
cruised along the southern coast from Antalya to Datca over a 2-year period.
Other cruisers ventured further, sailing north along the east coast, sometimes
as far as Istanbul and the Black Sea. This entire coastline has many bays
and protected anchorages and is the best cruising ground we have found in the
Med so far. The towns ashore such as Ephesus, Troy and many others were
settled thousands of years ago and Roman ruins can be seen everywhere.
One anomaly of the coast is that ALL offshore
islands are owned by Greece, remnants of agreements made after WWII.
For the cruiser, this means that one cannot hop from mainland to
island, even though they are only 5 or 10 miles away - they are also
separated by paperwork, bureaucracy, and clearances fees. Some
cruisers choose to ignore the niceties and officials often turn a
blind eye, but that is a little risky.
Inland, much of Turkey is a mountainous plateau with hot
summers and bitterly cold winters punctuated with a few fertile valleys and
green farmland. We saw much of it from our motor-home or one of the
comfortable coaches that crisscross the country. We visited the capital
city of Ankara, very important in recent history, Cappadocia, a
fairy-land of bizarre sandstone formations, Amasya, a beautiful riverside
city with ancient tombs and many places in between. The people were friendly and
most towns were based on agriculture. Farms appeared to be well equipped
and productive. The mountains often were sterile volcanic rubble, suitable
only for scrub or sparse grass.
Turkey appeared to be less prosperous and more conservative than
other parts of the country. Many towns had a large military
presence and a large unemployed population. We spent several
weeks on buses traveling east to the Iranian border along
southeastern Turkey and returning via the northeast. Towns
such as Sanli Urfa seemed very Biblical and Middle Eastern
and then on hilltops we would find Greek statues of Hercules
or drive by a modern hydroelectric project - truly a land of
Turkey has turned out to be one of the major
surprises of our trip so far! The people have been very
friendly, the officials very agreeable, it is easy to bring a yacht
into Turkey for extended periods (5 years) with no hassle or cost,
and the cost of marinas, travel, and living are very reasonable -
what's not to like? And on top of this, you get to experience
a major cultural crossroad with thousands of years of interesting
Check our Journal for May
2005 to relive our trip through Eastern Turkey.