Merhaba, nasılsınız? We just got back from a full week in Turkey, plenty to report, as you might have guessed. Different format, I tried to go day by day. Some parts will have a bit more detail, others less. A journal of sorts. As this was written on the go, some things might miss detail, other opinions might have changed on a later day.
Day Zero (Home)
✅ Things we needed to do on the last day at home: book Istanbul hotel, purchase Holafly eSIM, arrange for transfer from the airport in Istanbul. Pack bags. All done. We left booking the hotel in Cappadocia for Turkey. Loaded iPad for the little one. Purchased LP Turkey, epub version. Not perfect on iPhone, but that’s what we have.
🌧 Both our moms sent links to reports on TV, letting us know that Istanbul had worst rain in 50 years.
Day One (Friday/Istanbul)
🚕 Bolt ride, arrived on time. Having a toddler is awesome when the time comes to go through security at the airport. Airplane late. Not much.
🍿 Jerry & Marge Go Large. A five hour flight is barely enough for an hour and a half movie.
✈️ Good flight. Good food. Thanks, Turkish. Airports in Turkey couldn’t care less about the fact that you’re travelling with a child. Same line for everyone except, oddly, a huge one for people in wheelchairs. There were a lot of those.
🚕 Long drive into the city. Crazy fast drivers. Classic hotel. Touristy area. Dinner not cheap. Feels like Morocco meets Algarve. Plenty of light, neons, menus on display, convenience stores, all the stuff we’re used to (and more), coupled with the insistence of the restaurant touts. On the way into the city I got Vietnam vibes. And it’s HUGE. Over 15 million people call it home.
Day Two (Saturday/Istanbul)
🤒 tinyMovieStar still feverish. Waking up late, as we’re still on Lisbon timezone. Three hours is not much, but makes a difference.
⏰ Waking up in Turkey for the first time.
📓 Reading the Lonely Planet guide, and finding stuff like
Hazards: These include Turkey’s notorious road-hog drivers, rotten road edges and, out east, stone-throwing children, wolves and ferocious Kangal dogs.
does make you appreciate the calmer children we have back home, and those cute, non-Kangal, dogs we call pets.
💰 This guide, by the way, in the latest edition, suffers from an incredible lack of accuracy when it comes to prices. Often we’ll find actual price 10 times over what’s stated in the guide. Turkey is a lot more expensive than we thought.
🥐 Breakfast looking at the Blue Mosque on one side of the terrace, and the Bosphorus on the other. People talk about the (very obvious) fact that the city has both a European, and an Asian, side, but it is very cool to have breakfast and think “oh, look, Asia, a whole different continent, is right over there. I might pop over before lunch”. Awesome.
🚬 There are a lot of smokers here. We still smoke heavily back home, but this is almost Asian level smoking. Oh, wait, Asia is right over there, have I told you that?
🔐 Trying to book an hotel with Booking is impossible without a VPN. It does not work in Turkey. Luckily we came prepared.
🚶🏻♂️ Quick walk around the block while the little slept/took her medicine/slept again. People think I look Iranian, must be the new, shorter, beard. We’re in Sultanahmet. It’s nice. Then back to the hotel, movieStar goes for a walk around the block, and I’m in the room, looking out for the little one, still asleep. Repeat. Until 2:30PM, when she finally woke up. With 3 hours of light left in the day. What a hellish day. We managed to do the same but I did in the morning, but took us longer, of course. Five times longer. Touristing with a sick child is not fun, and it’s the second time we’ve done this.
🤯 The Hagia Sophia line is IMPRESSIVE. Hours long, throughout the day.
🛒 Great Bazaar. It’s a bazaar, it’s great. I had to carry tinyMovieStar on my shoulders, so no photos. Just a little back pain. Impressive place, yes. But we’ve seen others that are not that far behind, if at all. Marrakesh came to mind, and that one has motorcycles and donkey carts thrown into the mix.
🍕 Pizza for dinner. Takeaway. Also beer. Strong beer. Had to wait around for the pizza to be prepared, in a very tourist-oriented place, where the staff asks the patrons to join in on the fun, by dancing with them. “No, thanks. No. No, I REALLY mean it”. movieStar then had a brilliant idea, and we ate the pizza on the rooftop, where breakfast is served. It’s empty in the evening, and it was great.
🏪 Convenience stores all over, stocked full. Nice to have around. Also a chance to try local bands of chocolates, and stuff.
😭 Chouriço is gone. I retraced our steps back to the Great Bazaar, in the dark, but he was nowhere to be seen. I don’t think this is a city that returns lost toys, and I dislike it a little now.
📱 Tech-wise: Holafly working as intended, Wise (affiliate link) account too. Contactless is a thing here, so I’m using the iPhone to pay most of the time. I did get local money out of a machine, for smaller purchases, and public transportation.
Day Three (Sunday/Istanbul)
📢 Woke up at 5AM. One and a half hours later I heard the muezzin blasting away for a full ten minutes, from the Blue Mosque. Heard the alarm on the room next door go off a handful of times (what is up with that, people??). Heard the cats fighting outside. Heard someone moving furniture on the room directly upstairs from ours. movieStars? Fast asleep.
🥞 Breakfast, as in the day before, happened in turns. The little one sleeps through it. I’ll go first, movieStar second, and brings up some food for our baby girl. The river is a mighty sight while I’m eating my omelette.
🇯🇵 Throwback to Japan, we got a couple of canned coffee late yesterday, and we had it today.
😅 tinyMovieStar waking up, looking out the window: “We don’t need to go for a walk, we can see everything from here”.
🍭 We went by the Egyptian Bazaar (the spices bazaar), and bought some candy. Before that we had to find a toy store, and find a replacement for the missing toy. Nothing will replace it, of course, and the little one still thinks it will show up, but…
⚓️ We got on a boat to cross the river at the narrowest point (yay), and had a nice lunch at a fish spot right on the pier.
🤪 We then carried the little one up the hill, until we got to Galata Tower, a crazy spot with SO many influencers, and photographers offering their services. Incredible. Silly. We bought a balloon, checked in with a friend, and walked to Beyoğlu to meet her. Hipster town. Lovely place. Plenty of street art.
🍺 We had a quiet(ish) beer, walked a little, found a playground for tinyMovieStar, walked a bit longer, up to a rooftop on a classic restaurant for another beer and sunset. We had dinner at a kebap place outside, where we were the only foreigners. This turned out to be the nicest experience in Istanbul. When we were done we got a taxi, and he took us to our hotel. Did not try to scam us.
Day Four (Monday/Istanbul)
💸 We still needed to book the hotel for Cappadocia, we were traveling the following morning. Booking has been made. We’re still using the same MO: pick an hotel on the apps, and then get in touch directly with them. Most here even have a WhatsApp account, so it couldn’t be easier. We usually get the discount they would give away to the app, so that’s nice.
🤬 The taxi thing. I hate this side of the country.
🥙 After all that, we had lunch. Kebab in a classic, very local, spot. Busy busy, but no foreigners. Yummy.
🕌 Still touristing, walked a bit more, stopped at a hipster cafe with a super tasty cookie, and moved on to the Mosques. Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque. Finally walked in, after walking by a few times. Rushing, as tinyMovieStar is, with her sickness, a tiny pain! The mosques are both gorgeous, but so very different. One very very old, dark, cavernous. The other lighter, happier.
🍗 I would be back in the area later, getting money and food. The little one cannot handle meals at restaurants when she’s feeling so down. I got an Efes Xtra from the convenience store. We ate in the room.
Day Five (Tuesday/Istanbul-Goreme)
🥖 Breakfast in bed, courtesy of tinyMovieStar. She finally felt good enough to have breakfast out of the room, and decided she would have it with mom, while dad could sleep a little longer. She’s sweet.
🥰 She also noticed how everyone in the street seems to love her. A lot of people come up to her and touch her cheeks, while calling her “princess”. At first we were all a bit shook by this, but got used to it and now just smile. “They love me”, she says.
🏎️ Crazy drivers. We have nothing on them, and we’re pretty deranged ourselves. Lunatic level speeding on the roads, whenever the road allows it. It’s either that, or gridlock. Nothing in between.
🗺️ Flying again. Internal flight, Istanbul to Kayseri. “Ladies and gentlemen, and dear children”. On the map, the flight map, just ahead of us, we can see a lot of places we’ve heard about, for not so great reasons: Syria just over there, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Gaza to the side. All very close.
🔊 Rant alert: Turkish people (from Istanbul so far), like the whole country, feel a lot like my own country back in the 80s/80s, before the whole EU thing turned us into a civilized nation. They are, for lack of a better expression, very rough around the edges. Common courtesy is unheard of, and any kind of pleasantry is reserved for the little one. We only get a smile if they see any profit in it.
😍 What a country! The part around Kayseri, and the drive to Goreme, is incredible! At sundown, no less! We shared the van with two other couples (no kids), and tinyMovieStar slept the whole time. The most beautiful landscape so far, and we thought to ourselves: we’re bringing a 3-year old into this lunar landscape, it feels a little like the end of the world. From a documentary set in Iran, or Mongolia,… It feels very cool, distant.
🎿 Goreme is a kitschy Alpine resort town. We checked in, and left to find some food, and supplies for the night. Found them at Fat Boys, and at a convenience shop across the street from it. Also visited the pharmacy. Everything, and thousands of souvenir shops, within walking distance.
Day Six (Wednesday/Goreme)
🥶 Waking up to 1 degree. It’s cold here.
Breakfast at the nice hotel “restaurant”. Super breakfast, tasty, plenty of options, but see no reason to call this a restaurant, since this is the one meal they serve. Also, our room was not cleaned today. I guess we won’t be telling people to pick the Secret Hill when they visit Goreme. Plenty of other options. Room is super nice, but that’s it. You can surely find other options, even closer to the center. All hotels looks very similar here. It’s strange.
🤠 City feels SO odd. Almost empty at the moment, can’t imagine it in peak season. They have a Wild West thing going, with wooden shops and restaurants, making it look like a western movie set at times. A lot of vintage cars, big ones, scattered around, ready for photo opportunities with Instagrammers. Instagram is, in fact, the reason why Goreme has grown this big. Once these influencers started coming, other followed. I can’t shake this feeling, that it’s overgrown, and not very sustainable. Lots of people now depend on them coming.
😅 Walk to Goreme Open Air Museum. It’s a nice walk, around 1K. Harder with a toddler on your shoulders, but the landscape is great all the way there. Once you get there, you realize Lonely Planet is SO wrong when it comes to prices. SOOOOOOOOO wrong about it, on their last guide. It’s impressive. Anyway, around 15€ per person later, we’re in. This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, truly. Worth the visit, and I guess it’s worth the money. When we think about it, we spent almost the same amount on a silly 5 min pony ride for tinyMovieStar. They know how to milk you. The Turkish, not the pony.
🍔 For lunch and dinner, it’s Fat Boys again. All day. We are back in Bagan, food wise. We liked a restaurant on day one, and never tried another one. People are so nice here, and the food is great. We’ve been back, and will come again until it’s time to leave. After almost a week here, it’s awesome to feel they’re not trying to upsell anything. It’s refreshing. As a result, they will get all of our meal money. Maybe others should learn something.
🌅 movieStar went to one of the sunset spots, but it was cloudy. No sunset. I suspected that much, so stayed behind with the little one.
Day Seven (Thursday/Goreme)
🎈 Woke up early to see the hot air balloons.
🚍 Woop Woop Travel is located right in the center of town. That is the reason we picked it for our tour. We walked in because it was sitting next to the cafe, and we soon found out a Portuguese speaking girl was taking care of tourists. She had studied in Portugal. We booked it, and lucky we did. It was Red Tour day. We had the company of a small group (three) of Spaniards, and an almost empty van. The guide was super nice, and spoke pretty good Spanish, so that was ok with us. He appreciated the fact that we could speak the language, and he could skip doing the whole thing in Spanish and English.
🤩 We went through the list of locations, all of them very cool. Two other open air museums that we found even nicer than the one in Goreme, with old churches carved into the rock, and houses as well. We had the museums mostly to ourselves, in the sense that we would be the only ones at times, but still plenty of people in this very low season. Can’t imagine how crazy it gets in the summer.
🥗 Lunch break happened at the nuttiest place of the day. A food emporium, the mega buffet where all the vans and buses stop. When we thought all the roads lead to small towns, we found ourselves in Avanos, home of the tourist traps. Huge buildings dedicated to separate as much money as possible from the growing number of tourist’s wallets. This is the place where you realize there are still quite a few people coming here in the winter. From all over.
🏺 Mandatory stop at a pottery family owned workshop, that turns out to be a bug industrial thing as well. Hate these stops on these tours, and do not make the slightest effort to be anything but grey anymore. tinyMovieStar had a blast, of course. Being the only children she got to try her hand at pottery.
💞 Final stop before we headed back to Göreme: Love Valley. A very rickety, very rundown, way to try to capitalize on the landscape. A few swings, some hearts, the most depressing Instagram spot I’ve ever seen. They even had a 360 rotating camera, overlooking the valley. People just didn’t care. They stepped out of the buses, onto a camel, quick shot, and down again. Quite gloomy. These things look even more depressing in the low season, as the locals are still manning their shops and stalls, but there’s no one around. The tourist/local ratio is off.
🇪🇸 Since the others in the bus came from Spain, when the time came to look at a lot of camels, tinyMovieStar went “La fiesta de los camelos”, so they could understand what was going on.
🇹🇭 Dinner at Fat Boys, where else? Another good meal, and yet another chance for tinyMovieStar to impress, by ordering a soup in English. Also impressed, a Thai couple who then had a huge slice of chocolate cake delivered to our table!
🛏️ Settled the bill at the hotel, and early to bed.
Day Eight (Friday/Goreme-Istanbul-Lisbon)
🌙 Early (very) wake up, coffee on the run, van ride with the little one asleep on my lap. Airport packed, but dawn is finally here. A huge bus full of Chinese tourists (how we missed those, right?), and a severely overpriced BÜFE stall. Only one available in this small airport, so they get to pick their price point.
✈️ Older 737-800, with vintage entertainment system. We get used to nice things very quickly. This one felt like we were flying in the 70s. We had the same plane (not same same, of course) on the flight home. We feel like we were spoiled on the way over, as both flights were on newer aircraft.
💨 We got the “Last Call” up on the board in Istanbul, while we enjoyed our Shake Shack Burger and ice cream, and Slim Chicken tenders. We ran. A lot.
💺 Four flights in a week, always same seats: 10A/B/C. How come?
🍿 Bullet Train!! Haven’t seen this one show up on streaming, and was about to pirate the thing. Took me almost five hours (all flight) to finish. Still like the book better.
And we are back home. It was not an easy one, mostly because sickness kept us busy for more than half the trip. As far as everything else goes, Turkey is an easy destination. Tourism has been big there for a while, and infrastructure is in place to make moving around, finding a place to stay, or eat, an easy affair. If you have deeper pockets, even better.
And that’s the one thing I don’t appreciate, in Turkey, and elsewhere.
I believe the same happens to people who visit our country: workers in the hospitality industry (and what a stupid name that is to start with, as one should exclude de other) are probably the same. People are seen as wallets, and Get That Money is the name of the game. I hate that. There are, of course, lots of nice people in the country, or countries. Most of them do not work in the tourism industry.
Even so, it’s a brilliant destination, and a huge one. We only scratched the surface.