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The Best of Turkey: A Journey by Land and Gulet

Program Number: 18761RJ
Start and End Dates:
5/20/2013 - 6/5/2013; 4/25/2016 - 5/11/2016; 5/2/2016 - 5/18/2016; 5/16/2016 - 6/1/2016; 9/12/2016 - 9/28/2016; 9/19/2016 - 10/5/2016; 10/3/2016 - 10/19/2016; 10/10/2016 - 10/26/2016; 10/24/2016 - 11/9/2016;
Duration: 16 nights
Location: Turkey
Price starting at: $5,295.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 40; 15 Breakfasts, 12 Lunches, 13 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Low Fat; Low Salt    

Experience the mingling of modern and ancient civilizations as you explore the wonders of Turkey. Beginning in Ankara, find expressions of the living heritage of Turkey in its myriad forms. Walk the streets of Istanbul where crusaders and janissaries once marched, and step aboard an exclusively chartered gulet for a four-night voyage along the Mediterranean coast.


• Board a privately chartered gulet and discover the ancient ruins, harbors and coves of the Turquoise Coast.
• Witness a private Sufi and Zikr ritual not open to the public.
• An expert leads you into the Hagia Sophia mosque and you enjoy views of Istanbul from a boat on the Bosphorus.

Activity Particulars

Walk two hours on paved streets, cobblestones. Steep stairs without railings. Hike up to three hours on uneven terrain. Stooping in underground city.

Date Specific Information

4-25-2016, 5-2-2016, 5-16-2016, 9-12-2016, 9-19-2016, 10-3-2016, 10-10-2016, 10-24-2016

Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Ankara, 1 night; coach to Cappadocia, 3 nights; coach to Konya, 1 night; coach to Antalya, 1 night; Turquoise Coast Cruise, 4 nights; coach to Kusadasi (Ephesus), 2 nights; fly to Istanbul, 3 nights; departure.

Overnight flight from U.S.A
1 night
Arrival Ankara
1 night
Coach to Cappadocia
3 nights

Get an introduction to Ancient Civilizations of Turkey with a professor from Bilkent University before immersing yourself in ancient Turkey at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and Mausoleum of Atatürk. Journey to Cappadocia to visit an underground city and the Goreme Open Air Museum. Attend a Whirling Dervish performance at a restored 13th-century caravanserai.

Coach to Konya
1 night
Coach to Antalya
1 night

On your way to Konya, stop at the Sultanhani — the best-preserved and the largest caravanserai in Turkey. Visit the Mausoleum of Rumi, the founder of the Whirling Dervishes, and join in a discussion on Rumi and Sufism with a local Sufi leader. Make your way across the lush Taurus Mountains to Antalya, where you can explore the Roman theater Aspendos and the city of Perge.

Coach to Cayagzi
Embark gulet
4 nights

Visit Myra — the birthplace of St. Nicholas — before embarking on your private Turkish gulet. Sail to Kekova Island and its unique Sunken City, spend a day in Kas, and explore the town of Kalkan on your own. Meet local schoolchildren during an afternoon in Xanthos, and hike to the top of Gemiler Island.

Disembark gulet
Coach to Ephesus
2 nights

Journey to Selcuk and wander through the local market. Discover the ruins of Ephesus and explore the Terrace Houses once owned by wealthy Ephesians. Gain a deeper understanding of the ruins of Ephesus during an excursion to the Museum of Ephesus.

Fly to Istanbul
3 nights

Explore the city of Istanbul on foot, taking in the Blue Mosque, the Underground Cisterns and Topkapi Palace. Stroll along the vibrant and colorful Istiklal Avenue before visiting Hagia Sophia with an expert. Get a new perspective of the city via a private boat ride along the Bosphorus, and view the wares of local merchants and artisans at the Spice and Grand bazaars.


Turkey is bracketed by seas on three sides, which has facilitated its status as a crossroads of different civilizations for tens of thousands of years. It is modernizing rapidly, but its past is everywhere apparent. It is a country where centuries-old mosques and castles blend with modern streets and buildings to create a unique blend of past and present, European and Oriental influences.

Comfortable four- and five-star hotels. Cappadocia: Boutique cave hotel. Gulet: Double and twin cabins, private en suite toilet and shower.
Meals and Lodgings
   Double Tree Hilton Ankara
  Ankara, Turkey 1 night
   Yunak Evleri
  Cappadocia, Turkey 3 nights
   Hilton Garden Inn Konya
  Konya, Turkey 1 night
   Rixos Downtown Antalya
  Antalya, Turkey 1 night
   Exclusively Chartered Gulet (yacht)
  Turquoise Coast Cruise, Turkey 4 nights
   Charisma Hotel
  Ephesus, Sirince, Turkey 2 nights
   Armada Hotel
  Istanbul, Turkey 3 nights
 Double Tree Hilton Ankara
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: Hotel is located on walking distance to the central commercial and business district of Ankara. "Ulus" the old city centre, museums, the popular entertainment district are also within easy reach of the hotel. The hotel is located across the nice view park.
  Contact info: Ziya Gokalp Bulvari No: 58
Ankara,   Turkey
phone: + 4-44 -3829
  Facility amenities: Warm welcome with the signature of DoubleTree Chocolate chip Cookie at Check in Neutrogena Bath Amenities 5 Meeting Room, 1 Ballroom High speed internet access (Wireless Internet) Business Center Spa & Wellness Center Roxanne Restaurant & Bar, Park Restaurant & Lounge, Cafe Del Habanos
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Please contact Baltac Tours. Prices depend on season and availability. For your inquiries please contact with Baltac Tours;

 Yunak Evleri
Type: Boutique Hotel
  Description: The Yunak Evleri is a cave hotel typical of the region, where some caves date from as early as the 6th century AD. The rooms, with a balcony or patio, are carved from the rock, and are tastefully decorated with modern amenities.
  Contact info: Yunak Mahallesi
Cappadocia,  50400 Turkey
phone: +90 384 341-6920
  Room amenities: Non-allergenic beds, direct-dial phone, hair dryer, private bathroom with shower, heat, safety deposit box, CD player, mini-bar, teakettle.
  Facility amenities: Reading room, library, internet connection.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Hilton Garden Inn Konya
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: The Hilton Garden Inn Konya hotel, is a modern business hotel designed in perfect harmony with the folklore and traditions of the Anatolian city of Konya and is located next to the Mevlana Culture Center and within walking distance of a range of shopping and business districts.
  Contact info: Aziziye Mahallesi, Kislaonu Sokak No:4
Konya,  42020 Turkey
phone: +0911 0332 221 60 00
  Room amenities: TV and complimentary wired and wireless internet access.
  Facility amenities: 24 hr Pavilion Pantry Market, Baggage Storage, Bar Area, Coin Laundry, Foreign Currency Exchange, Room Service, Safety Deposit Box.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Rixos Downtown Antalya
Type: Five-Star Hotel
  Contact info: Sakip Sabanci Bulvari
Konyaalti Sahili
Antalya,  07050 Turkey
phone: +90 242 249 49 49
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Exclusively Chartered Gulet (yacht)
Type: Other
  Description: Step aboard an exclusively chartered gulet for a four-night cruise. Constructed of teak and oak, the gulet is a motorized sailing vessel unique to Turkey. A maximum of 18 Road Scholars are accommodated in twin-bedded cabins with private toilet and shower. Observation sundecks fore and aft provide ample room for relaxing underway. Meals aboard are prepared with fresh ingredients and feature typical Turkish cuisine, and are served in both indoor and outdoor dining areas. The gulet has a crew of at least three: captain, cook and deckhand(s). As there is no telephone service aboard the gulet, the telephone number provided, in case of emergency, is the Program Provider's office.
  Contact info: 100/1 Mesrutiyet Cad
Istanbul,  34430 Turkey
phone: +90 532 284-2552
  Room amenities: Comfortable twin cabins with modern, private facilities and hot water.
  Facility amenities: Air conditioning, a variety of water sport equipment, and deck chairs.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Charisma Hotel
Type: Five-Star Hotel
  Contact info: AKYAR MEVKİİ NO:5
Aydin,   Turkey
phone: +0 256 6183266
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Armada Hotel
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: The Armada hotel is centrally located in the old city of Istanbul, on the city's historical peninsula. It is surrounded by the ancient city walls and is within walking distance and has views of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii). Open since 1994, the building was constructed on the site of a series of row houses which were built for the marine soldiers of the famed Ottoman Admiral Hayrettin Pasha (Barbarossa) in the 16th century. The hotel's façade replicates the original structures.
  Contact info: Ahirkapi Cad, 24
Istanbul,  34400 Turkey
phone: +90 212 455 44 55
  Room amenities: 110 rooms, decorated in the Ottoman style with Edirnekari woodwork painting, are a blend of past and present and offer all modern amenities, including air conditioning, central heat, hair dryer, cable TV, direct-dial telephone, Internet and safebox.
  Facility amenities: Restaurants, bars, rooftop terrace, room service and laundry service.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: $175 DBL; $165 SGL. Prices are per room and include VAT and breakfast. Contact the Program Provider for reservations.
  Check out time: 10:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
6 pm. in the hotel on Day 2. You will be staying at Double Tree Hilton Ankara that night.
  End of Program:
After breakfast at 10 AM. You will be staying at Armada Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. A Passport valid a minimum of 6 months after return travel date. Entry visa obtained on arrival in Ankara airport for $20 per person. The enclosed Health and Safety Questionnaire must be completed, faxed or mailed to the Program Provider at least eight weeks prior to program. To reserve the hot-air balloon ride in Cappadocia the preliminary reservation form should be returned to the Program Provider before departure
  Parking availability:
In most of the hotels, parking lot is available.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
  Train or bus availability: Bus will be ready from the first to the last day of the program.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Ankara
  Nearest airport:  Ankara Esenboga International Airport.
  Transportation to site: Shuttles to the city center run every half-hour. Current cost is 10 YTL (approximately 7 USD) per person. From the shuttle bus depot, a taxi to the hotel costs approximately 12 Turkish liras ($8). Taxis are metered and must be paid for in local currency. Alternatively, taxis are available from the airport to the hotel. Fare is around 60 - 70 TL ($45)
  From End of Program
  Location:  Istanbul
  Nearest airport:  Istanbul Ataturk Airport
  Transportation from site: For independent travelers, taxi is the most convenient way to travel to the airport, and costs approximately 40 Turkish Liras (approximately U.S.$25 - 30)
Equipment Requirements: Comfortable walking shoes, hat
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Departure
(Monday, May 20)
 Evening: Overnight flight.

Day 2: Arrival, Welcome and Overview
(Tuesday, May 21)
 Afternoon: Arrival. At the end of the afternoon, program overview and welcome in the hotel.
 Dinner: Welcome dinner in the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Double Tree Hilton Ankara
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 3: Modern Versus Ancient Turkey
(Wednesday, May 22)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: A professor from Bilkent University presents modern Turkey before a guided visit of the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations for a visit that introduces the ancient civilizations of Turkey. Walk to the Mausoleum of Atatürk. The mausoleum's museum provides insight to the history of modern Turkey and the personality of Atatürk.
 Lunch: In a restaurant in the old city.
 Afternoon: Depart to Urgup, in Nevsehir Province - the region referred to as “Cappadocia” - a landscape of spectacular pillar formations.
 Dinner: In the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Yunak Evleri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Through the Countryside in the magical formations of Cappadocia
(Thursday, May 23)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Visit an underground city, an incredible example of man's ability to adapt nature for the basic needs of shelter and survival.
 Lunch: Lunch at a restaurant carved out of the rock
 Afternoon: Free Time
 Dinner: Your choice to explore local fare.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Yunak Evleri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Cappadocia, Miracle of Nature
(Friday, May 24)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Visit Goreme Open Air Museum, a monastic center dating from the early period of Christianity, where the roots of Eastern Monasticism were established. View 1,000-year-old rock-cut churches, decorated with exquisite frescoes.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own
 Afternoon: Free Time
 Dinner: At a local restaurant in Urgup.
 Evening: Attend a Whirling Dervish performance at a restored 13th-century caravanserai, a resting stop along the Silk Road.
Accommodations: Yunak Evleri
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Sufism and the Whirling Dervishes
(Saturday, May 25)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Depart to Konya. En route, visit Sultanhani, the best-preserved caravanserai, an ancient "camel motel" on the Silk Road
 Lunch: At a local restaurant in Konya.
 Afternoon: Visit the Mausoleum of Rumi, the founder of the mystical sect of Whirling Dervishes. In the late afternoon, a discussion on Rumi and Sufism is led by a local Sufi leader.
 Dinner: At the hotel
 Evening: Optional visit to active Sufi dergah, a meeting place for Sufis, and meet and converse with Sufis of Konya.
Accommodations: Hilton Garden Inn Konya
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Aspendos and Perge, two most important cities of Pamphylia
(Sunday, May 26)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Drive across the lush Taurus Mountains to Antalya.
 Lunch: In a restaurant en route.
 Afternoon: Visit Aspendos, the best-preserved Roman theater from the second century and Perge, an important Greek-Roman city in Pamphylia.
 Dinner: At the hotel
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Rixos Downtown Antalya
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Begin Turquoise Coast Cruise
(Monday, May 27)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Depart to Cayagzi. En route, visit Phaselis, a beautiful Greek-Roman city on the Mediterranean.
 Lunch: In a restaurant en route.
 Afternoon: Visit Myra, the birthplace of St. Nicholas. Then, board a Turkish gulet in Cayagzi for the four-night cruise. Cruise to Kekova Island and its unique Sunken City, now 10 feet below the water's surface. Ancient amphoras and other ruins on the sea bottom can be seen as you slowly motor above the ruins of the city by dinghy. On the mainland, hike up through the charming village of Kale (ancient Simena) to its citadel. At its summit, enjoy the sunset views over the bay.
 Dinner: Aboard the gulet.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Exclusively Chartered Gulet (yacht)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Discover Kas
(Tuesday, May 28)
 Breakfast: Aboard the gulet.
 Morning: Cruise to Kas, a small resort town. Free Time to explore the town.
 Lunch: Your choice to explore local fare.
 Afternoon: Free Time
 Dinner: Aboard the gulet.
 Evening: At leisure. Discuss current events with your Study Leader.
Accommodations: Exclusively Chartered Gulet (yacht)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 10: Kalkan, Xanthos and the Educational System
(Wednesday, May 29)
 Breakfast: Aboard the gulet.
 Morning: Cruise to Kalkan. Explore the town independently. Depart for Xanthos.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant during excursion
 Afternoon: Explore Xanthos, the capital city of the Lycian Empire. At a local primary school, learn about the education system of Turkey and attend class with children.
 Dinner: Aboard the gulet.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Exclusively Chartered Gulet (yacht)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Gemiler Island
(Thursday, May 30)
 Breakfast: Aboard the gulet.
 Morning: Cruise to Gemiler Island.
 Lunch: Aboard the gulet.
 Afternoon: Relax aboard the gulet or choose either a hike to the top of the island to explore its ruins, or to Kayakoy, a now-abandoned village used during the "Exchange of Citizens" between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s. There, learn more about the history of the village and talk to some locals from a nearby village that was inhabited by Turks sent from Greece.
 Dinner: Aboard the gulet.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Exclusively Chartered Gulet (yacht)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Travel to Selcuk
(Friday, May 31)
 Breakfast: Aboard the gulet.
 Morning: Cruise to Gocek and disembark the gulet. Travel to Selcuk, near Ephesus.
 Lunch: At a local carpet weaving center
 Afternoon: Hear a lecture on the centuries old craft of hand-made Turkish carpets and silk production at a local carpet center. Opportunity for a hands-on trial of carpet weaving.Visit a local carpet manufacturing center and learn about the art of Turkish carpets. During this in-depth visit with the women weavers, share tea and coffee and learn about their lives, families and work.
 Dinner: Arrive in Kismet Hotel, located in the center of Kusadasi. Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: Enjoy the ambiance of your unique accommodations.
Accommodations: Charisma Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Ephesus, the Jewel of Asia Minor
(Saturday, June 1)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Begin with a lecture on the Graffiti of Ephesus delivered by a British professor of antiquities. Discover the ruins of Ephesus, the jewel of Greek-Roman cities and capital of Asia Minor. Explore the Terrace Houses, once inhabited by the wealthy Ephesians.
 Lunch: In a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Visit the Museum of Ephesus in the town of Selcuk to gain a deeper understanding of the ruins of Ephesus and to see the magnificent artifacts unearthed during the excavations.
 Dinner: Your choice to explore local fare.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Charisma Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 14: Introduction to Istanbul
(Sunday, June 2)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to Izmir Airport to take a morning flight to Istanbul.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant in Istanbul upon arrival.
 Afternoon: Enjoy an orientation tour of the old city, including a visit to the famous Blue Mosque
 Dinner: At the hotel's restaurant
 Evening: On your own
Accommodations: Armada Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 15: Jewels of Istanbul
(Monday, June 3)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: A guided walk in the morning to the Underground Cisterns used for water storage and the Topkapi Palace, seat of the Ottoman sultans for 400 years, see the breathtaking treasury and the intriguing harem.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant in Sultanahmet
 Afternoon: Continue to Taksim Square for a stroll on vibrant and colorful Istiklal Avenue, which demonstrates Turkey's position between the East and the West and the forces that affect it.
 Dinner: On your own to explore the local fare
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Armada Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 16: From the Palace to the Bazaar
(Tuesday, June 4)
 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: Start the day by visiting Hagia Sophia, the most important architectural landmark in the city, dating back to 6th c.AD. Continue to the Church of St. Savior in Chora, to view the finest examples of Byzantine mosaics.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant serving Ottoman food straight from the court of the Sultans.
 Afternoon: Visit the lovely, little-visited Rustem Pasha Mosque, exquisitely decorated with 16thcentury tiles. Stroll the Spice Bazaar that immediately captures visitors with its exotic aromas. Continue to the Grand Bazaar, a maze of 3,000 shops from the 15th century, literally the first shopping mall in history. End the day with a cruise on the Bosphorus, on a privately chartered boat and enjoy the palaces, mansions, yalis, fortresses built along the shores of the Bosphorus.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Armada Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 17: Departure
(Wednesday, June 5)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Departures.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Cappadocia Hot-Air Balloon Ride
This unique type of ballooning is called "contour ballooning." See the fascinating formation of Cappadocia from the air, as skilled pilots steer the balloon to float through the ravines, gorges and valleys, just above the treetops and land formations. The flight follows the contours of the unique landscape of Cappadocia. The flight begins at sunrise and lasts up to 1.5 hours. The cost is approximately €250 and includes round-trip transportation to and from the hotel and a champagne breakfast. A preliminary reservation form is included in the program materials and should be returned to the Program Provider prior to departure, however actual booking and payment is made on-site directly with the balloon operator.
  Istanbul Archaeological Museum
The museum houses artifacts from Turkey spanning 5,000 years of history. The exhibits are from Byzantium, the Ottoman Empire and the many civilizations of Anatolia and ancient Egypt. Nineteenth-century archaeologist Osman Hamdi Bey's finds include the famous fourth-century Alexander sarcophagus discovered at the royal necropolis of Sidon in Lebanon. The Museum of the Ancient Orient contains artifacts from Egypt and Mesopotamia, including a magnificent frieze of a bull from the Ishtar gate in Babylon. Located at: Osman Hamdi Bey Yokusu, Telephone: +90 212 5207740.
  Turquoise Coast Cruise Hikes Ashore
The group leader will offer a hike for those interested to sites that are not accessible by other transportation. These may include ancient sites, a ghost village abandoned 80 years ago, or viewpoints with spectacular scenery. For those who do not wish to hike, other leisure activities on the gulet include relaxing, swimming, sunbathing and reading.
  Town of Kas
Ancient theater of Antiphellos.
A small and quaint resort town.
  Konya Karatay Tile Museum
The Tile Museum in Konya is housed in the Karatay Madrasa, which was built in 1251 as one of the first universities of the Ottoman Empire. The museum was opened in 1955. Constructed of stone and ceramic, the building has tile decoration on the massive dome squinches in turquoise, indigo and black. For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

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Harem - The World Behind the Veil

Author: Alev Lytle Croutier

Description: The author left Turkey at age 18 for the US, returning 15 years later to visit her birthplace and family. Intrigued upon learning that her grandmother had lived in a harem, she interviewed aunts and other family members about their recollections. About that same time (mid 1970’s) the Harem of Topkapi Palace was opened to visitors. With thoughtful research and richly illustrated, Croutier pieces together a realistic description of daily life in the Sultan’s Harem. Her fascinating insights into customs, food and ceremony of the Palace through 450 hundred years, make this an enjoyable read. The addition of family photographs and an amusing chapter about Western misconceptions of the term “harem” sets this work apart from all other books of its kind.

Istanbul: The Imperial City

Author: John Freely

Description: Whether you call it Byzantium, Constantinople, or Istanbul, the “old Turkish hand” John Freely tells the story of each creation and decline up to today’s Istanbul under the Turkish Republic. Spirited and colorful, Freely gives his readers a lively account of the turmoil each incarnation brought. In addition to “page turning history”, Freely gives a complete listing of monuments & museums in the city - he has lived there for decades. This is the one to read on Istanbul if you have a short list of books and limited time to get into its history.

Istanbul: Memories and the City

Author: Orhan Pamuk

Description: Turkish novelist Pamuk (Snow) presents a breathtaking portrait of a city, an elegy for a dead civilization and a meditation on life's complicated intimacies. The author, born in 1952 into a rapidly fading bourgeois family in Istanbul, spins a masterful tale, moving from his fractured extended family, all living in a communal apartment building, out into the city and encompassing the entire Ottoman Empire. Pamuk sees the slow collapse of the once powerful empire hanging like a pall over the city and its citizens. Central to many Istanbul residents' character is the concept of hüzün (melancholy). Istanbul's hüzün, Pamuk writes, "is a way of looking at life that... is ultimately as life affirming as it is negating." His world apparently in permanent decline, Pamuk revels in the darkness and decay manifest around him. He minutely describes horrific accidents on the Bosphorus Strait and his own recurring fantasies of murder and mayhem. Throughout, Pamuk details the breakdown of his family: elders die, his parents fight and grow apart, and he must find his way in the world. This is a powerful, sometimes disturbing literary journey through the soul of a great city told by one of its great writers.

My Name Is Red

Author: Orhan Pamuk

Description: A dead man, a dog, a murderer, a coin, two lovers, and a tree take turns narrating this tale, which is Pamuk's follow-up to the well-reviewed but little read The New Life (1997). Set in sixteenth-century Istanbul, the novel is equal parts mystery, love story, and a philosophical discussion on the nature of art and artistic vision. Two men have been killed: Elegant, a miniaturist engaged (with others) on a book project glorifying the life of the sultan, and Enishte, the man who hired the artists to do the book. During a trip to Venice, Enishte became particularly entranced with the new Italian painting, particularly its use of perspective and figurative art. He urged his employees to adapt the new art form in their illustrations of the grand book they are producing. Black, Enishte's nephew, wants to win the hand of Enishte's daughter, Shekure, which he can only do by solving the murders. This intellectual mystery will appeal to fans of Eco, Pears, and Perez-Reverte.

Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey

Author: Anastasia M. Ashman, Jennifer Eaton Gokmen

Description: As the Western world struggles to comprehend the paradoxes of modern Turkey, Tales from the Expat Harem reveals its most personal nuances. This illuminating anthology provides a window into the country from the perspective of thirty-two expatriates from seven different nations—artists, entrepreneurs, Peace Corps volunteers, archaeologists, missionaries, and others—who established lives in Turkey for work, love, or adventure. Through narrative essays covering the last four decades, these diverse women unveil the mystique of the “Orient,” describe religious conflict, embrace cultural discovery, and maneuver familial traditions, customs, and responsibilities. Poignant, humorous, and transcendent, the essays take readers to weddings and workplaces, down cobbled Byzantine streets, into boisterous bazaars along the Silk Road, and deep into the feminine stronghold of steamy Ottoman bathhouses. The outcome is a stunning collection of voices from women suspended between two homes as they redefine their identities and reshape their world views.

The Bastard of Istanbul

Author: Elif Shafak

Description: In her second novel written in English (The Saint of Incipient Insanities was the first), Turkish novelist Shafak tackles Turkish national identity and the Armenian "question" in her signature style. In a novel that overflows with a kitchen sink's worth of zany characters, women are front and center: Asya Kazanci, an angst-ridden 19-year-old Istanbulite is the bastard of the title; her beautiful, rebellious mother, Zeliha (who intended to have an abortion), has raised Asya among three generations of complicated and colorful female relations (including religious clairvoyant Auntie Banu and bar-brawl widow, Auntie Cevriye). The Kazanci men either die young or take a permanent hike like Mustafa, Zeliha's beloved brother who immigrated to America years ago. Mustafa's Armenian-American stepdaughter, Armanoush, who grew up on her family's stories of the 1915 genocide, shows up in Istanbul looking for her roots and for vindication from her new Turkish family. The Kazanci women lament Armanoush's family's suffering, but have no sense of Turkish responsibility for it; Asya's boho cohorts insist there was no genocide at all. As the debate escalates, Mustafa arrives in Istanbul, and a long-hidden secret connecting the histories of the two families is revealed. Shafak was charged with "public denigration of Turkishness" when the novel was published in Turkey earlier this year (the charges were later dropped). She incorporates a political taboo into an entertaining and insightful ensemble novel, one that posits the universality of family, culture and coincidence.

The Turks Today

Author: Andrew Mango

Description: Istanbul-born, British-based Mango (Atatürk) offers an insightful, sympathetic portrait of recent Turkish history. The first third of the book discusses the growth of the Turkish state after Atatürk's death in 1938, with a fitful spread of democracy, clashes with Greece and the departure of Istanbul's Greek community. Economic and social conflict from 1960 to 1980 was subsequently "contained" by a military-driven constitution and rapprochement with Europe. A battle over the logo of the mayoralty of Ankara, the capital, illustrates the recent negotiations between Islamists and secularists. Istanbul, whose "infrastructure does not match its size," is growing as a regional base. In impoverished, traditionalist eastern Turkey, "the Third World has not been banished," though Mango argues that integration with the state—if not assimilation—is the best hope for the Kurdish minority. Turkey today, Mango suggests, resembles the late modernizing countries of southern Europe in many ways. He sees potential for a fully democratic and secular state, but warns that it takes time to "implant Western institutions in non-Western soil." Though this volume lacks some of the bite and immediacy of a journalist's book like Stephen Kinzer's Crescent and Star, it emerges as a more thorough introduction to a less-known but increasingly vital country.

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