Crossroads of Turkey
Turkey the Magnificient
Crossroads of Turkey is a great trip that I highly recommend. It is well-planned, perfectly organized, a great value for the money. You will visit interesting archeological sites like Troy, Pergamum, Asklepeion, Ephesus, Hierapolis, Aphrodisiac, and Hattusas. You will also visit Gallipoli and remember the half a million young men who died during the battle of the WWI. You will wonder around in the Cappadocia region visiting cave churches, restaurants carved into the tufa, and walk among the magnificent tufa formations. During your 18 days you will stay in beautiful cities like Izmir, Antalya, Ankara, and of course Istanbul with her magic Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Dolmabache Palace, Taksim Square and sail on the Bosporus. You will go back into centuries and walk where the crusaders walked, stop where people mentioned in the Bible and Koran walked, look at artefact owned by biblical figures, and will be amazed. You will also wonder around in Pamukkale bathing in the Travertines and visit ruins and museums.
We traveled in May 14-June 1, 2015. The weather was nice, but a little too hot, and we had only two rainy days. Our group of 29 seasoned travelers formed a good team; there were 8 single members, couples and friends traveling together. Since we returned our mailboxes are full with letters and pictures sent to each other.
Our fantastic Program Director Salih Orgun with his thick moustache, shoulder long curly hair and smiling face was a walking encyclopedia. He has a degree in medieval history and literature, highly educated in the history of the land, knows the related literature well and at the end he gave us a long list of books to read. He treated all of us equally and gave extra attention to anyone who needed. From the very first day he knew and pronounced our name properly and played nice games that we all learned the names well. He pointed one of us as a leader, our suggested that someone really wanted to show the sites to us, a wonderful way to involve all of us. He frequently gave us local sweets or snacks, constantly told us stories about his bellowed country. I have traveled with GCT and OAT several times and all the local guides were great but Salih, who made this trip wonderful, is the number one on my list! Kemal Bey our driver was also very professional and friendly.
The hotels were elegant, comfortable, most of them had swimming pools, beautiful gardens and Wi-Fi connections (on the bus as well). In Istanbul we stayed at the Titanic Hotel very close to the Taksim Square and we can explore the city by walking. Istanbul is not only a magnificent city but very safe, one can wonder around during the day or in the evening enjoying the colorful local people and tourist walking, eating, buying and selling things. The Doubletree by Hilton in Avados was nice and the beds were comfortable, but it was located too far from Goreme the center of Cappadocia. Each hotel provided great buffet breakfast and dinner. Having olives for breakfast was indeed a new experience. The food was plenty and very tasty, it was almost impossible to taste everything. We also learned about Turkish food during our cooking demonstration and since I returned to the USA I have been cooking mostly Turkish dishes and my family and friends like it.
We walked a lot but in a comfortable speed and nobody had any problem. Without walking you cannot really observe the sites or the cities. There were also long bus drives but we watched excellent movies about the Gallipoli battle or the Hittite history. There were plenty of bathroom stops and bottled water. There are opportunities to shop or do independent explorations.
Just a few suggestion:
During the school visit the students prepared a science fair for us. Please bring presents for them, like color pens, some sweet, postcards or English paperback book.
There is a home hosted lunch in a village. For the local people we are the ambassador of the USA. They dress up in their best, cook, bake and welcomed us with home-made wine and bread. They will be very happy if you bring little presents to them: magnets from your town, spices, chocolate or or local soaps. Unfortunately the language barrier makes difficult to communicate.
Learn a little Turkish! After I reserved my trip, I used Mango Language Turkish program through my local library. People really appreciated my effort.
Do not miss cimit the local bagel, Ayran the slightly salted yogurt drink with Gosleme the local pancake and Rake the anise drink. Try Turkish bath, take a boat ride on the Mediterranean Sea near Antalya. But most importantly have a great time.
✔ Yes, I recommend this trip.