Turkey - Beyond the Black Sea
Turkey - Beyond the Black Sea
Most nationalities, including the UK, US and EU nationalities, require a visa to enter Turkey but this will be granted on arrival. Regulations can and do change and so we recommend that you check with your nearest embassy or consulate for the most up to date information.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, valid for at least six months after the date of return to the UK. We strongly advise that your passport contains a minimum of two blank pages, as this may be a requirement of the local immigration authorities. In addition certain countries will stipulate that the two blank pages are opposite each other. If you are unable to meet these requirements you may be refused boarding by your airline or denied entry by the immigration authorities.
For specific information about the requirements for your destination please check with the country’s embassy or consulate. Alternatively UK citizens can visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
No departure tax currently applies when leaving Turkey by air.
Health and Immunisations
We strongly recommend that you contact your doctor’s surgery or a specialist travel clinic for up-to-date information, advice and the necessary vaccinations. For a visit of less than one month, almost certainly you will be advised to have immunisations against the following: Diphtheria and Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Meningitis.
What should my travel insurance policy cover?
- medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad
- 24 hour emergency service and assistance
- personal liability cover in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property
- lost and stolen possessions cover
- cancellation and curtailment (cutting short your trip) cover
- Extra cover for activities that are commonly excluded from standard policies, such as certain sports
The policy should cover the whole time that you are away.
Your policy may also have:
- personal accident cover
- legal expenses cover
Common travel insurance policy exclusions
Always check the conditions and exclusions of your policy:
- most policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents
You must take reasonable care of your possessions or your policy will not cover you.
The currency in Turkey is the Turkish lira (YTL). For current exchange rates visit www.xe.com.
Where currency can be exchanged
It’s relatively easy to exchange money in Turkey’s larger towns and cities – either at banks or moneychangers. However once you get away from the main centres in Eastern
Turkey it can become more difficult, so we recommend that you change enough money in major towns to last you through until you reach the next one. ATM machines are usually widely available. It’s best to bring foreign currency in Euros.
Credit cards and travellers cheques
Changing travellers’ cheques can be a long process and they are becoming more and more difficult to change in Turkey. Credit cards are fairly widely accepted. .
Best time to go
The best time to visit Eastern Turkey is throughout its summer months – from April to October. Outside of these months it can get quite cold, with heavy snowfall in some areas.
The official language of Turkey is Turkish. You will find that many people have a good grasp of English, although the further away from larger towns you go, the less likely this is to be the case.
Turkey is predominantly Moslem, with around 5% of the population being comprised of Christians and Jews.
Food and drink
Turkey’s food is well renowned and with good reason. Kebabs, spicy sausages and kofte are supplemented with a wide selection of vegetables such as aubergines, beans, courgettes and onions, often presented in mezze style with a choice of small dishes to eat from. Cheeses are a popular ingredient or addition to a meal, and a favoured dish is pide – a type of pizza. Stuffed vine leaves also make an appearance, as do the many varieties of dips, which are great with bread. As you’d expect, Turkey’s food is Mediterranean in style, with a good selection of salads, and is both tasty and healthy.
If you have any special dietary requirements you must notify us at the time of booking. While we will make every effort to cater for you, we cannot guarantee that this will be possible.
As a rough guide, a simple meal will cost around $5-10, while something more elaborate will cost $15-30 or more depending on where you eat.
Our tours in Turkey use air-conditioned minibuses which although not luxurious are perfectly comfortable. We also take a domestic flight from Antakya to Ankara.
Travelling in the destinations that we visit requires a good deal of understanding that often standards simply won’t be as they are at home. While we aim to make your trip as comfortable as possible, please be aware that we are often visiting remote or less developed regions that may have little infrastructure. While we aim to make your trip run as smoothly as possible there may be times when we need to ask for your patience while we rectify any problems.
What to take with you
First Aid Kit
The first thing on your list should be a first aid kit. Whilst there is no undue cause for alarm, travellers are best advised to travel well-prepared: adequately immunized, with sufficient supplies of prescription drugs, along with a medical kit.
When it comes to clothing it is usually recommended that lighter clothes are worn through the day, and warmer ones at night – in some areas of Eastern Turkey it can get quite cool in the mountains. A hat is also advised to be worn through the day to protect from the sun. You should make sure that you bring a waterproof jacket for any rainy days.
Footwear is a main priority on this tour. Comfortable walking shoes/boots are recommended.
Your luggage should not exceed 20kgs (44lbs). One large suitcase/rucksack, and one small hand luggage rucksack is acceptable.
Suncream/sunblock is a must. Insect repellent, including a bite spray will also be useful to have.
You will not need to bring a sleeping bag as bedding will be provided at the homestay. However we do recommend that you bring a towel.
This tour does not require any special degree of fitness but you will find it more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit.
Cultural and environmental guidelines
Women should not enter mosques unless specifically told they can do so and you should always refer to your guide regarding dress code and behaviour in and near religious sites.
You may come across beggars while on tour in Turkey. Every traveller has different perspectives on this and ultimately the choice is up to you. Many sources recommend that you watch to see if local people give, and then follow their lead with genuine beggars. We do not recommend giving money, sweets, pens etc to children as this can encourage a begging mentality and can lead to children choosing to beg rather than go to school.
Haggling is a way of life in Turkey when making many purchases, especially with tourist souvenirs. Usually, but not always, the vendor will start with a price that is higher than they are prepared to accept, and the buyer is expected to haggle. There are no hard and fast rules with this – some vendors may initially quote a vastly overinflated price, others may start with a price close to the true value, while others may just present you with one price and not be prepared to discuss it. Although many tourists may feel uncomfortable with this, it’s important to remember that this is best entered into in a relaxed manner. Once you have agreed upon a price, it is extremely bad form to then not pay this. Please also bear in mind that a small amount of money to you can be a relatively large amount for the vendor, and that it is not necessarily best practice to ‘beat the vendor down’ to the lowest possible price. Remember that they also have a living to make.
Please make sure that you take any rubbish back to the hotels or camps with you where it can be properly disposed of – this includes cigarette butts as well.
Please do not buy any products made from endangered species – this is not sustainable and hastens the species’ decline
You should always ask permission before taking anyone's photograph and respect their decision if they say no. In more remote areas women and older people often do not want to be photographed. Some people may also ask for some money – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot - in return for a photo. Taking photos of military installations, state buildings, and airports can lead to problems with local authorities. If you are unsure about whether it is acceptable to take a photo, please ask your tour leader or guide.
Tipping is common practise in Turkey. If your local guide has been helpful then you could think about tipping. This amount can obviously be left to you. When tipping a driver, a guide or hotel staff a few dollars will always be gratefully received.
Foreign Office Advice
We constantly monitor the advice posted by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings. At the time of writing there are no warnings against travel to the parts of Turkey that we visit. Please feel free to contact us should you have any specific concerns or if would like to know in detail what measures are being taken to ensure visits remain trouble free and without incident.
It should be noted that this information applies to British citizens. Other nationals are asked to check the current position of their respective government.
Public Holidays in Turkey:
1 Jan New Year’s Day.
23 Apr Independence Day / Children’s Day.
19 May Youth Day
1 Jul Navy Day
26 Jul Armed Forces Day
9 Sep Liberation Day
29 Oct Proclamation of the Republic.
10 Nov Anniversary of Ataturk’s Death.
Dates are for guidance only and may vary year to year
Electrical supply is 220V and plugs usually have two round pins like most European countries.
The Rough Guide to Turkey
Marc Dubin, Rosie Ayliffe, John Gawthrop, and Terry Richardson
Beyond Ararat: A Journey through Eastern Turkey
Rebel Land: Among Turkey’s Forgotten Peoples
Christopher de Bellaigue
IMPORTANT NOTES – PLEASE READ
Please note that the information provided is correct at the time of writing but may change. It is intended as a guide only. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health visit www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk or contact your local healthcare provider.
In addition we strongly advise you to check the information and any travel advice provided by your government. For British citizens you should visit the Foreign Office website www.fco.gov.uk.
Furthermore, you should be aware that any travel warnings or advisories may affect the validity of your travel insurance. Therefore, at the time of booking your tour it is essential you check any restrictions on cover with your insurance provider.
Issue Date – 24/09/09
For possible changes to this dossier please visit www.undiscovered-destinations.com or call +44 (0)191 296 2674
Too many people associate Turkey with its well visited coastline, the haunt of package tourists and with a uniformity that could mean that it is anywhere within the Mediterranean. Of course, as with so many stereotypes, it forms only a small part of the picture. Turkey is a vast nation, its position at the crossroads of East and West ensuring that it has occupied a pivotal role in world events for millennia. Away from the resorts it is home to a huge diversity of culture, people and landscapes, and its monuments bear witness to a complex and fascinating history that is rivalled by few other nations. Turkey encompasses so much that it takes many visits to truly discover the country, each one revealing a new set of secrets, and prompting further questions. Many of its sites are well visited and firmly on the tourist trail – and rightly so, for they are some of the best that it has to offer. However there is also a hidden Turkey, one that few travellers make it to, hidden out in its eastern borderlands, where Kurds and Arabs rub shoulders with other ethnic groups from the Caucasus, Europe and beyond, with influences borrowed from Georgia, Armenia and Syria. Turkey is a country full of surprises, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its far flung eastern provinces, where modern Turkey can often seem a world away. There is much of this enchanting country still to uncover for the curious traveller.
Although there have been people living in Turkey for several thousand years, with archaeological finds pointing to evidence of habitation from around 7000 BC onwards, it is not until the emergence of the Hittite empire that a major civilisation established itself. Prior to this though, Turkish communities, often organised into fortified settlements had already begun trading with other regional powers – Troy being one of the more notable city states. The Hittites burst onto the scene in around 2000 BC, with a capital at Hattusas close to the Black Sea. Over the coming years they became the chief power and cultural force in Western Asia, from 1400 to 1200 BC. The economy of the Hittites was based around agriculture, but they were also feared warriors and in 1290 BC managed to raise a force strong enough to defeat the Egyptians under Ramses II. The Hittite empire reached its zenith around 1200 BC, and then collapsed in the face of increased competition from the smaller city states that surrounded it and merchants starting to arrive from the shores of Greece and beyond. Following the dissolution of the Hittite state, smaller states emerged throughout Turkey, including the Phrygians – most notably represented by King Midas, immortalized in Greek mythology – and the Lycians, based on the southern coast.
The 6th century BC saw the arrival of the Persians from the east, who conquered indigenous states and forced them to become its vassals. However they in turn were defeated by the Greeks a century later, weakening their power base in the region and giving rise to a certain degree of autonomy for the city states and indigenous Anatolian dynasties. Persian rule of the region never really recovered and in 334 BC Alexander, with his army of 40,000 thousand men, embarked on a campaign against the Persians, crossing the Hellespont and winning the battle on the Granikos in the spring. This was followed by a march over the Taurus Mountains to Cilicia and the defeat of Darius III, the Persian king, in 333BC at Issus, north of present day Iskenderun. Anatolia fell into Alexander’s hands swiftly, but his rule was not to last – dying ten years later his empire was divided between his generals, with his Anatolian territory split into separate states. Just a couple of hundred years later, one of Alexander’s successors bequeathed it to the Roman Empire, who jumped at the chance to control vital trade routes between east and west.
Under Roman rule, Anatolia prospered, as evidence today by the well preserved ruins at places such as Ephesus, once the capital of Roman Asia. The rule of the Roman Empire lasted from the 2nd century BC to the 4th century AD, but eventually it became a victim of its own success, too large to administer effectively as one unit, and became embroiled in a civil war, from which Constantine emerged as victor. Moving the capital to the ancient Greek town of Byzantium, he then renamed it Constantinople, and it was originally intended to be the capital of a unified empire. However not long afterwards the Roman Empire fragmented, to be ruled thereafter as two separate entities. Constantinople became the centre of the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman, Empire, and it was during this time that Christianity began to be introduced into the region, spread once the empire had officially adopted it as the state religion in the fourth century. The Byzantine Empire flourished in comparison to the western empire, continually weakened by attacks from barbarian hordes that it never quite managed to subdue. Constantinople in the centuries afterwards became known as a centre of great learning and religious devotion, and with its strategic position astride trade routes continued to accumulate wealth enabling it to reconquer territories lost in the west. In the 6th century, under the emperor Justinian Byzantine power was at its greatest, with colonies stretching to North Africa and Spain. The Byzantine Empire existed in total for 1100 years, albeit somewhat tenuously at times.
The decline started with the arrival of the armies of Islam, sweeping across much of the empire’s territories. With attacks by Persians and raiders to the west, by the start of the 8th century the empire was confined to Anatolia and parts of Italy and the Balkans. Although there were temporary reversals in its fortunes, notably under Basil II in the 10th and 11th centuries, Byzantium was never able to gain its former glory. Civil war and religious strife combined with attacks from the east, west and north to reduce the empire to a shadow of its former self. One of these groups of raiders was to have a profound influence – perhaps the most important – on the development of Turkey. Coming out of the Asian steppe, the Turks – a nomadic people originating from Central Asia – began to make incursions into Byzantine territories, encouraged by the ease at which they could conquer. By the 12th century they had established a sultanate at present day Konya with influence across the centre of the region, and began an uneasy co-existence with Constantinople to the west. This was the beginning of the arrival of Islam into Anatolia. Although the Turks, along with Byzantium, were roundly defeated when the Mongol armies of Genghis Khan and his successors swept through on their whirlwind rampage through Asia and Europe, smaller states rose from the debris.
One of these was to give rise to one of the most influential and important empires ever seen. In the 14th century the Ottoman dynasty, named after its founder Osman, began to seize territory from terminally declining Byzantium, emboldened by its weakness and inability to respond. The Ottomans were ruled by a sultan and possessed powerful armies, strengthened by their policy of enlisting a proportion of inhabitants of conquered regions into their forces and by conscripting others when the need arose. Throughout the 14th century they embarked on a massive period of expansion, quickly conquering cities and lands to the west until Constantinople was surrounded. They launched campaigns into the Balkans and beyond; Europe was only temporarily able to resist their advance. The turning point came at the Battle of Varna in 1444 when a European coalition army failed to stop the Turkish advance. Only Constantinople (Istanbul) remained in Byzantine hands and its conquest seemed inevitable. In 1453, Ottoman forces besieged the capital and after a seven week campaign entered the city. The Byzantine Empire had finally ceased to exist, replaced by an ascendant Turkish dynasty.
Under the Ottomans Constantinople was renamed Istanbul, and the city experienced massive growth with building projects resulting in magnificent monuments and palaces. The Ottoman Empire continued to expand, heading across the Black Sea to take territories in Romania and the Crimea as well as remaining Balkan and Greek lands. The Turks commanded the Black Sea and the northern Aegean and many prime trade routes had been closed to European shipping. The Islamic threat loomed even larger when an Ottoman presence was established at Otranto in Italy in 1480. Campaigns were launched to the south, capturing Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia and venturing further into the Arabian Peninsula. By the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire was the world’s most powerful and seemingly unstoppable. Although the Turkish presence in Italy was short-lived, it appeared as if Rome itself must soon fall into Islamic hands. In 1529, the Ottomans had moved up the Danube and besieged Vienna. The siege was unsuccessful and the Turks began to retreat. Although the Ottomans continued to instil fear well into the 16th century, internal struggles began to deteriorate the once overwhelming military supremacy of the Ottoman Empire. The outcome of battles was no longer a foregone conclusion and Europeans began to score victories against the Turks. The Ottomans began to lose power from the 16th century onwards, although like Constantinople this was a gradual and drawn out process. The emergence of new trade routes opened up by advancements in sea navigation meant that its strategic location no longer afforded it such an advantage, and more and more goods came to be transported by ship rather than the overland caravan routes. The increasing corruption that was embedding itself into political institutions also played a large part, with important posts sold rather than granted on the basis of merit, resulting in weak rule and ineffective leadership. Europe was experiencing a period of renaissance, becoming more powerful while Turkey rested somewhat on its laurels, to its enormous detriment. One of Turkey’s most important adversaries was the Russian Empire, which during the 18th century began to seize large chunks of land from the Sultan. French colonial designs ensured the loss of territory in Algeria, while Egypt under Mehmet Ali proclaimed itself independent from Ottoman rule and invaded Anatolia. Combined with revolts in many territories and increasing pressure from western powers, the Empire came to be unable to govern many of its territories effectively. By the 19th century politicians in Europe were referring to Turkey as ‘the sick man of Europe’.
Strategically though it still held immense importance, and with the ascendance of an aggressive Russia was seen as a bulwark in the region against further expansionism, which Russia was practicing under the auspices of protecting Christian subjects within the Empire. France and Britain sided with Turkey against Russia during the Crimean War in the mid 19th century, inflicting a decisive defeat, but it was clear that it was no longer a force to be reckoned with. Territories began to be lost at an alarming rate by the end of the century, with the independence of much of the Balkans and Romania, the loss of Greek lands, and the absorption of eastern areas by Russia, now advancing slowly down through the Caucasus. Nationalism began to raise its head among the Sultan’s subjects and in 1913 Turkey was pushed out of Europe by a united Balkan force.
Turkey disastrously allied itself with Germany during the First World War, fighting on a number of fronts. They were to prove little match though for the opposing powers, and by 1918 were forced to sign a peace treaty. Remaining territories were carved up by the victors – Syria and Lebanon passed to France while Mesopotamia and Arabia fell into British hands.
Throughout Turkey there was widescale and vociferous discontent with the sultanate and the existing structures of power. Disgusted by the way that Turkey was now being dominated by western powers, aided and abetted by a sultan desperate to keep his throne, a nationalist movement under Kemal Ataturk began to emerge, organizing resistance against Greek and other forces who were using Turkey’s weakness as an excuse to grab land and secure influence. The sultan by now had become completely discredited, seen as little more than a puppet of European governments, and was eventually forced to leave for exile in 1920. The sultanate itself continued to exist for a short time afterwards, but only in a nominal way – all power was in the hands of the nationalists, with Ataturk emerging to become their leader.
Turkey proclaimed itself a republic in 1923, abolishing the last vestiges of the sultanate and setting its sights on becoming a modern, secular state. Under Ataturk many religious practices were either outlawed or discouraged in an attempt to cast off what was seen as a conservative, old fashioned society. Turkey was set on the road to modernization, seen as essential in establishing a place in 20th century society. Ataturk died in 1938 and was mourned by millions – today he is seen as the father of the Turkish state.
Since then things have not always been easy for Turkey – it has experienced a number of coups and has continued to mount campaigns against Kurdish separatist movements in its eastern provinces. The legacy of secularization has resounded through the decades since Ataturk – although most of the population follows Islam this has been separated from the state – and Turkey today embraces its status as a modern state, looking towards Europe. Its past has always been incredibly diverse, its enviable position on the borders of Europe and Asia meaning that it has been subject to a number of influences over its long existence, and it is impossible to predict how this vibrant nation will develop. This broad and varied background makes Turkey one of the most exciting countries to visit - in the space of a few hours you can see the relics of a number of different civilisations that have made this land their home, and over a few miles you can see the evidence of successive waves of invaders and migrants in Turkey’s diverse ethnic mix. From the historic cities of ancient Armenia to the Russian and Greek communities of the Black Sea, from its Georgian churches to its Arab villages, it is perhaps in the east of the country that Turkey’s infinite variety makes itself so very apparent. It is perhaps little surprise that such a vast nation encompasses such an incredible mix – what is more astonishing is that so few are aware of it, or take the time to explore it. Turkey’s eastern borderlands offer amazing opportunities to experience a very different part of the country – and are just about as far from its package resorts as you can get. Explore this exciting and enigmatic land while the rest of the world ignores it, and you will be amply rewarded.