Talking Turkey

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

One of my favorite authors we've interviewed here on Wandering Educators is the author of Frommer's Istanbul, Lynn Levine.  She has an incredible informational site about Turkey, called Talking Turkey explores the different regions of Turkey; activities such as museums and archaeology, thermals and spas, the Blue Cruise, shopping, and more; Turkey's Wines; Marmara Antalya; and provides detailed information on getting to and around Turkey. It truly is an all-encompassing site.  I was lucky enough to sit down and talk with Lynn about her's
what she had to say...


WE: Please tell us about your travel site,

LL: Talking Turkey was my way of expanding the reach and scope of my book, Frommer's Turkey, which is published only once every other year. Changes in Turkey happen overnight, and I wanted to make that information available to the general public, while creating a forum for readers to ask questions and exchange information (this blog aspect is in development).


WE:  What led you to develop this site?

LL: To explain, I first have to describe how the system works in Turkey and pretty much anywhere in the Middle East and Orient: When the typically vulnerable visitor is approached on the streets of Istanbul by a "good samaritan" fluent in English (or German, or Russian, or Japanese et al) full of good travel tips, what is really happening is that this guy is establishing a rapport whereby you will rely on him for recommendations on where to go, what to see, and where to eat (to start). But the bottom line is that this guy is working - for a commission from the restaurant where he takes you to eat, from the souvenir shop where you will buy the "best" locally made trinkets, and the holy grail - from the carpet seller.

Now I'm not against commissions as a rule, but visitors are generally not aware that their sense of trust is being manipulated in this way. This system isn't relegated to the streets thought. The internet provides a wealth of opportunity for the system of commissions. Which leads me back to your question. I started the site to provide a reliable and trustworthy alternative to the internet-based gold- diggers out there purporting to be travel agencies or itinerary planners. Some charge fees to be listed, some take commissions, others charge the reader for information while still doing the former. That's why I have the "ask Lynn" feature --- I offer information on places that I actually frequent. And while I've certainly had the opportunity to jump on this profiteering bandwagon, I don't charge a dime for any of it.


WE:  How can travelers new to Turkey best learn about the culture and customs?

LL: I would recommend that travelers go with an open mind and a willingness to drown their bladders in rivers of Turkish tea. A little of pre-trip reading couldn't hurt - no point in offending anybody, and Turks really love that foreigners go to the trouble to get to know them and their culture.


WE: Are there intercultural differences between Turkey and the US (where many of our readers are from) that people should be aware of?

LL: The differences are too numerous to mention here, but so are the similarities. And to name one would be to generalize a culture that varies from city to city, and from city to the Anatolian heartland. A couple of basic things though: - Modesty is making a major comeback, even in the modern bastions of Istanbul and Ankara. Keep this in mind before you pack the miniskirt. - When asked a question in the negative, the Turkish reply is literal (example: Q. This dish doesn't have meat in it, right? A. Yes (meaning, yes, you're right, or no, there is no meat in the dish). - Turks love to shake hands. Bring lots of hand sanitizer, if you've got OCD! - Turks are extraordinarily proud people, and in Turkey, sticks and stones may break your bones AND names will hurt you. Avoid saying anything that might be construed as insulting.


WE: Turkey is such an ancient, well-respected culture. What are the highlights of a trip there?

LL: I'm reenergized by experiencing new things, so for the first time visitor, there's really nothing in Turkey that ISN'T a highlight. Having said that, I can say that few will not be struck by a sense of wonder from the monumental historic milestones represented by the churches, mosques and other architectural amazements, by the proximity of the European continent to the Asian one, seeing the gargantuan chain links that protected Constantinople from foreign invasions by sea, climbing the cascade of glistening white travertine of Pamukkale at sunset, a good scrub and massage of a private hamam, hiking through the valleys of Cappadocia to the sound of the whispering wind, and digging into a bowl of manti (Turkish ravioli in yogurt and topped with melted butter and chili flakes).


WE:  I see that you have shopping tips that nobody else will tell you...what sorts of insider information do you offer on your site?

LL: People are daunted by the selection of magnificent products offered in Turkey. But equally daunting is the prospect of getting burned either by paying too much or by buying a fake. As in any part of life, information is the best weapon, and that's what I try to provide. By listing other places where similar products can be purchased, I am arming shoppers with comparative pricing information. By offering tips on where items might be best sourced on the ground, I'm giving shoppers a sense of confidence.


WE:  Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

LL: I'll be on the Turkish Mediterranean when this goes to press. I can't wait to eat!


WE: Thanks so much, Lynn! In your wonderful book and site, you've really brought Turkey alive for me - we can't wait to go!

For more information and to visit Talking Turkey, please see:

To read our Book Review and interview with Lynn, about her Frommer's Itsanbul book, please see:

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