Book Review of the Week: Frommer's Istanbul

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

As a Special Bonus, Frommer's will give a copy of Istanbul, 1st Edition, to a randomly drawn commenter on this article. Post your comments - you might win! 


One of the most fascinating cities in the world has to be Istanbul. Although I've not yet been there, I am always trying to learn more about it. The history combined with the modern word is a combination that the curious traveler can't resist. 

Frommer's recently published its first edition travel guide book to Istanbul! It is jam-packed with tips, history, the best of, planning, itineraries, maps, customs, accommodation and restaurant reviews, shopping, side-trips, and more. Once I started reading, I was drawn in with the writing - especially on the most unforgettable travel experiences!

I recently had the good luck to sit down and talk with the author of Frommer's Istanbul,  Lynn Levine - who also created the fantastic travel site, - for a behind-the-scenes look at the book, and Istanbul. Here's what she had to say...


Lynn Levine, Turkey

On the Sultan Kayiklari, the reproduction of the sultan's imperial
boat, up the Bosphorus



WE:  Please tell us about your book, Frommer's Istanbul...

LL: I've been writing various Frommer's guides since 2000. Usually, my editor contacts me in the summer preceding a book release to get the new contract rolling. This year was the year for Frommer's Turkey contract, but when my editor contacted me to do the rewrite, she threw in an offer to do a new book on Istanbul. Now, if your readers are at all familiar with the feast or famine reality of freelancing, they will understand it when I say that before the offer of the Istanbul, I was already full up for 2007/8. Writing this book nearly killed me, but it was a labor of love I simply could not turn down. Now, the hardest thing about writing about a place like Istanbul is that while travelers are interested in heading "off the beaten track", you simply cannot go to Istanbul without treading the beaten one. And because there's just an overwhelming number of "must-sees" in Istanbul, it's truly a challenge trying to find that balance in the limited amount of time most people spend in Istanbul. I think this book addresses that hurdle better than the other guides currently out there, in the logistical tips it provides and in particular, in the selection of walking tours through some lesser- traveled neighborhoods.

WE: What is your background/history in Istanbul?

LL: Essentially, I went from zero to 60 in just a few years. As I'm sure you're aware, the American educational system doesn't concentrate so much on Oriental studies. I'm also willing to take some of the blame for the ignorance of my earlier years. So when I first began my immersion in all things Turkish, Ottoman, Christian, Islamic and Anatolian, I was dumbfounded by the wealth of historical and cultural richness and just hungry for more. This eye-opener into the parade of civilizations through Turkey set me on a path not only in writing about Turkey and Istanbul, but also ignited a fire under my bottom to finally get that Masters degree in International Relations that I had always wanted. The Master's also opened the door for me into working on contract for Unicef, primarily in Turkic (and post-Soviet) states.



WE:  Istanbul seems like such a fascinating city. Is it easy to get overwhelmed, by history, color, etc.? What do you recommend for slow sightseeing days (something we try to do every other day!)?

LL: I'm still overwhelmed! What's strange is that I've reached the point in my familiarity with Istanbul that I can stroll through by the dome of the Ayasofya, watch the seagulls circle the minarets of the Blue Mosque and choose among dozens of types of feta cheese in the bustling open air market in the alleyways behind the Egyptian Spice Bazaar and not bat and eye. I brought my mom with me one year and the look of wonder and amazement reminded me of my own initial impressions.

What I like to do on my "free days" is explore. I'll usually pick a neighborhood, a museum or a food experience I haven't yet had and make a day of it. For example, last year I had my first taste of Kanlica yogurt, a super high fat content yogurt made locally in the village of the same name up on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. The day included a bus ride and stroll down along the main road parallel to the Bosphorus, a peek at the "sweet waters" of Asia, a ferry ride across the Straits and of course, an hour spent at a seaside cafe gulping down the tasty treat in question. (For those new to the city, this day could include a visit to Beylerbeyi Sarayi and a tea break in the outdoor gardens atop Camlica Hill. When I want to really laze around, I'll just wander around the back streets of the Old City, admire the colors, maybe have a conversation with a shopkeeper (unavoidable, I'm afraid), and explore anything and everything new, interesting, restored or previously unnoticed.

WE: Your book is just packed full of great tips. Was it difficult to research So Many places?

LL: I've spent so much time in Istanbul in the past years that the logistical information just accumulates in my head as I go along. Some of it is gleaned through trial and error, some through tips from friends, and a lot of it is through simply getting really calloused feet. But I think the main thing is that I just love getting to know how a place ticks, and I love to impart that information to anyone who will listen; if I see somebody on the street looking a little lost, I'll ask that person if he or she needs any help. It's pathological, really. I'll even get into little spats with the tourist information representatives when THEY are giving advice!

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

LL: The desire for discovery doesn't go away just because you know a place, which is why for one day at least, I would advise your readers to leave the guide book at home and just play it by ear (or carry the book around as a reference for when you want to know what you're looking at). I confess that when I'm traveling for fun, I tend to dive right in and ask questions later.

WE: Thanks so much, Lynn, for this great background to the new Frommer's travel guide book, Istanbul.  It sure makes me want to come visit!



Interested in purchasing Frommer's Istanbul? 

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Please leave a comment on this book review to be entered into a random
drawing for a copy of Istanbul, courtesy of Frommer's. Comments left until 11:59pm Monday, September 29th, will be accepted.

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Comments (2)

  • Glinda

    15 years 2 months ago

    This interview about Istanbul really, really makes me want to go there! I always thought that I would love  to see the ancient things, but the author also makes me want to just absorb the culture!

  • Dr. Jessie Voigts

    15 years 2 months ago

    Congratulations, Glinda! You've won a copy of Frommer's Istanbul. Check your email for details! Thanks!


    Jessie Voigts


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