Friday, October 16, 2020

Turkey 2020 Cost & Comments--Sep. 11--Oct. 7, 2020

Cost of Turkey Trip

The 23 day trip in Turkey to Istanbul, Ankara, Safranbolu, Asmara, and Edirne cost was $1,764 for a daily cost of $76.  Food costs were $757 with a daily cost of $33 per day.  Lodging costs were $435 for a nightly cost of $20.  Travel and tour costs were $460 including $54.15 for the roundtrip flight from Seattle to Istanbul which used 66,000 United Frequent Flyer miles.


Cost of Stopover in Washington D.C.

The 3-day stopover in Washington D.C. cost was $341 for a daily cost of $114.  Food costs were $210 with a daily cost of $70. Lodging costs were $90 for a nightly cost of $45. Travel and tour costs were $41.


Transportation

I was pleased with the public transportation available I took in all of the places I visited.  In both Istanbul and Ankara, they had metro subways and buses that cost about $0.50 per ride and you could buy and use a metro card for further discounts and quicker travel since I did not have to get in line for a ticket at the vending machines or cashiers. 


I enjoy walking about and during this trip, I averaged walking about 6.7 miles per day.


Mini-buses


Edirne City Buses



Boats


Subway


Trams






Funiculars-Tunel





YHT High-Speed Train--up to 220 km/ hr.


In Istanbul, the metro card could also be used on many ferries that crossed the Bosphorus Straits and Golden Horn, as well as the trams and funiculars.  I could even use the cards to use the terminal bathrooms. Wait times were short and in most places, there were electronic boards that showed the various metro arrival times.  I enjoyed riding on these clean and frequent rides to all of the places I wanted to visit.  During rush hours, social distancing did not seem to apply although everyone wore face masks.



Long-distance bus rides cost an average of $2 per hour. For example, the 6 hour Ankara to Istanbul cost 90 TL-$11.50.


The long-distance buses I rode were new and comfortable and some had entertainment centers like airplanes have.  They even served up water and juices and even a dessert and stopped for a very few rest breaks or short town stops along the way.






Taxis were abundant although I only rode one once out to the Istanbul airport that cost a reasonable $30 for a half-hour ride.



All of the freeways and toll roads I traveled on were smooth and well landscaped unlike our crumbling highways here in the US.  Perhaps it is because they are newer.  They also did an excellent job of having beautiful landscaping along the freeways that entered the cities.


The local roads were well paved with clear directional signs.


My United frequent flyer ticket with United Air and Turkish Air was filled with challenges.  First, Turkish Air changed my departure from Washington D.C. to Istanbul from September 11th to September 13th, when I was returning on October 7th, Turkish Air first had me flying direct from Istanbul to San Francisco, and then in just a few hours they canceled that and rebooked me from Istanbul to Los Angeles.  


A few hours after that, they canceled that flight so I contacted United Air and they changed me to fly from Istanbul to Frankfurt to San Francisco to Seattle.  For the long-distance flight, the Turkish Air representative moved me to an aisle where I had three seats open to me which made the flight better since I could stretch out and sleep during the 11 1/2 hour flight to San Franciso.



The food on the Turkish Air flights was bag lunches of soggy flatbread, boxed water and juice, and a packaged cake.  Food on the United flight was the normal hot chicken and vegetable dish along with beverages.


Homeless

Unlike in the US, including Seattle, homelessness is not apparent in Turkey.  Other than the occasional drunk sleeping on a park bench, I never saw any homeless people camped out in tents in the parks or along the streets like I see in our cities.  Occasionally, near the mosques, I encountered some old people begging, but nothing like the cardboard beggars I see on many street corners in the Puget Sound area. The poverty rate of Turkey is 9.2% compared to 10.5% in the US and because of COVID 19, the US poverty rate is 16.7% as of September.


Turkey has free universal health care that is considered exceptionally good, and even tourists, foreign students, and business people can get this insurance for $30 to $100 per year for up to 2 years.


Cleanliness

Street-sweepers, street-sweeper machines, shop owners combined made for clean streets in all of the cities and towns I visited.


Instead of having street garbage cans and dumpsters in the alleyways for businesses, restaurants, hotels, and apartments, they have these buried large garbage containers usually in clusters of two that are emptied by the use of a large truck with a crane that lifts these large cans out of the holes. On the city streets, these garbage cans look like small refuse cans.  




Nearby they have other green-colored recycling bins for glass, steel, and aluminum.  Cardboard seems to be collected by an army of cardboard collectors with their hand-trucks with large canvas bags to hold the cardboard. 


Energy saver toilets

All of the western toilets I saw had built-in bidets spritzers so that there were great savings in reducing toilet paper usage which also lessened the volume of toilet paper that entered the wastewater system.  If toilets in the US had this feature, we could save a lot of paper and reduce the volume of wastewater material. The valve is on the left side of this picture and the spritz of water comes out of the pipe near the rim of the toilet.



Communications Challenges

Very few people I interacted with at stores, hotels, transportation services, and other businesses spoke English.  Sometimes we would interact by using pantomime, Lonely Planet phrase section, and cell phone google translators.


Unlike Romance languages, the Turkish script provided no clues as to what the words meant. Fortunately, at the larger museums, they had cellphone audio devices that provided guide services in several languages including English that were easy to use and were clear and helpful to understand what I was seeing.


Food

I found that the food I ate here had similar spicing I had experienced when I was in Morocco.  They also tend to cook foods in ceramic casseroles and serve them up bubbling.  Here are some of the foods I enjoyed. 


Bubbling casseroles--lamb, chicken, moussaka



Stuffed Grape leaves



Kofte (meatballs) in tomato sauce



Dolma



Tava Cigar (sliced fried liver) and chili peppers


Sliced Doner Kebab and Watermelon



Chicken Curry in Casserole with Rice 



Egg Omelet with OJ and Coffee Latte



Eggplant Stuffed with Lamb



Meat Omelet with Grapefruit Juice



Mousaka Casserole with Rice and Potatoes



Eggs with Meat, OJ and Coffee Latte


Shrimp Casserole


Lamb Chops with Rice, Potatoes, and Peppers


Filet Mignon with Saffron Sauce and vegetables


Koftke with Spinach, Rice, Pepper, and Tomato



Fried Mackeral-bones and skin, and salad and Raki


Fried Calamari


Kofte with Salad, and Tea


Dolma


Typical Turkish Breakfast 


Raki in Iced cup holder with Grapes


Cay with sugar and Turkish Delight


Saffron Pudding and Cay


Turkish Delight and Baklava Store



Juice Display


Raki, Water, and Turkish Coffee


Turkish Coffee--not good to the last drop--sludge.  This is why they serve it with water.


Turkish Coffee with Cherry Juice, Water and Turkish Delight


Spices



COVID 19 Situation

The biggest impact of COVID 19 was when Intrepid Tours canceled my 18-day tour.


Other COVID 19 closures were at a number of museums, especially those that had limited air flow such as in basements like at the Ankara Museum, or small museums like the Museum of Innocence.


Mask-wearing is mandatory except when eating or drinking so it seemed like people really enjoyed sitting outside sipping cay.


They followed social distancing and the government had placed social distance signs on walls and pavements, which generally worked except during rush hours the trams were standing room only.


When going inside the bazaars and restaurants or shops, my temperature was taken and masks were required—including over the nose.


When riding long-distance buses, we had to include passport and contact phone numbers as a way to contact trace in case someone on the bus developed COVID 19. 


All of the hotel receptionists told me that tourism even of Turkish tourists was way down.  I only met two other Americans while in Turkey and one had lived here for 8 years. 


Turkey currently has 8,957 COVID 19 deaths, and 342,143 tested positive for COVID 19.  Turkey has 1% of the world population and has 0.8% of the COVID 19 deaths compared to the US that has 4% of the world population yet has over 20% of the COVID 19 deaths.  Turkey has 107/1 million people with COVID 19 deaths compared to the US that has 667/1 million people with COVID 19 deaths. Maybe this difference represents a close correlation for universal mask-wearing.