I am writing this post while leading an escorted cruise on a Turkish gulet along the coast of Caria. When I started it we were at anchor in the small bay that is the ancient harbour of the great Doric city of Knidos; I continued en route along a beautifully unspoilt shoreline, and am now completing it in the enchanting bay of Bozburun.
It is nearly the end of the pre-summer season for Peter Sommer Travels, and by now, I and several of my colleagues have spent part or all of the last couple of months travelling in, or off, Turkey, leading escorted tours and gulet cruises.
Like any other spring and early summer, it has been a busy time for us, but also an idyllic, calm and peaceful one. As always, it has been filled with vistas of blue seas and verdant coasts, with visits to fascinating and enchanting ancient sites, but also to lively resorts and busy markets, with sunsets and sunrises, pleasant swims, delicious food and a lot of quality time spent alongside guests of all ages.
In any other year, there’d be nothing remarkable about all of that: this is how a Peter Sommer Travels tour is meant to be and how it almost always turns out. So why write about it?
Well, this year, those very weeks have coincided with TV screens and newspaper titles and online portals around the world showing images from Turkey that are very different from those conjured up above.
In recent weeks and days, some of our past and prospective guests have contacted us to enquire about the situation, understandably alarmed by what they have seen and questioning their holiday plans, be they with us, independent or with other operators.
There can be little doubt that the recent events at Gezi park in Istanbul and elsewhere in the great cities of Turkey are important and relevant. We are watching them with interest and concern, especially in regards to our Turkish friends and colleagues who may or may not be affected in some way or other.
But to make this clear: all of our escorted tours and gulet cruises to date have been totally unaffected. For example, if you take a look at the last few weeks’ worth of Turkey images we have posted on Facebook, you will see the sunsets, maritime landscapes, ancient sites and so on referred to above. Those images are real, showing highlights of what we have been up to, of the sites, sights and scenes we have been sharing with our guests. They look idyllic because things have been idyllic. At this point in time, we do not expect any change in that regard, we do not envisage the political situation to affect any of the upcoming trips this summer and autumn.
We should add that even those of our guests who have passed through Istanbul in recent weeks, following our recommendation to stay on the Sultanahmet/Old Town side of the Golden Horn, have done the usual sightseeing and had the usual great time. At times, they may have chosen to avoid the Taksim/Beyoğlu/Beşiktaş side of town, but even that doesn’t apply at all times or in all cases.
Altogether, events have been limited to the big cities, and only to parts of those, while the coastal resorts have stayed virtually entirely untouched. Needless to say, the waters, coves and bays and small harbours we use on our escorted cruises, as well as the archaeological and historical sites, are the same they’ve always been.
The official travel advisories by the UK, US and Australian [we linked to them in 2013, but have removed those links as the situation changed] governments all agree in cautioning visitors to avoid large gatherings and demonstrations in Turkey (which most tourists probably avoid in any case) and (as for the last year or more) to steer clear of the border with Syria, hundreds of miles east of where we visit. There is no general warning against visiting the country.
So, if you are curious about visiting Turkey, if you are eager to explore this vast country with its variety of landscapes, its immense wealth of history and archaeology, its multi-faceted and fascinating cuisine, and with the unfailing hospitality of its inhabitants, do not be deterred. Plan your trip carefully, gather information, ask for advice, but don’t feel you have to stay away! And if you are curious or interested as to how the locals, the Turks themselves, see and experience their country’s role and situation, come to Turkey to meet them. For those of you who already know and love Turkey, we offer the same advice we suggested for Greece in 2012: the best you can do to show support is to come and visit. You will, as ever, be received with a warm welcome.