Eastern Turkey with Turfantastik

Six of us toured western Turkey in 2004 with Mehmet Ozbalci of Turfantastik (Milet cas. Inan Is Hani No:5/610, Aksaray, Istanbul, Turkey; phone [90] 212-589 33 25, fax 586 32 56) and committed to another journey with him in 2005. Our eastern Turkey trip took place May 23-June 9, 2005, and to see Mehmet’s smiling face as we walked through the door after claiming our baggage was like seeing a special friend. Once again we had a fabulous time.

Everything about our adventure was memorable. Visiting eastern Turkey is a step back in time, a very different experience from the west. The people are just as friendly and welcoming, but the east has not caught up to the west in their development, although Mehmet advised us that progress has been dramatic.

Some highlights were seeing the heads at Mt. Nemrut at sunrise, dipping toes in the Euphrates and Tigres rivers, watching the lights of Syria from the terrace of our hotel in Mardin, observing the pageant of Abraham’s Lake in Sanliurfa, boating on Lake Van, observing tea harvest in Rize and more. If you have read about it, we saw it.

In addition, along the way there were many impromptu stops to visit farmers in the field, local markets, schoolchildren, and a carpet factory where we watched nimble fingers knotting intricately designed carpets.

Mehmet’s standard question to our group as we drove along in our van and remarked about a site would be, “Would you like to stop and take a closer look?”

Without international airfare but including two domestic flights in Turkey, the cost of our 18-day trip was $2,950 each. (June 8 was a free day in Istanbul.) We stayed in 4-star, first-class and boutique hotels and traveled in an air-conditioned van.

If you are interested in a wonderful journey with a caring, well-informed guide, Mehmet would be our recommendation.

Bonsall, CA