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By this Author: chrisvasil

Cappadocia - Underground City

sunny 34 °C
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A long time ago (presumably before grenades) in a land far away (actually right here, Turkey) underground cities like this were dug with a similar goal to castles: being easy to defend and hard to attack. The place can only be navigated single-file and crouched in many sections (1 ft wide by 3-4 ft high in sections).
Underground cities were 4-8 floors below ground, the size of several city blocks, and had all amenities including baths, kitchens, churches, etc etc.

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Posted by chrisvasil 07:20 Archived in Turkey Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Prices and rules of buying stuff


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Prices in Turkey are generally not too high, but there is generally a lot of room to bargain. Tips 1 and 2 below are gleaned mainly from a couple experiences in Istanbul; the rest are observations. Here are the two main experiences I draw from:

First experience (positive)
We have found that salesmen will often lower their prices even if we don't offer a price, provided that we take enough time in their shop (enough to, say, have the tea they offer). Our best was in Istanbul, where we almost bought a rug. The starting price was 700 TL (1USD = 1.5 TL, 1 CAD = 1.35 TL), and we couldn't buy without showing pics to the person we're buying for. Over the course of more than an hour, the price went down to 250TL (550 cad to 200 cad), without us ever offering a price where we'd be willing to buy, and reducing by about 100 TL each time (each time he reduced to the price I was thinking of bidding).

Second experience (negative)
For paragliding, we paid the tour group 150TL. It was cancelled because of the weather, and could not be rescheduled for the same day because that company was overbooked. So we got our money back. To our surprise, someone in our group found a place that had spots, and which was 20TL cheaper (130 TL)! We were happy to book there for later in the afternoon. Later on we walked along the main strip, and 2 blocks away from the place where we were booked for the afternoon the guy started talking to us about Turkish baths and paragliding. We asked prices, and his offering price was 100TL for paragliding. That was 50TL less per person than through the tour group, and 30 TL less than the one we had just booked. Presumably we could have had it even cheaper had we negotiated. We tried to cancel at the other place, spending over an hour there and pretending Sue was too scared to do it; they said they'd try to find people to take our spot but that probably wasn't true. In the end they offered us to cancel with a fee of 30 TL per person, which we refused. So for that, had we walked an extra block, we'd have saved about 50 cad had we walked an extra block before booking. In the end it was a lot of fun though, so we only were bitter toward the city for a few hours.

1. Bargain (some of these tips are time-consuming, only worthwhile for an expensive piece)

1a. Accept the tea. Talk to them, listen to them, and they'll lower the price as time passes.
1b. Ask them to lower the price more.
1c. Tell them you can't buy right away, but have to check with someone back home. Take pics. Stay in the store. They'll prob keep lowering their price.
1d. Walk out of the store. They may well lower their price again.
2. Do not offer a price until they have lowered their price several times.
This becomes a lower bound for negotiations and doesn't help anything.

3. Never buy anything from the shops nearest the entrance (first shop on the street, or shop nearest the entrance to a shopping district, or closest to the hotels or attraction). The prices are generally 20-30% higher.

4. Shop around before taking recommendations.

Posted by chrisvasil 07:20 Archived in Turkey Tagged shopping Comments (0)

Cappadocia - Caves


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Cappadocia looks like this, the story behind it is something about retreating glaciers and erosion.

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Posted by chrisvasil 05:20 Archived in Turkey Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Eternal flame of Olympus

overcast 24 °C

At Cirali there are about 30 flames burning between the rocks on Mount Olympos (the site used to be called the eternal flame). Each is the size of a small fire, maybe a foot high, and the area smells like propane (not entirely surprisingly). The flame is part of folklore going back thousands of years, so it is clear that the site has been the same for a long time.

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The phenomenon is a gas leak of some sort, and apparently if any flame is put out it reignites within seconds or minutes.

Trying to imagine stumbling upon a site like this a couple thousand years ago -- it would have certainly inspired a faith in whatever forces are said to be behind the phenomenon.

Posted by chrisvasil 14:20 Archived in Turkey Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

The Turkish bath

sunny 37 °C

Having never been to a bathhouse I didn't really know what to expect. We were pretty dirty from the succession of dust, seawater, and cold showers, so it seemed like a plan. Here it is in a nutshell:

- arrive, strip into shorts (it was a co-ed bathhouse, I think the rules are a bit different in the regular type
- sauna for 15min or so. It wasn't a dry sauna, so dumping water on the coals is legitimate and encouraged (unlike past dry saunas I've been where certain patrons would do the same, announcing "steam steam steam!" or holding flowerpots while breaking the heating mechanism)
- go to the bathing room. It's all marble, with water taps around the edges and a raised circle in the middle, maybe 20ft wide, with maybe 5 people lying down around the perimeter
- lie down in that circle area when called (well when pointed at). The guy scrubs, exfoliating the skin
- go to the taps, the guy takes a bowl, fills it with water and pours it to rinse a few times
- lie back down, different guy pours soap bubbles through a mesh bag onto entire body then scrubs and rinses.
- have a glass of tea, change, leave.

All in all it was nice, and not too different from what I expected based on the posters for the movie the Turkish Bath that came out a few years ago...
back home there would have been something odd about being entirely covered in soap suds the scrubbed clean by a man, but when in Rome do as the Romans...

Posted by chrisvasil 07:20 Archived in Turkey Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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