Turkish Reflections

Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bulgaria  ,
Monday, October 3, 2005

Lira is the currency of Turkey. There's a big Y on the banknotes and for some reason I started calling them Yentils.

On the way to Sofia Bulgaria, I asked Ellen to read a few of my notes. When I finished she asked "Aren't you going to write something nice about Cappadocia?"
"Well I guess I should." I replied.
"Our room nestled in the side of the cave was wonderful. The air was so clean and fresh. And the fairy chimneys were magnificent."
I fiddled with pen and paper for about twenty minutes, struggling with one pleasantry or another, then said, "No Goddamnit. I can't do it."

Here is my Turkey:

I walked up to the kiosk in front of the Istanbul train station and asked the old man behind the counter for a large bottle of water and a package of cookies. I gave him my last five Yentil banknote. He reached into the cash register and gave me three Yentils change. I looked at the coins and asked the price of a chocolate bar. When he made a sign that it was half a Yentil I took two and gave him one of the coins. We looked at one another oddly for a moment. I picked up two more bars, looked him squarely in the eye and gave him one more of the two remaining coins, expecting any moment for him to clue in and yell at himself in Turkish, something like "Foreigner, am I insane I have been charging the infidel regular prices."
But it didn't happen. With my last Yentil I bought two more chocolate bars then walked back down to the train ramp, proud of my purchasing prowess, where Ellen awaited.

That was the one and only time in almost three weeks in Turkey that the seller didn't go for the throat. Foreigner rip-off runs so rampant in Turkey that the Muslim clerics have supposedly told their flock that they should cease such activity. The only man in Turkey that seems to have listened was the old man in the railroad kiosk. And it's such a shame. Turkey is a country of history and beauty. From Ephesus, to the mystic mountains of Cappadocia, to the crystal clear warm waters of the Mediterranean, Turkey's problem is its human element. The Turks just grind you down. Haggling for a room, for a meal, for the use of a toilet. It just goes on and on. If you watch the happy-go-lucky (HGL) travelers of The Pilot Guides TV program, you're led to believe that haggling is just part of the culture of certain travel destinations. They're full of hovno (Slovak for excrement) and have most likely never had to haggle for anything with their own money. These bubbly HGLers claim that it's not just tourists that haggle, but locals as well. While this may be true, it is most certainly not to the same degree.

A couple of years ago at the market town of Chichicastenango in Guatemala, Ellen asked the price of an embroidered table cloth. The women wanted $90. Ellen gave her a 'no thank you' smile. The table cloth women with perhaps thirty of them folded in her arms, followed us for about forty minutes. Relentlessly she discounted the value. Finally at $10. or a little less than 90% of the original asking price, we made the deal. The woman smiled and disappeared into the crowd, happy with her $10. When you deal in these kinds of numbers, it's not haggling, it's attempted theft. And when a TV program actively promotes this kind of behavior, it's helping no one. To ask for more than ten times the value of a product is as wrong as wrong can be.

I'm not very happy with HGLer's or the Turks...or the Guatemalans for that matter right now. And another forgotten treasured moment. We were so flabbergasted about our lost luggage when we arrived in Istanbul that I completely forgot to write about the plight of the Canadian. It costs the Canadian traveler $60 U.S. - at least twice as much as any other nation in the entire world - to enter Turkey.
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