BOOK REVIEWS: Turkey
A GUIDE TO THE GUIDES
- The four volumes of George E. Bean’s archaeological guides: Aegean Turkey, Turkey Beyond the Maeander, Lycian Turkey and Turkey’s Southern Shore are classic works that have been translated into every major European language. All other guide books can only hope to paraphrase Bean and if you are seriously interested in Classical Archaelogy you should go straight to source. These volumes will soon become your omniprescent companion during any travel along the coast of Turkey. It is worth getting the whole set , as the boundaries between them can surprise the unwary tourist. There is of course not a whiff of practical information or any coverage of the medieval or modern periods.
- John Freely, the acclaimed author of Strolling through Istanbul has also produced a pair of cultural guides to wider parts of Turkey. Choose from either the “Western Shores of Turkey”, published by John Murray at £10.95 or “The Companion Guide to Turkey”, published by Collins at £9.95, though unless you are great fan there is no need to buy both. They both make charming and instructive reads, illuminated by personal recollections and a wide ranging scholarship. They are of the old school of guide-books and totally ignore all the practical nitty gritty of travel, route advice, hotel and restuarant recommendations to concentrate on a magisterial tour of the principal sights. If you want telephone numbers, addresses and chatty advice on packing look elsewhere.
- Thomas Cook Travellers Turkey is a 190 page booklet that despite its venerable name, from a century of travel experience, is actually produced by the AA Publishing team from an open plan office in Basingstoke. The AA churn out a bewildering stream of publications, that usually mix cliches with elegant maps and photographs. Ideal for a package tourist on a fortnights beach holiday wondering which coach excursion to take. The only, and very personal, surprise is on page 47, where I appear in a photograph of a typical Turkish Bath!
- The Cadogan Guide to Turkey, now in its 3rd edition, makes a delightfully easy and elegant read. Dana and Michael make an experienced team and they have an ear and a love for a good story. At just 450 pages for the entire country, it cannot hope to be the most comprehensive, but there is a certain virtue in their selectivity which has allowed for a fairly thorough coverage of each chosen area. £11.99/$16.95
- Foder’s Guide to Turkey, in the new house livery of black and gilt, gives a romping, enthusiastic tour through the beach resorts and archaeological sites. It is written by an inhabitant of Manhattan who works in the “Travel Industry”, the perfect accesory for an undemanding American determined to make use of his dollar to enjoy his vacation. 235 pages, £12.99/$18.00
- The Rough Guide to Turkey, is currently being updated but even the 730 pages of the 1991 edition gives one of the most comprehensive summaries of the nation. Do not however be misled by the title, the Rough Guide is the most snobbishly selective -and English- of all guides. It pours continuous scorn on tourist resorts and while famously good on sites, finding a pension, bus or taxi and suggesting a number of unusual places to stay in “Real Turkey”, its tone can be a bit joyless, particularly if you think you deserve a slap-up meal or a luxury night in good hotel. The soft blue cover, usually seen battered by the earnest, inquiring fingers of student backpackers is being replaced by a smarter green. 730 pages, £8.99, distributed by Penguin.
- Sunflower Books publish two of their excellent and informative Landscape guides to Turkey, one based around Antalya, the other around Bodrum and Marmaris. They are about 130 pages long and concentrate entirely on car itineraries, countryside walks and picnic sites and so should be used in conjuction with a regular guidebook. They are meticulously thorough in their directions, sketch maps and research, providing the sort of detail that books covering a larger area, and more diverse themes, cannot hope to compete with. While undeniably useful they should be taken in moderation, less you become addicted to the firm, nurse like hand that even points out suitable places for a photograph.
- Tom Brosnahan’s Lonely Planet guide to Turkey runs to 750 pages in its 4th edition. For the most comprehensive practical coverage of the country - including hotels and restaurants ranging from the cheapest to the most expensive - this is your book. Use it as practical back up for something more poetic or cultural. UK£12.95 USA$19.95
- The Insight Guide to the Turkish Coast is brimming with colourful vibrant images, fully up to the high standards of this distinctive series of photograph led guidebooks. The series is the brain child of Hans Hofer, a German photo-journalist, while Metin Demirsar, a Californian trained Turkish journalist edited this volume. His diverse editorial team balances local knowledge with the outsiders observant eye. It is a bit weak on practical information, which is tucked away with the index on the grey paper at the back of the book, but strong on the cultural background to the area. These aspects, such as sponge diving, Cleopatra and Santa Claus are in agreable bit-sized essays. If you want to get a good flavour of the place, in armchair, mid-flight or without even going there, this is the one for you. The 1992, 2nd edition, has 377 image packed pages for £12.99
- The Blue Guide series is renowned for the depth and detail of its cultural coverage though this is often marred by a somewhat dry architectural tone and a lack of practical information. Happily the Blue Guide to the Aegean and Mediterranean Coast of Turkey, written by Bernard Mcdonagh, manages to both thorough scholarly yet readable and this volume accordingly won the Thomas Cook award for the best guide book in 1989. However it is currently only available from libraries as it has been out of print for more than a year. It will reemerge this Autumn as a Guide for the whole of Turkey (bar Istanbul) though some judicious cuts have kept it to the same size - 766 pages for £16.99
- In the absence of the Blue Guide from the bookshops Diana Darke’s Guide to Aegean and Mediterranean Turkey, published by Micheal Hagg, provides a very acceptable alternative. It is perhaps not quite an equal to her excellent guide to Eastern Turkey but it will still greatly enhance a journey anywhere along the coast from Canakalle to Antakya. There is no general introduction but this has left room for fuller regional histories and a generous store of relevant anecdote at the individual sites. She has also provided coverage of the Byzantine and Ottoman monuments which are so often neglected in favour of the ruins of antiquity. Like many writers trained up in the British Foreign Office there is a hidden assumption that the reader is reasonably experienced and practical information, within the chapters, is kept to a sparse but adequate list of hotels. 308 pages with black and white photographs among the text and 18 handdrawn maps, £9.95/$14.95
- join, a later review of travel writing, which for the coast could include Freya Stark, Philip Glazebrook, Daniel De Souza, Patrick Kinross, Mary-Lee Settle, Yashar Kemal, Barry Unsworth...with of course quite different lists of titles for the East, Black Sea, Istanbul.
- Blue Guide to Turkey by Bernard McDonagh, A & C Black, £16.99
Despite winning the Thomas Cook award for their guide to the Mediterranean and Aegean Coast of Turkey there are no plans to republish it. Fortunately the bulk of the book will reappear in the Blue Guide to Turkey (bar Istanbul) which is due to be published in May 1995 at 736 pages with 65 maps. The series is renowned for the depth and detail of its cultural coverage though this is often marred by a somewhat dry architectural tone and a lack of practical information. Happily Bernard Mcdonagh, manages to be both thorough, scholarly yet readable.
- Diana Darke’s Guide to Aegean and Mediterranean Turkey, published by Micheal Hagg, £9.95/$14.95
This is not quite an equal to her excellent guide to Eastern Turkey but it will still greatly enhance a journey anywhere along the coast from Canakalle to Antakya. There is no general introduction but this has left room for fuller regional histories and a generous store of relevant anecdote at the individual sites. She has also provided coverage of the Byzantine and Ottoman monuments which are so often neglected in favour of the ruins of antiquity. Like many writers trained up in the British Foreign Office there is a hidden assumption that the reader is reasonably experienced and practical information, within the chapters, is kept to a sparse but adequate list of hotels. It has 308 pages and 18 handdrawn maps.
- The Rough Guide to Turkey, by Rosie Ayliffe, Marc Dubin and John Hawthrop£9.99
The Rough Guide has recently been updated and now comes out at 800 pages with 90 maps but h its price at the old level. It gives one of the most comprehensive summaries of the nation with its inbuilt left of centre political viewpoint. Do not however be misled by the title, the Rough Guide is the most snobbishly selective and English of all guides. It pours scorn on holiday resorts and package tourists and while always good on sites is famoulsy authorative on finding a pension, local bus, taxi and unusual places to stay in real Turkey. Its tone can sometimes be a bit puritanical, particularly if you think you deserve a slap uo meal or a luxury night in a good hotel. The familiar soft blue cover, usually seen battered by the earnest enquiring fingers of student backpackers has now been replaced by a smarter waxed cover.
Back to Reviews page
by Barnaby Rogerson