The Protests in Turkey – 12th June 2013

Update 17th June – Message boards are notorious for veering off topic but we’re finding sensible updates for travelers on the situation in Istanbul can be found here on the Lonely Planet Thorntree forum. This link takes you to page 4 of the discussion for the situation in Istanbul as of lunchtime 17th June. – The protests in Istanbul – Lonely Planet

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Putting these important protests into perspective for travelers to Turkey….

“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space, listen…” The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Turkey is the same; it’s massive, it’s really really loads bigger than you think it is, all our guests say so, they’re all like “Hey, wow, I had no idea how big this country was!!!!”

On a map, squashed into the top corner of the Mediterranean sea, surrounded by all the bits that broke off Russia and that crowd of countries your foreign office has told you to avoid or die it looks kind of normal, average sized, a sensible size for a country, but when you travel in it you realise it really is big.

An example of scale – here in Kirazli, which is near Kusadasi in the province of Aydin, we are 637km (395 miles) from Taksim Square in Istanbul and we’re at the top end of the coastal resorts so anything down from us is even further away. Being physically worried to travel to the Turkish coast when there are problems in Istanbul is like being worried about going surfing in Penzance when people are marching on the G8 summit in London, like they did yesterday.

Your chances, as a traveler, of being involved in the protests here in Turkey are very small, unless you go looking for them, which would be mental.

Even in Istanbul the protests are very centered and within a very specific area in a very large city. To try and give some perspective, the district of Beyoglu, where Taksim Square is, takes up 8.66 square kilometres in a city that covers 5343 square kilometres. Beyoglu is a quarter the size of Westminster in London and a sixth of the size of Manhatten in New York. It’s a pretty small bit of a very large city. Istanbul is a great, big, sprawling, continually growing, incredibly diverse city with over 13 million inhabitants, most of whom do nothing more strident than yell at their TV during the protests (mainly at penguins!).

Perspective is important at times like this, perspective and knowledge, be that knowledge about geography or current affairs or history or politics. Big subjects in a big country. Those of us who live here are working to put all we know into perspective and to gather as much knowledge as possible to give good advice to people coming here.

I’m currently watching a live stream from Taksim Square in Istanbul, it’s raining on poor little Gezi park, the trees are dripping on what is left of the protesters camp and the square is muddy and bare. We all watch what is happening in Taksim and we follow our twitter feeds and our Facebook timelines and we talk about it because it matters to us as residents of Turkey. What also matters to us is that people understand the reasons for these protests and how little it will impact their travels here and how massively it would impact the country and the people if you turned away from traveling to Turkey because of this. They would be heartbroken and travelers would miss out on an amazingly beautiful, diverse and (big) fascinating country.

Yesterday I was watching that same live stream from Taksim, a small group of protesters sat quietly in a semi circle facing off against a group of police in shields and helmets and backed up by a water canon. As I watched a small moped chugged across the square, a pizza delivery guy with his hot box on the back of his bike, his gas mask firmly in place and his hard hat perched at a rakish angle. He manoevered around the police, who didn’t give him a second glance, bypassed the protesters and carried on, off to delivery lunch to some office workers. This is Turkey, it is essentially a pragmatic country, fuel is expensive, a shortcut through Taksim square saves money, the work goes on, the job will be done and for the vast majority it is business as usual and for the vast majority we are far from the troubles and if that changes we will let you know.

To keep up to date with the protests and how they impact on travelers to Istanbul and Turkey please refer to the Trip Advisor forums and this thread in particular – Current situation for travelers to Istanbul – The link takes you to page 76 which is current as of 12th June 2013.

I can’t praise the Destination Experts enough for their incredible patience, sensible attitude and hard work in keeping people updated. They are giving facts not opinion and up to the minute advice to people traveling to Turkey. Some have been worn to a frazzle by fielding countless questions and by trying to keep the information factual and not political and facts is what helps travelers make their minds up.