I'm an American who lived in Turkey for years, and I speak Turkish. I've read most if not all of the contemporary travel accounts. Philip Glazebrook gets it right.
Don't worry that this book was written in the 80's. Yes, Turkey has changed since then. Turkey, especially Istanbul, is always changing. Blink, and Istanbul will have changed -- in some ways, but not others. Not the spirit. And that elusive, enduring spirit is what Glazebrook has captured here.
It's true that the tourist areas are more touristy now than they were 20 years ago, but where is that NOT the case? Istanbul is a vibrant, enormous city, and tourists barely touch the surface of it. Taksim, Sultanahmet and Kumkapi are not all there is to Istanbul! The cobbled alleys are still there. The chance to lose yourself in another world, away from tourism, is still there -- just as Glazebrook describes. That said, Istanbul is extremely cosmopolitan, and I think this was also true in the 80's. It depends where you go, that's all. Glazebrook takes the trouble to explore, and if you do that you will find not only the cosmopolitan, European side of Istanbul (not all of which is overrun yet with tourism, by the way!), but also the more evocative intimations of the mysterious past.
Glazebrook describes, for example, a visit to an ancient city (near Pamukkale and Denizli) which wasn't yet on the tourist map at the time of his visit. He refrains from telling the name of the site, although to anyone familiar with Turkey it is easy enough to identify. That ancient city now IS set up for tourism, but it is still a beautiful, remote, incredible place to visit. I was there in the winter, and there were only a scattered handful of other tourists -- maybe 4 or 5 in the whole site. Is this so different from Glazebrook's experience? Well, yes, and no. The site now has a museum, which it did not at the time he visited. But more to the point, there are other ancient sites still relatively undiscovered. The experience Glazebrook describes, arriving on a minibus into the middle of nowhere, discovering a ruin as if you were the first explorer to find that place -- that experience is still to be had in Turkey. You just have to go looking.
What Glazebrook writes is honest, and I RECOGNIZE Turkey the way he describes it. He catches the half-and-half quality of the country, the haunting sense of the ever-present past, of the familiar mixed with the mysterious. The feeling of being very far, in a place very exotic, and yet at the same time known, welcome, and welcoming. That is Turkey, for me.
Marry Lee Settle doesn't capture the feeling of Turkey at all. Her writing is cloyingly sweet. Reading her "Turkish Reflections," I see Settle's own reflection more clearly than the land and the people who are supposedly her subject. I have reason to strongly suspect she made up most of her chapter on Selcuk and Ephesus, whole cloth.
Whatever you do, do NOT buy Jeremy Seal's bitter, mean-spirited, mud-slinging, "Fez of the Heart." He's got a thinly disguised, anti-Turkish political agenda, and to that end he has mis-translated, quoted out of context, mis-quoted, and otherwise outright LIED to make his points. If you don't know the Turkish language and a lot about Turkish culture and history, you'd be well advised to avoid his book altogether. You'll never be able to sort out the (few) facts from the malicious fictions.
But Glazebrook ... ahhh! Glazebrook understands Turkey! He has a feeling for his subject, he sees Turkey with clear eyes. He describes vividly, without projecting his own ego.
If you want something up-to-the-minute for hotel info, or restaurant suggestions, Journey to Kars is not the book for you. (Neither is Settle, or Seal.) But if you want to know what Turkey FEELS like, if you want to know something of the Turkish spirit, then short of going there yourself there is no place better to turn than this lovely little book by Philip Glazebrook.