Top critical review
44 people found this helpful
on 18 January 2006
In my experience, seasoned travellers fall into one of two camps - Lonely Planet fans and Rough Guide fans. Okay, seasoned travellers don't even bother with a guide book, but you get my point. I'm a big Rough Guides fan but unfortunately they don't have a guide to Istanbul, but I'd found LP's Pocket Guide to New York City really good so I took my chances with this far more detailed tome for my recent visit to Turkey.
It has almost everything you need in it for an enjoyable stay but the layout, and some of the content, left a lot to be desired. It starts with a series of introductory chapters talking about all the exciting aspects of Istanbul life as well as a very poorly written section on the city's history, before moving on to discuss the different areas of Istanbul, and detailing all the main tourist hot spots (may I recommend the Basilica Cistern), followed by a list of things to do - eating, drinking, entertainment etc. At the back there's a series of maps for all the areas discussed in the book - while basic, they usually sufficed, although I still got lost on every trip I made to Beyoglu and, despite being printed in 2005, are already out of date with regards to the tram routes.
However, due to this design - intros then details - you lost all context and the facts were broken up. For instance, there's an introductory chapter on food and drink that discusses the types of restaurant you should expect to find (mehaynes, lokantas, pideci, etc.). One hundred pages later it begins reviewing restaurants, referring to the style of restaurant, sending you scurrying back through the pages to find out what it's talking about. Bad design - the introductory chapters don't serve a sensible purpose because, by the time you've bought the book, you've already planned to go there.
The facts about the tourist attractions are concise and accurate, but could have done with some historical context/perspective (probably to be found in the earlier chapters). The same applies to the Walking Tours chapter: there are six tours through particular areas, sometimes with a theme (Ottoman, Byzantine). Would a short opening paragraph explaining the significance of the area/architecture have been too much to ask for? It also had several day-long exursions although I ran out of time for these.
However, the worst thing for me, travelling alone and in the off-season, was any mention, as far as I could see, of the issues of travelling alone and out of season. This is a terrible omission. Lone travellers are prey to the touts who prowl the city and sites and in the off season touts are especially desperate/aggressive. It could also have mentioned that, in the winter months, sellers will offer you ridiculously cheap prices to make you their first sale as they believe this will bring them good luck. I'm not kidding here: one store keeper was so desperate to sell he cut his price from €120 to €10!
So, it has the basic content right but the basic design wrong. Unfortunately, it seems to be the most detailed guide on the market.