Top 7 Books to Read Before Traveling to Turkey

I like to read several books before each trip to have a better understanding of the culture and the local life of my next destination. Of course there are the travel guides I read before leaving or even before choosing my next destination, but my favourites are fiction novels. I like to read stories that take place in that country or whose authors are from that country.

Below is a great list of non-travel books about Turkey, some from Turkish authors. If you are considering travelling to Turkey soon, create time to read at least few of them, perhaps they will make you realize your dream trip sooner than expected.

1) Yasar Kemal, The Birds Have Also Gone

A short novel from one of Turkey’s internationally recognised and widely read authors who has also been a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. In this book, author tells the story of three boys who are struggling to survive in the constantly changing environment of the big city: Istanbul.

2) John David Tumpane, Scotch and Holy Water

Entertaining book on Turkish people and life in Turkey written by American author who lived in Turkey for 10 years. From the view of a Turkish person you may find the author arrogant and the observations exaggerated but it will surely be helpful to Americans in understanding Turkish thinking. “We arrived in Istanbul via Pan Am after midnight. On the way into the city, all the neon signs looked so strange to me: Tuzcuoglu, Haci Bekir Lokumlari, Koc. I thought, I’ll never be able to learn this language. Then I saw a sign reading Is Bankasi and I was sure the word “bank” was lurking somewhere in there. Since I knew one word of Turkish already, I decided to stay”

3) Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul Memories and the City

The Nobel Prize winner recalls the Istanbul of his youth. Istanbul’s melancholy enriched his childhood and continues to inspire him. “… the melancholy of this dying culture was all around us. Great as the desire to westernise and modernise may have been, the more desperate wish, it seemed, was to be rid of all the bitter memories of the fallen empire: rather as a spurned lover throws away his lost beloved’s clothes, possessions and photographs”

4) Mustafa Ziyalan and Amy Spangler (editors), Istanbul Noir

Comprised of by 16 stories, all original, some of Turkey’s most exciting authors; the result is an underground portrait of the city and of Turkey, told in evocative, often poetic, and powerful language.

5) Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings

Birds Without Wings is a novel by Louis de Bernières, telling the tragic love story of Philothei, a Christian girl and Ibrahim her childhood friend and Muslim. The story is set in Eskibahçe, a small fictional village; although fiction, the setting of Eskibahçe is based upon Kayaköy village near Fethiye, the ruins of which still exist today; a beautiful historic romantic novel.

6) Elif Safak, The Flea Palace

Safak is a young Turkish novelist, writer of best-sellers in Turkey, France and Bulgaria. The Flea Palace is a novel about daily routines of the inhabitants of an apartment building in Istanbul named BonBon Palace, miniature representation of the city itself, the city of contrasts and contradictions, the city where East meets West. Here is an extract from The Flea Palace: “Istanbul was under a heavy fog that morning, and as all Istanbulites knew too well, during foggy days even the city herself could not tell what her colour was. However, Agripina Fyodorovna Antipova had always been pampered with great care since birth and had been subsequently led to presume that others were to blame whenever she could not obtain anything she desired…”

7) Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey

A nonfiction anthology created and edited by Anastasia M. Ashman & Jennifer Eaton Gokmen. The collection includes the life experiences of 32 expatriate women from seven nations and five continents, whose collective experience spans over the past four decades. These diverse women describe religion, culture, conflicts, traditions and customs with the perspective of foreign women living and working in Turkey. They will take you to Istanbul’s narrow streets, to warm homes, and to steamy Hamams. If you are planning to visit Turkey soon this book is a great read to warm your heart to Turkish people.

Travel to Ireland

Ireland is an island in the northwest of Europe with an area of 32,595 sq miles. About 370 km (230 miles) long by 225 km (140 miles) wide, Ireland comprises the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The population of the island of Ireland is approximately 5.8 million people, 4.1 million in the Republic of Ireland and 1.7 million in Northern Ireland. Ireland is the third largest island in Europe.

Geography: Ireland has thirty-two counties, and four provinces: Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster. A ring of coastal mountains surrounds low central plains. About five percent of Irish land is under forest. The island’s green vegetation is a product of its mild climate and frequent but soft rainfall. Ireland’s most scenic areas lie in the south western and western counties. These areas are largely mountainous and rocky, with beautiful green views.

Irish: is the Celtic language of Ireland. It was brought to Ireland by Celtic invaders in 1000 BC, and to the end of the 18th century, was spoken by the majority of the people. The English language gained ground rapidly and Irish is now spoken regularly only in certain areas in the west of Ireland. It is taught in all schools, but despite active support from the government of Ireland, there are probably fewer than 90,000 speakers. It is the first official language of the Irish Republic and recently became an official language of the European Union (EU).

Literature and the arts: For such a small country, Ireland has made a large contribution to world of art and literature in all its branches, mainly in English. In more recent times, Ireland has produced four winners of the Nobel Prize for literature: George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and Seamus Heaney.

James Joyce is widely considered as one of the most significant writers of the 20th century. His novel: Ulysses is considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.

Landscape: The Irish landscape is one of Ireland’s greatest attractions. Ireland’s most scenic areas lie in the south western and western counties. There are several National Parks filled with towering hills, romantic lakes, and will always remain Irelands most unspoiled treasures. Magnificent scenery has attracted many visitors to these parks for years.

Climate: The Atlantic Gulf Stream keeps the Irish climate mild most of the year. Average temperatures in winter are 4 – 7o C, and in summer are 14 – 18o C. Rainfall is heaviest in the west and lightest in the southeast, but at all times very unpredictable.

Sport: Gaelic hurling and football are the most popular sports in Ireland – they make up the national sports of Ireland, known as Gaelic Games. All Gaelic games are governed by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
Other main sports include: Rugby, Football (soccer), Horse racing and Greyhound racing.

West Bengal Travel Guide

Bengal has rich cultural heritage and a glorious past dates back to 3rd century BC. The region has been ruled by Mauryas, Guptas, Palas, the Muslims and finally the British. Bengal is the birth place of many great personalities, philosophers, scientists, patriots, and home to five Nobel laureates – Ronald Ross, Sir C.V. Raman, Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa and Amartya Sen. During British imperialism, this region was divided into two provinces of West Bengal and East Bengal followed the policy of “divide and rule” to curb the rising of national movement in India. Present Bangladesh is the region of East Bengal and West Bengal is one of the 28th states of Indian Union.

GEOGRAPHY

West Bengal is bordered by Nepal and Bangladesh and the states of Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim, Assam, and Meghalaya in different directions. From north to south, it stretches from Himalayan Mountain to the Gangetic plain and the Bay of Bengal. The land is mostly plain except the northern region, which comes under the Himalayan mountain range. On the basis of landforms, the state can be divided into the following regions: Darjeeling Himalayan hill region, Terai region, North Bengal plains, Rarh region, Coastal plain, Sunderbans, Western plateau and high lands and Ganges delta.

CULTURE

The rebirth of Indian culture has taken place in this region of West Bengal which added a new chapter in the evolution of Indian history as Bengal Renaissance. This region is the land of Subhash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Mother Teresa, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, Jagdish Chandra Basu, Dr. C. V. Raman, Satyendra Nath Basu, U. N. Bhramcharya, Meghnath Saha, G. D. Birla, Girendra Sekhar Basu, P. C. Mahalanabish, Sishir Kumar Mitra, Debendra Mohan Basu, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Saorjini Naidu, Amartya Sen, Saurav Ganguly and many more. The culture of Bengal is deep rooted in its soil and is distinguished by festivals, music, cinema, drama and literature. Festivals in a multidimensional scale are observed in spiritual ecstasy in the state especially during Durga Puja.

CUISINE

Bengalis are fond of Bhaat (rice) and Machher jhol (fish curry). There is a wide range of dishes and cuisines with variety of tastes. Most of the typical Bengali sweets have their origin in traditional household kitchens. The most famous of all Bengali sweet is the rasogolla (a kind of sweet) which is best eaten chilled.

PLACES OF INTEREST

There are three distinct types of landscape in West Bengal. First is the Red Soil famous for its rich color to the terracotta temple of Bishnupur, second is the Ganges Delta in lower Bengal where the Bengal tigers meander and the third is the charming Rajera Hill Stations of Darjeeling and Kalimpong lies in the foothills of the Himalayas in the northern part of West Bengal. Some of the famous India Tours and tourist destinations of West Bengal are Kolkata the capital of the state offers Birla Planetarium, Fort William, Botanical Garden, Zoological Garden, Eden Gardens, Nehru Children’s Museum, Howrah Bridge, Victoria Memorial, Indian Museum, Nakhoda Mosque, St. Paul’s Cathedral Church and Kali Mandir of Kalighat. Some other excursions are Digha, Diamond Harbor, Haldia, Barrackpore, Chandernagore, Bandel, Sunderban Wildlife Sanctuary etc. Darjeeling one of the most magnificent hill resorts in the world with breathtaking beauty crowned by the majestic Himalayas. Siliguri the gateway of Eastern India as it is the main transit point for going to Darjeeling hill region, Sikkim, Bhutan, Eastern Nepal and Assam. Kurseong a quiet township between Siliguri and Darjeeling noted for its secluded charm and Eagle’s Crag. Kalimpong secluded and tucked away in the corner under big Darjeeling umbrella, offers a quiet and relaxed holiday, against the backdrop of the Kanchenjunga. Mirik a nest in the hills, a long lake, a floating fountain and the glory of Kanchenjungha reflected in the lake waters. Dooars Valley forms a gateway to the hill stations of North Bengal and Bhutan and famous for unending stretch of virgin forests. Lava commands panoramic view of Jelep La and Rechi La passes, also the gateway to the Neora National Park. Lolay Gaon gives panoramic view of Kanchenjunga. The East Himalayas land of infinite charm with scenic views of Kanchenjunga, bewildering greenery, tea gardens, adventure spots, trekking and lots more.

BEACHES

The coastal trip of West Bengal extending from the Gangetic delta land to the border of Orissa offers breathtaking and eye-catching beaches of Digha, Shankarpur, Junput, Bakkhali, Frazergunj and Sagardwip.

WILDLIFE OF BENGAL

West Bengal’s wild life offers a fascinating diversity of terrain, flora and fauna. It is a delight for nature lovers. It is the home to the World Heritage Site – Sunderbans. Other major wildlife sanctuaries and parks are as under:

1. Neora Valley National Park

The Neora Valley National Park is located in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal bordered on the east by Western Bhutan. The forest of Neora Valley is one of the least tracts of virgin wilderness in the country harbors a wealth of flora and fauna.

2. Buxa National Park

The Buxa Tiger Reserve is located in the north eastern corner of West Bengal bordering Bhutan and Assam. It comprises of deciduous forests which are densely wooded and grasslands and is home to some of West Bengal’s most varied flora and fauna.

3. Sunderban National Park

It is located in 24 Paraganas district, has been designated as a World Heritage Site in 1985 and is a part of the Project Tiger.

4. Singalila National Park

This National Park is famous for Rhododendron, Magnolia, Oak, Hemlock, Silver Fir, Juniper, Mailing Bamboo, Buk, Kawla, Bhujpatra etc. Fauna are leopard, serow, pangolin, elephant, chinkara takin, red panda, barking deer etc.

5. Gorumara National Park

Gorumara National Park is located in the Dooars region of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal famous for its natural population of the Great Indian one horned Rhinoceros.

6. Jaldapara Wild Life Sanctuary

The sanctuary located in the Mountains of Bhutan and the confluence of river Torsa and Malangi is the home of several wild lives like one horned Indian Rhinos, Swamp Deer, wild boar, leopard and tigers.

WEST BENGAL FESTIVALS

The common and popular Bengali saying ‘Baro Mase Tero Parban’ which means thirteen festivals in twelve months that signifies the umpteen number of fairs and festivals that take place. Some of the famous festivals of West Bengal are Gangasagar Mela in South 24 Pargana, Kenduli Mela in Birbhum district, Jalpesh Mela in Jalpaiguri district, Vasanta Utsav in Birbhum district, Naba Barsho throughout West Bengal, Rathayatra in Hooghly district, Jhapan in Bankura district, Bera Utsav in Murshidabad district, Durga Puja and Deepavali throughout West Bengal, Rash Mela in Cooch Behar district, Jagaddhatri Puja in Hooghly district, Teesta Tea and Tourism Festival held in a series at Darjeeling, the Dooars and in Sikkim, Poush Mela in Birbhum district, Vishnupur Festival in Bankura district, Eid throughout West Bengal, Dol Purnima and Noboborsho.

CLIMATE

West Bengal has a tropical climate. The plains are hot except during the short winter season while the mountainous region in the north is cold. Generally there are six seasons – springs, summer, the rainy, autumn, mild winter and severe winter.