GETTING THERE: There are no direct flights from Washington to Istanbul, but you can make connections in most major European cities. Contact a travel agent for details.
GETTING AROUND: Traveling with our transplanted friends was ideal, although admittedly an advantage difficult for others to duplicate: Bas spoke better than passable Turkish and drove his Mercedes without the timidity of most foreigners, which is to say at speeds approaching 120 miles an hour, hills and curves and oncoming traffic be damned, with rock 'n' tapes pulsing through the stereo system.
Unless similarly chauffeured, visitors probably are better off traveling by bus. The quality of rental cars tends to be iffy, driving conditions are unnerving for the uninitiated and Turkey has one of the highest accident rates in proportion to the number of cars. But bus trips of several hundred miles cost just a few dollars, and departures are frequent and dependable. Buses generally are air conditioned, but it's still a good idea to sit on the shady side. Splashes of cologne are provided gratis, and spring water in plastic squeeze pouches or bottles is also available.
WHERE TO EAT: On-the-road food franchises haven't hit Turkey yet, but combination restaurant/gas stations between cities serve up consistently good food at rock-bottom prices, including grilled lamb shish kebabs and keftes (mini-meatballs on a skewer); a gyros-like dish called iskander served with a spicy red yogurt sauce, hot green peppers and tomatoes; eggplant stews; bean soups; cucumber-tomato-and-hot-pepper salads, and luxuriantly rich whole-milk yogurt. Similar to Greek food, Turkish fare generally is less oily and more piquantly seasoned.
FACILITIES: Beware -- roadside restrooms are of the two-footprints-and-a-hole variety and take some getting used to.
CRUISES: Our 65-foot-long twin-masted yacht with a crew of three, a sailboard and all meals for the 14 of us cost about $1,500 for seven days. Among the Turkish travel agencies that can provide information on available charters are Setur, Cumhuriyet Cad. 107, Elmadag, Istanbul, and Eti Seyahat, Babiali Cad. 23-25, Cagaloglu, Istanbul.
SAFETY: Especially after the hijackings of June and November, many Americans may worry that the religious fanaticism that has redefined terrorism elsewhere in the Middle East may be contagious. But they shouldn't. In Turkey armed guards are ubiquitous in the cities, and airport security is rigorous. In Izmir, we were frisked thoroughly and guards examined our baggage both at a gate a mile outside the airport itself, and again inside. With a severe look, authorities confiscated my husband's Swiss Army knife. It was held until we claimed our baggage in Istanbul, and he had to ask to get it back. Finally, all baggage must be identified by passengers before it is put on the plane.
Still, it did not occur to us to feel nervous about being in Turkey. "Please don't judge the Turks harshly by what happened there," a shopkeeper pleaded, as I browsed an American newspaper proclaiming the release of hostages in July. "We are religious, but we are different than that."
That they are. Although there has been a religious resurgence in recent years, no anti-American fanatical fringe element has emerged. In fact, Turks tend to be pro-Western and pro-American.
INFORMATION: Office of the Culture and Information Counselor, Turkish Embassy, 2010 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, 833-8411.