Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book shopping in Turkey: Lycian Way in the off-season

Tintin and I recently took a trip to Turkey, with 10 days of backpacking along the Lycian Way bookended by a few days in Istanbul. As you probably have guessed by reading my blog, one of my goals on any trip is to explore the local options for bookstores and book-buying. 

It was lucky that I brought Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie's 647-page behemoth, with me, because there are very few bookstores along the Lycian Way during the off season. Since I like making lists, here is an account of the bookstores we discovered during our trek. 

Fethiye


The tourist town of Fethiye usually has at least one bookstore that sells English-language books, including translations of Turkish novels. We discovered it while we were looking for food in the cheap, touristy area by the quay. Unfortunately, we didn't write down the name or get the GPS points for you, but if you ask "English kitabevi nerede" you should find it easily. 

It is a small shop with carts of discount books directly in front of the store and on the opposite side of the street. We arrived in the last week of the tourist season, and the English-language pickings were slim. The carts on the other side of the street were full of used English bestsellers (most likely bought from tourists), and the ones in front of the store had all Turkish-language works. When we asked the shopkeeper for Turkish authors translated into English, all he could show us was a lone copy of Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak and a few books by the Nobel-prize winner Orhan Pamuk, all priced at British prices. We got the impression that the store's selection was a lot bigger during tourist season, but they had sold all the English-language books for the year. 


Kalkan


In the empty tourist town of Kalkan, we completely struck out of finding any bookstores at all. It's possible that they exist in the tourist season. The closest big town is Kas, which we did not spend time in but heard that it did have (a) bookstore(s). 

Demre


We expected to find a bookstore in the larger town/pilgrimage site of Demre, but we again were unable to find anything. One stationary shop (kirtasiye) had one book in English, a translation of an old Turkish epic.  

The St. Nicholas museum gift shop had a few translations for sale, again mostly Elif Safak and Orhan Pamuk. If you're really desperate for something new to read, I would suggest buying it from there despite the museum gift shop prices. 

Finike


Finike is a larger town that is less tourist-oriented. We thought that we would perhaps find a Turkish-language bookstore, even if they did not have any English books. Despite our searching, we found only a stationary shop in the older part of the city. 

Antalya


As the regional capital, Antalya is outfitted with a good selection of bookstores. The one that is mentioned in Lonely Planet, Owl Bookshop, was extremely disappointing. Although the location in the old city is nice and the owner is extremely garrulous (one might say mad), the selection proved to be very limited. The owner informed us that he would be closing shop next year due to the end of the world, so you might want to watch out for that as you're looking for books in Antalya. 

After asking around, we discovered an entire street devoted to bookstores! Unfortunately, their selections were primarily in Turkish and I felt sad staring at all the lovely 1 TL books that I couldn't read. (Maybe my next language will be Turkish!) After asking around, we discovered that some of the bookstores have used copies of English language books for sale. Their selection was better than the other places we had seen on the trip, including Turkish authors in translation. Tintin bought two very reasonably priced used books, Elif Shafak's The Forty Rules of Love and Orhan Pamuk's The Black Book. The shop owner was very chatty, giving us suggestions of good Turkish authors in a variety of genres. 

Finally, we ended up following a friend's advice and going to the Barnes and Noble's Turkish equivalent, D&R. It was located in a Western-style mall with a Starbucks on the ground floor. While the store sold mostly Turkish-language books (including translations of many American bestsellers), there was a shelf of English-language books that included a few translations of Turkish authors. This is where I picked up a 15 TL copy of Buket Uzuner's novel Istanbullu

That was the extent of my book shopping on the Lycian Way! I hope this guide was helpful. 

Did you find any book stores that I missed? Let me know below! 

Book Shopping in Turkey: Istanbul coming soon!

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