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Turkey: holiday trends in the home country

"We tried going to Spain once but Turkey attracts us like a magnet. Whenever we want to go away, at the last minute, we decide to go to Turkey. I don't know why. Perhaps because we like to suffer and Turks are masochists," Memet Kilic, Mannheim born and bred, laughs at himself. Like most second-generation German Turks, the 41-year-old lawyer and board member of SWR radio, spends his holiday in Turkey.  Preferably as a package tour to Antalya or Fethyie, he says, and continues, "We want to bask in the sun, relax, eat well and be carefree with our son during our two-week holiday."

Many second-generation German Turks spend their holiday by the sea, like Kilic. True to the slogan: sun, sea and sand. As with German holidaymakers, all-inclusive packages to Antalya are popular with German Turks, followed by the coastal cities of Çesme, Bodrum, Dalaman and Marmaris.

Their slogan is "sun, sea and sand."

The young communications expert, Handan Ipekci, travels to Antalya twice a year. She, however, visits her own holiday home far from the madding crowd. "Now that we have a second child, I am pleased that I don’t have to compare hotels and prices or find child-friendly facilities. We can enjoy the sea and the shady orchard whenever we want. And when our parents arrive from Istanbul and Trier, it’s all go. We have a big happy family holiday," enthuses the 28-year-old from Bergisch-Gladbach.

In the age of budget airlines, the experience of travelling two to three thousand kilometres in a car packed with everything but the kitchen sink to return to your home village, is a thing of the past. Yet, according to the ADAC motoring organisation, the figures for those driving via the Balkans to Turkey have been increasing over the past two years. It is, however, only really economical for large families. It is now more common for second generation Turks to combine the family holiday with a holiday in an hotel; one to two weeks visiting the family and one to two weeks' hotel or all-inclusive holiday.

Many German Turkish pensioners now spend a good six months in Turkey. According to estimates from various tour operators, approximately 40 per cent of them buy only a flight to the town nearest their home village. Because other relatives and acquaintances have settled there and the health services are better, many stay in the towns. From there, they then travel to their village and take a short beach holiday alone or with their children and grandchildren in the south in summer.

Family visits are decreasing, hotel holidays increasing

Ties to the country are not as strong for the second generation as they were for the first. Places such as Paris, the Maldives, Cuba and Poland are no longer considered to be as 'foreign' as they once were to many German Turks. Like most other German holidaymakers, German Turks decide where to go on holiday based on their finances, education and interests – therefore Turkey is attractive to them for reasons other than just family visits.

Şerhat, who has just begun to study law in Bochum, visited the area around Mount Ararat in Anatolia last year. "It was really cool, the mountains, waterfalls and these dark nights without lanterns, lying on the mud roof, sleeping in the open under a gigantic starry sky. Homemade bread and my grandmother’s yoghurt were delicious. But is that the only place I would ever go to? I’d have to ask my girlfriend," laughs the 20-year-old, looking embarrassed. The third generation’s holidays are usually taken independently of their parents. And the trend by the third generation to take hotel holidays and make fewer family visits is also confirmed by hotel complexes in Turkey.

German Turks are more active, more sporty and bigger spenders than Turks.

Alev Karataş, who moved her home from Berlin to Istanbul a few years ago, has a different outlook. Sometimes she enjoys the sun in Bodrum and on other occasions she takes a city trip to Mardin in the South East or explores the Black Sea coast. "Lots of people go on Black Sea tours. It's a little similar to the German Black Forest. But the trip to Kars, near the Armenian border, made a great impression. Soon, I'm going on a tour with a German Turkish group from Germany to Van in the east." Tours to the interior, the east and especially to Van, Turkey’s largest lake, are the latest trend. Transmigrants, like Alev, who are erroneously described as "returnees" although they have never previously lived in Turkey, like to discover more about Turkey through short cultural breaks.

"Cultural tours are rarely undertaken by Turkish Turks. Even though they have the largest open-air museum in the world," says Dieter Schenk, with regret. He is the co-ordinator of Turkon Holding, a company specialising in the up-market tourism sector. While indigenous Turks spend their hotel holiday in groups or with their families, German Turks, who travel for their own pleasure, are usually much more active, more sporty and bigger spenders, he says.

Available as an option: tourism for Islamic requirements

A few hotels also offer a holiday of a particular kind for conservative families. A holiday with like-minded people is made possible with a separate swimming pool and health suite especially for women, a bar serving alcohol-free drinks only, and by showing the faithful which way to face to pray and observing regular prayer times. Since a few prominent female politicians have worn the "haşema", the Islamic bathing costume, this opaque black nylon swimwear has been conquering Turkish beaches. Muslim women, who wear the headscarf and who do not wish to holiday only with women or forego the pleasure of swimming in the Mediterranean with friends and family, can now wear the haşema. What was once the subject of lively debates is now common on many Turkish beaches: bikinis alongside "burquinis", or the haşema.

Germany: not only a new homeland, but also a new holiday destination

There are no figures for German Turks' holiday habits and these will never be available, because the data are collected by country and holiday type, not ethnicity. Yet many tour operators confirm the trend for "package holidays with or without all-inclusive deals."

Hoteliers see German Turks as discerning and appreciative guests who place great value on high-quality service and good food. They are not "more German than the Germans" and have their eccentric ways like other holidaymakers. Holidays in Turkey are seen more and more as a nostalgic destination, whereas Germany is gaining in attraction as a holiday destination for many German Turks, and Christmas in Cologne, according to Elif Vareller, a transmigrant, is the most enchanting holiday.

Semiran Kaya, 25.08.2009

About the author: Semiran Kaya is a journalist specialising in Turkey, migration and Islam. She currently lives in Istanbul.

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