Thoughts reverent and irreverent from the road in Turkey

It didn’t look very different from any other pide I’d eaten over the years actually. Perhaps the dough was a little thinner, more like that of a lahmacun than a normal pizza. Perhaps the cheese was a little less obvious. But of course there was a curious shimmer to it.This was,...
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In front of the entrance to Eğirdir’s magnificent Dundar Bey Medrese Tahir Usta is stirring a vast cauldron of a curious yellow paste. I peer into it suspiciously. There are patches of oil on the top and pistachios floating haphazardly round the edges. “What is it?” I ask. “Irmak helva,” comes the reply. For...
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It’s an oft-commented fact that once a place has been sanctified by the erection of a religious building it tends to remain sacred even after the dominant religion changes. So in the East End of London it’s possible to come across the odd building that has served in turn as a...
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Last year I made a hare-brained dash to Şavşat in northeastern Turkey in the depths of winter. The reason? Nearby Veliköy is the one village in the country where men engage in the deeply unTurkish sport of kar güreşi (snow wrestling).I say deeply unTurkish because anyone who has lived here for...
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I remember the heat. I remember the dust. I remember the curiously impassive faces. I remember the rumble of the giant Caterpillar trucks. I remember our minivan creeping into town in the early hours of daylight like a child late for school and fearing retribution.

Just two weeks earlier the horrific Marmara earthquake had ripped through Adapazarı at 3.02 am, killing thousands of its citizens and reducing to rubble the homes of many, many more. It was a tragedy that held all Turkey transfixed and from all over the country people rushed to help. In Göreme a group of us commandeered an empty shop and set up a collecting point for anything anyone, local or tourist, felt able to donate. Then after much bureaucratic shenaniganing we set off to deliver it, our minivan racing ahead with a heavy potato truck from Derinkuyu full of donated items bringing up the rear.

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