Thoughts reverent and irreverent from the road in Turkey



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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When I first started travelling around Turkey I was completely mystified by local bed-making habits. There it was, this otherwise clean and welcoming hotel, but when it came time to go to bed I’d find myself confronted with what appeared to be a package of sheets and blankets neatly laid out...
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  It’s a story that has become set in stone. It goes something like this. In 2008 sculptor Mehmet Aksoy started work on a 30-metre-high statue of a man and a woman in Kars in northeastern Turkey. He called it Insanlık (Humanity) or posssibly Dostluk (Friendship) – opinions seemed to...
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“The most complete cycle of frescoes this side of Ani,” said my copy of the Rough Guide to Turkey which was enough to have me hotfooting it back to the dismal mining and dam-building town of Borçka in Turkey’s remote north-east, a town I’d sworn never to revisit when last I...
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The köy arabası (village van) is a phenomenon, the beaten-up, broken-down last link in the long chain of Turkey’s fantastic public transport system, a system designed to ensure that there’s hardly a place in the country with more then five occupants that doesn’t have some kind of link to the outside...
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Dear Turkish hotelier, As a result of my work I spend far too many nights sleeping in hotels and I can certainly vouch for the quality of many of the places that I stay in, even though they rarely fall into the five-star luxury bracket. On the other hand there’s still...
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Tagged in: Turkey Turkish hotels
At the entrance to what was once the Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia in İznik I feel my footsteps faltering. Beside the door stands a big new sign. Aya Sofya, it says, this being the Turkish rendering of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), but beside it in smaller letters it also...
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Once upon a time there was an Ottoman princess. Actually she was the queen mother which made her more than normally important. But now the princess had fallen ill and nothing the physicians could do would restore her. Then along came a local miracle-worker called Merkez Efendi who whipped up a...
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There I was in a newly opened museum in Konya that was entirely bereft of other visitors, no doubt in part because it was called the Sahipata Vakıf Müzesi, a name that gave no clue, specially to a foreigner, as to its contents.  Admiring some hanging porcelain ornaments, I raised...
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“Berbat, çok berbat (awful, really awful).” Despite the appalling weather I’d managed to make it to the kar güreşi (snow wrestling) in Veliköy, near Şavşat, on Saturday. The only problem was that I now needed to get to Ardahan to have any chance to getting up to Çıldır on a...
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