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x0x Turkish Tales

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    x0x Turkish Tales Travel By Annabella Proudlock Jamaica Observer We woke to the sound of prayers wafting from the minarets of the Blue Mosque, the haunting
    Message 1 of 1 , May 30, 2005
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      x0x Turkish Tales


      By Annabella Proudlock

      Jamaica Observer

      We woke to the sound of prayers wafting from the
      minarets of the Blue Mosque, the haunting sound
      that was to follow us throughout our journey. The
      verses of the Koran are chanted five times a day
      from mosques in every village and town in this
      country of surprises.

      In homage to a dear friend who died recently and
      had asked me to write up our trip together five
      years before, I returned to Turkey, now
      accompanied by my artist friend Graham Davis.

      Olives at the market in Kas

      Turkey is a huge peninsula that juts out into the
      Eastern Mediterranean with 5000 miles of
      coastline, and mountains twice the height of Blue
      Mountain Peak. We visited only a fraction of
      Anatolia, the region across the Bosphorus in Asia,
      but moved from dense forests, to salt lakes,
      gorges, and the extraordinary landscape of

      Despite a population of 68 million, Turkey can
      feed itself, one of the few countries in the world
      able to do so. Throughout our journey we saw both
      men and women working in fields of cotton,
      potatoes, olive trees, pumpkins and grains.

      Families with young children and well-trained dogs
      tended large herds of sheep and goats. There are
      also large industrial areas, a thriving textile
      industry, and a steadily growing tourism business.

      I had researched our trip on the Internet, (travel
      is the second most widely used resource on the
      web) and chosen Journey Anatolia, a small tour
      company. Owner Serkan, Turkish-born and raised in
      England, had similar interests as myself, having
      previously worked in film and design.

      His passionate love for his homeland and eagerness
      to share would bring a time of laughter and
      lasting memories. Through him we discovered its
      ancient history, culture, cuisine and beauty,
      travelling over 2,000 miles in his trusty
      Landrover, which gradually filled with our
      purchases of carpets, lamps, fruit and spices.

      Turkey has numerous Greek and Roman archaeological
      sites - huge amphitheatres, aqueducts, temples,
      tombs, mosaics and inscriptions. Some were on
      remote coastal headlands or hidden as in the
      forests of Olimpos.

      n more modern times, from the 12th Century,
      traders along the Silk Route brought exotic goods
      from the East. Turkey, the crossroad between two
      continents, has always been a meeting place of
      both worlds. There are museums everywhere.

      The famed Topkapi Palace in Istanbul evoked the
      fairy tale images of my visit as a student, after
      sitting in a train from England for five days and
      nights. Once the home of Sultans, it offers a
      breathtaking insight into their opulent lives with
      diamonds the size of hens' eggs, exquisite inlaid
      thrones, and the bejewelled robes that adorned the
      concubines of the harem.

      Below the palace is the Bosphorus, the narrow
      strait that divides Europe and Asia. One of the
      world's busiest shipping lanes, our ferry
      zigzagged past boats of all sizes, and elegant
      Ottoman homes, the summer residences of Turkey's

      The silhouette of the city from the water is a
      sight never to be forgotten. To cleanse ourselves
      for the journey, we visited a Turkish bath, or
      'hamam', where I got steamed and scrubbed on an
      enormous marble slab. Men and women are in
      separate areas, but the sight of so many naked
      women was bizarre.

      Our route took us past the killing fields of
      Gallipoli, memorialised in the Mel Gibson film of
      the same title. As in most places, Serkan knew
      where to find the best food, and that night we
      dined on lamb that had grazed on wild oregano, and
      was cooked with yoghurt over coals. Turkish
      cuisine is a heady mixture of spices and local

      In markets we marvelled at shiny eggplants,
      cabbages twice the size of my head, beautifully
      presented fish and radishes as large as
      grapefruit. Peppers in a rainbow of colours, lush
      pomegranates and pistachios jostled for space
      between crimson tomatoes and pale green pumpkins.

      I learned to love lentil soup, and 'pide' - the
      Turkish version of pizza. I drank endless cups of
      cay, apple tea and Turkish coffee, along with
      local beer, wine and a yoghurt drink called
      'ayran'. Each region has its own specialities,
      including bread all shapes and sizes of bread. We
      especially enjoyed Turkish delight, a sweet
      concoction of nuts and fruits whose popularity
      rivals our Easter buns.

      Luckily our journey was quite active, so that our
      waistlines did not expand too-too much. Our next
      overnight stop, Pamukkale, has spectacular calcium
      cliffs and pools, gleaming like snow in the

      The Romans recognised their mineral properties and
      built a large spa nearby. The weather became
      warmer as we travelled south, past the spectacular
      Saklikent gorge, narrower and higher than Bog
      Walk. Kas, our home for two days is a former
      fishing village where tourism has made its mark
      with many shops and restaurants.

      Around the harbour, the captains of gulets (boats
      of traditional design) wait for customers to
      explore the many islands, sunken cities and coves.
      It was here that Graham succumbed to the charms of
      a carpet. Turkish carpets are world famous and the
      finest sell for many thousands of dollars, but
      after nuff cups of tea (and most of the morning) a
      bargain was struck with the Turkish higgler.

      Travelling along a truly dizzying coastal road, we
      reached Olimpos. It was here that I saw my most
      surreal sight of the journey - the Chimaera.
      Steeped in mythology, these eternal flames appear
      spontaneously out of crevices on a remote
      hillside. Used in navigation by ancient mariners,
      no one can explain the gas coming from deep within
      the earth, hot enough to cook on, and photographs
      cannot capture the otherworldly feel of the

      Our next stop, Konya, is a conservative Moslem
      city, birthplace of the founder of the Whirling
      Dervishes. Despite the name, the religious
      ceremony is graceful and majestic. Like pocomania,
      it involves chants, music and dance, and for the
      uninitiated it is a deeply moving experience.

      From there we drove to Cappadochia, a World
      Heritage Site of volcanic valleys and pillars
      formed from wind and rain over the centuries.
      With its incredibly improbable rock formations,
      cave houses and frescoes, it is probably the most
      photographed area of Turkey. Indeed our hotel was
      carved into the rocks.

      At dawn we viewed it from a hot air balloon,
      passing vineyards and villages - a journey that
      ended unceremoniously as we tipped gently over on

      Our last nights in the countryside were spent in
      Safranbolu, another World Heritage site, which
      became prosperous from the sale of saffron and
      leather. We stayed with a local family in their
      18th century Ottoman home. Early in the morning
      our host, Cengis, took us into the mountains to
      his father's sheep farm. Here, as everywhere, the
      people were friendly, dignified and eager to share
      their knowledge.

      We returned to Istanbul along mountain roads and
      super highways. It was now the month of Ramadan
      when during daylight hours people are forbidden to
      eat or drink, so nightfall is a time of festivity.
      All around the Blue Mosque, stalls and restaurants
      are set up, and children gazed wide-eyed at the
      colourful homemade sweets and special foods. As we
      say goodbye, I too feel wide-eyed and awed by the
      magnificence and magic of Turkey.
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