x0x Turkish Tales
- x0x Turkish Tales
By Annabella Proudlock
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
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.