x0x Turkish Delight
- x0x Turkish Delight
By Harry Blackley
I am at that age when insurance companies offer special discounts because
one is considered safe and reliable, unlikely to take risks, and certainly
mature enough to think carefully before taking a course of action.
My grandchildren have one name for this age, but I prefer the more modern
version - a senior !
So what was I doing with my wife, Gina, on a Turkish Airline flight from
Singapore to Istanbul with the only thing certain was that we had an
airline ticket that would take us on to Amsterdam at some date in the
When we first told friends that we'd be flying Turkish Airlines there
would be an audible pause and then they would ask in a quiet voice, "
Turkish Airlines ? ".
Now I know that the Australian national carrier has a terrific record,
but, hey, its not the only safe airline in the world. Besides, QANTAS does
have connections to all the places we would like to visit.
My wife wanted to visit Turkey and I had a special interest in going to
North Cyprus which is now called The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
You see, in my younger days I had spent a couple of years in Cyprus as
part of the British Army when Cyprus was still a British colony.
We left Melbourne on one of those days in early March with a hot northerly
blowing and a temperature close to the old 100 degrees. It was QANTAS to
Singapore then Turkish Airlines to Turkey.
Istanbul at 7 am in early March is cold, really cold. And that's another
thing, the older one gets the less our body likes the cold.
But its when the cold hits you in a foreign land that you fully understand
the phrase - "off-season".
Its "off" like fish is "off' and nobody wants it. So take my advice and
definitely visit Istanbul and Turkey, but do it sometime between May and
At the tourist office situated in Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, I handed over
my card with its kangaroo motif and the word Australia writ large. I asked
for a hotel in the Sultanhamet district where the guide books say all the
major attractions are within easy walking distance.
"Not expensive, please" I asked, speaking in that voice we use as if all
foreigners are deaf or from another planet.
The guy spoke perfect English, handed me a card with the name and address
of the Hotel Erboy and told me the price to pay for a taxi to town.
So, loaded with maps and brochures, off we went. "You see", I told my
wife, "you don't need to book and plan everything in advance. This is much
more adventurous ! ".
The taxi driver didn't speak any English but he did understand sign
language and very kindly stopped while my wife threw up the last meal we
had eaten on the plane. It happens ! Since she is almost never sick, I
knew we were in for a fun time in Istanbul !
The Hotel Erboy would be classed as comfortable. Each room had a toilet
and shower, the beds had electric blankets and the television had CNN in
English. For two whole days my poor wife was grateful for those electric
blankets and I learned that 24 hour news can be a bit boring.
As soon as she could stand, I hustled her back to the airport and we
headed south to North Cyprus.
The island was enjoying an early spring and the temperature was a lovely
18 degrees Celsius. No wonder they call this place " a corner of earth
touched by heaven".
The only way to enter North Cyprus is through Turkey or by charter flight
from Europe. Without a history lesson, let me just say that this little
country is only recognised by Turkey. The North of Cyprus is occupied by
Turkish Cypriots and the South by Greek Cypriots. At least they have not
been killing each other for 25 years unlike some other places we visited
later in our travels.
North Cyprus is not very big and there's the added bonus that they drive
on the left. Who says the Brits haven't left their mark on the world !
We stayed at The Hotel Dorana in Kyrenia, a very pleasant and reasonably
priced hotel. The weekly tariff included breakfast and lunch or dinner. No
wonder Europeans flock here to escape Winter.
Each evening we chatted with an older ( much older ) English couple at the
next table. Talk about the eccentric English ! The dear old lady had
brought her own bottled water, enough to last two weeks, all the way from
"You can't trust the local bottled water" she told us. Quit frankly we
drank from the jug of local water on the table and it was superior to our
home-town water in Victoria.
Can you picture the scene at Customs ? While everyone else tries to slip
through as much duty-free whisky, brandy and cigarettes as possible, this
lovely couple are explaining why they have a suitcase full of bottled
North Cyprus is a great place for nature and ancient history. It really
was an early Spring and the hills were covered with wild flowers and
herbs. The most common we saw were anenomes, wild orchids, thyme, rosemary
and Tulipa Cypria. These small native plants have been cultivated so well
by my wife's ancestors in Holland that The Netherlands is the tulip centre
of the world.
There are three "dream castles" along the Kyrenia mountain range and we
climbed to every one. The atmosphere is unbelievable and the views
As we looked up at St Hilarion Castle, set high up on a mountain face, we
could clearly see the inspiration for the castle in Disney's Snow White
and The Seven Dwarfs. With a touch of early morning mist in the air I
could almost feel the presence of the Wicked Queen.
Buffavento means buffeted by the wind and it is well named. The most
Easterly castle is Kantara. From there one can see Turkey to the North and
to the South lies Famagusta, the "seaport in Cyprus" from Shakespeare's
Near Famgusta are the ruins of one of the ancient world's great cities,
Salamis. According to legend it was founded by one of the heroes of the
Trojan War. We sat on the communal toilets set up in the round. That's
where rich merchants used to conduct business in days gone by. I hasten to
add that they finished the trading sessions with hot baths and a massage.
Eating out in North Cyprus is good and so cheap that Jenny Craig will
probably put it on her banned list of places to visit. The cuisine is a
combination of Turkish, Lebanese and Greek with fresh fish available
daily. We loved sitting outside at one of the many harbourside restaurants
After touring Europe we returned to Turkey in July. Istanbul was
beautiful, and warm. The trees were in full bloom and every little street
became a restaurant on the balmy nights.
Istanbul is without doubt the most exciting major city in the world. It is
just so different. We walked everywhere, the Topkapi Palace with The
Harem, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and of course the waterfront.
One of the great sights has to be down at Eminou ferry terminal. Its like
Sydney Harbour, Flinders St Station and Singapore's open-air food stalls,
all rolled in to one. At the end of the working day we sat mesmerised by
the constant arrival and departure of ferries. Smoke drifted up from
barbeques cooking fish at the waters edge. Just on dusk, the haunting
sound of the ferry horns drifting out over the Sea of Marmaris as the sun
set was an experience not to be missed.
Another place that we found to be very different was the Cistern of
Philoxenos, a huge underground water storage built in the time of the
Empereor Justinian. Water was brought by aqueduct and stored in this
cavern which was supported by 333 columns. If you saw the movie From
Russia With Love, you can recognise this as the place where James Bond
spied on the Russian Embassy using a submarine periscope. Soft ethereal
music accompanies the sound of dripping water to complement the effective
lighting that illuminates this dark cavern. On a hot day it was a welcome
respite from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul.
Of course we had to visit the Grand Bazaar. Fortunately its not like
ordinary shopping. With over 3000 shops even my wife was shopped out by
the end of the day. We bought souvenirs, so many that we posted home a
huge box with all kinds of artefacts. These included a brass samovar dated
1874, a rug, some wall plaques and various items that have never been
displayed, but gee they did look good in Istanbul !
Our airfare allowed us 5 internal flight sectors which really only gave us
2 destinations as everything goes through Ankara as one sector. So after a
week we headed off for Trabzon away to the North-East on the Black Sea,
near the Russian border.
Turkish people clap when a plane lands at an airport. I'm not sure if its
to give thanks or to rate the pilot's landing performance. Its only polite
to join in, so we did !
The young tourist officer in Trabzon lined us up with a taxi driver who
owned an old Chevy. He was a good guide even if he put the car in neutral
at every opportunity in order to save petrol. Anyway, he was cheaper than
going on organised bus tours.
We drove through some striking scenery, green hillsides dotted with old
wooden houses, tea plantations and tiny villages with beautiful, starkly
Our destination was Sumela Monastery. Set hight up on a cliff face, this
Monastery of the Black Virgin is one of the most stunning and inspiring
places we have ever visited. The seven storey monastery is perched on a
ledge 1000 ft up, on a sheer rock face. We could almost feel the presence
of God in this isolated and lonely place. Little wonder that the monks who
built Sumela 1500 years ago believed that they were closer to the
Almighty, here, high above the lush valley. To experience Sumela was well
worth the long flight East.
Back we flew to the West coast, through Izmir, to the old town of Selcuk.
It was not a place we'd ever heard of, yet it was the site of one of the
seven ancient wonders of the world, the Temple of Artemis, of which
nothing remains. Selcuk is next door to Ephesus, probably the best site in
all the world for Greek and Roman ruins.
We stayed at the Kale Han, as nice a motel as you could find anywhere, and
yet so cheap. The rooms were nice, it had a pool and a shady little eating
place with a good selection of wines.
Selcuk was an ideal base to visit Ephesus, Pamukale, Kusadasi and the
Greek island of Samos.
I never knew that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, spent the last years of her
life living near Selcuk. The House of The Virgin Mary is a huge tourist
attraction. St John wrote his Gospel in Selcuk and St Paul preached in the
amphitheatre at Ephesus. What a charming little town. We loved it !
We spent our last couple of days in Istanbul where the ferry trips are a
real bargain. Buy a guide book and travel up The Golden Horn and the
spectacular Bosphorus for a few dollars.
One memory that I will carry forever is the scene of about 50 taxis
flowing along a wide street then jockeying for position to turn a corner
in to a narrower street. I couldn't help but think of the horses rounding
the final bend of the Melbourne Cup.
That's Istanbul, a city full of excitement, noise, beauty and also peace,
a Turkish Delight, never to be forgotten. And thanks to Turkish Airlines
it was comfort all the way home.