To anyone who visited Turkey before the present crack down what is now happening is tragic.
In September , 2001 , my wife and I travelled to many parts of Turkey . We began in Istanbul staying in a small inn in the Old Town , totally fascinated by the mosques and grandeur of the buildings, the grand market and the spice market freely traversing the streets on foot.
Then we travelled west by public bus, to Canakkale , where we visited the cemeteries at nearby Gallipoli –noting the role of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers in particular in that conflict. My great Uncle was also at Gallipoli so it was of particular interest.
We were blessed with an unique travel guide . I had been told at the inn we stayed in at Canakkale that there was this older gentleman who authored a book on Gallipoli and still hung out his business shingle. I sought out where this man was to be , and sure enough, sitting down in a small office surrounding by books , was this small gray haired man , with moustache . He was only too happy to oblige ( all tourists now going to the slicker tour guides ) and , we , in his little car were taken to Gallipoli, , Ephesus , and Troy and in good english were given over three days a unbelievable commentary on the history of these famous places. If our visit were to stop there we would have been satisfied.
On by public bus south to the sea port town of Bodrin where I was lucky enough to meet the new Turkish owner of a small inn at which we stayed a few blocks from the harbour. What was interesting was that this new owner had been able to finance the purchase of the inn as a result of his permanent employment at the large American military base in south Turkey. He was quick to point out that he was treated the same as the Americans and his family were all able to avail of the medical services provided on the base.
On public bus again to the interesting site at Pamukkale east of Bodrin Here is one description :
‘.Pamukkale is a town in western Turkey known for the mineral-rich thermal waters flowing down white travertine terraces on a nearby hillside. It neighbors Hierapolis, an ancient Roman spa city founded around 190 B.C. Ruins there include a well-preserved theater and a necropolis with sarcophagi that stretch for 2km. The Antique Pool is famous for its submerged Roman columns, the result of an earthquake.’
Travelling on , we bused along the Anatolian Plain . Some locals on the bus told us about a town on a lake . We were to stop there along our longer journey . Interested we decided to debark at Egird to check it out . The small city/town included a peninsula that stretched out in the lake , same name, with small hotels , and restaurants traversing it. Dragging our luggage in mid afternoon, we proceeded to find a place to stay on this small peninsula. Luckily, we found a rather modern three storey hotel and booked in for the night. We were in for a treat as the owner of this hotel was an eccentric American mathematician from North Carolina . Of medium height, red faced , with fair graying hair , this loquacious fellow was to take us to dinner that night at a place fronting the lake and tell us all about himself and Egird. Not only was he an hotel owner but also a generous benefactor in the town , financing the education of promising young students and building a soccer field for the athletes of the place.
If Turkey ever settles down and you visit and you have to chose among a few places to visit , Cappadocia must be in that few. The valley the day we arrived was dotted with watermelons waiting to be picked up as we gazed at the unique umbrella up side down tuffs described as the Fairy Chimneys on tourist maps. It is surprising what erosion can do with a soft substance :
‘Cappadocia, a dreamy slice of central Turkey dotted with ‘fairy chimneys’ (rock formations), has a history every bit as remarkable as its landscape. Volcanic eruptions created this surreal moonscape: the lava flows formed tuff rock, which wind and rain sculpted into sinuous valleys with curvy cliff faces and pointy fairy chimneys. Cappadocians chiselled homes in the soft rock, paving the way for cave-dwelling hippies and today’s boutique fairy-chimney hotels.’
And how can one forget those subterranean cities frequented by the persecuted Christians ?
We thought it only right to spend time ( one night in a chimney) in the valley so we courageously rented two motor bikes and like frolicking teenagers meandered around the valley in this town and then another.
With valour being the better part of discretion we rented a car and started a trek to the Black Sea. With maps in short supply and those we had hardly readable we took the backs roads north ( farmers with no English helping our directions) and somehow reached Sanfranbolou , one of the few towns still having houses and other buildings of Ottoman architecture .
Then on to the Black Sea only 100 kilometres away. We were unaware of the nature of the road system along the Black Sea coast: the narrow roads and steep hills every few miles. From west to east along the coast we traversed , finding ourselves different unreserved accommodations each night. Of course, that meant getting into one Black Sea town at 10:30 PM , searching on the beach road for a place to stay , all the places on the coast road inland from the beach full. Thanks to a hospitable family we were taken in , after we almost threw ourselves on them when they opened their door to our knock.
We arrived in Sinop at noon . This is a historic port in western Turkey.
‘Sinop (Greek: Σινώπη, Sinōpē, historically known as Sinope /sᵻˈnoʊpi/) is a city with a population of 36,734 on the isthmus of İnce Burun (İnceburun, Cape Ince), near Cape Sinope (Sinop Burnu, Boztepe Cape, Boztepe Burnu) which is situated on the most northern edge of the Turkish side of the Black Sea coast, in the ancient region of Paphlagonia, in modern-day northern Turkey. The city serves as the capital of Sinop Province.’
Inland from Sinop is the tobacco region of Turkey through which we travelled on our way to Samsung, a large city in this region of the country. Unable to find our way in the city and our rent a car office , we negotiated somehow with a young lady at a gas service station . Having learned a little English at school she was able to understand enough to contact the rent a car people who rescued us . That evening while strolling in the inner part of the city we were waved down by a restaurant owner who, having been in the USA and seeing we looked like North Americans , invited us for dinner at his establishment .
Back the next day by airplane to Istanbul and one last look at the Grand Bazaar , Spice Market , and the fabulous Mosques and Topkapi Palace.
Throughout the country we were treated with super hospitality–the carpet dealers, small town craft store owners, the farmers , hotel owners , bus drivers and all.
Like many others, we lament what is now happening to this wonderful country —turning its back on the plans and dreams of their great modern founder Ataturk . How he must be turning over in his grave.
Here is his words later after the great battle at Anzac in the First World War :
‘ Foreign forces were attempting to capture an area now known as Anzac cove in an effort to pave the way to capturing Constantinople. They failed and thousands of men from both sides lost their lives.
It was an ugly battle resulting in the death of husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers.
In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk wrote the famous words that reached out to the mothers of his former enemies.
“Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore, rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours,
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well”.