Thoughts reverent and irreverent from the road in Turkey

My taxi driver is not in a good mood. He doesn’t want to take me to Fasıllar, inland from Lake Beyşehir, because, he says, it will be muddy. On the other hand he doesn’t want to refuse outright either and risk losing the fare. We set off, then, in a...
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Some years ago in a dusty antique shop in Beyşehir I was shown a black-and-white postcard of a strange, lumpy-looking block of stone standing in a pond. “It’s Eflatunpınar,” I was told which did not, at that time, mean anything to me. I think the word Hittite was also bandied...
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Here I am in Afyon, a conservative town as I know both from reputation and from previous visits. Accordingly, I head straight out in the morning to explore the narrow back streets that meander charmingly round the base of the huge rock topped with a castle that gave its full name ...
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“My daughters say I should market it as for the young and the deaf only.” I was chatting to the urbane female owner of the Begonvil Hotel in Marmaris, a delightful place set around a courtyard that offered one of the best breakfasts in town. I wanted so much to...
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Tagged in: Marmaris
On the eastern flank of Eğirdir in the Turkish Lake District there stands a caravanserai in such an abject state of ruin that it’s hard even to recognize that it was once one of the links in the chain of places to stay that kept the great caravan trains of the...
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It didn’t look very different from any other pide I’d eaten over the years actually. Perhaps the dough was a little thinner, more like that of a lahmacun than a normal pizza. Perhaps the cheese was a little less obvious. But of course there was a curious shimmer to it.This was,...
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In front of the entrance to Eğirdir’s magnificent Dundar Bey Medrese Tahir Usta is stirring a vast cauldron of a curious yellow paste. I peer into it suspiciously. There are patches of oil on the top and pistachios floating haphazardly round the edges. “What is it?” I ask. “Irmak helva,” comes the reply. For...
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It’s an oft-commented fact that once a place has been sanctified by the erection of a religious building it tends to remain sacred even after the dominant religion changes. So in the East End of London it’s possible to come across the odd building that has served in turn as a...
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Last year I made a hare-brained dash to Şavşat in northeastern Turkey in the depths of winter. The reason? Nearby Veliköy is the one village in the country where men engage in the deeply unTurkish sport of kar güreşi (snow wrestling).I say deeply unTurkish because anyone who has lived here for...
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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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