10 days in turkey, brilliant. Great food, great people (the friendliest I’ve ever encountered), fascinating history, and most unexpected: a strong Australian presence.
Starting in Istanbul and heading west, I travelled by bus. Bus travel in Turkey is like no other country. There are god knows how many bus companies, so when you walk into an Otogar (bus station) invariably someone will approach you asking you where you want to go. Never mistake this genuine offer of assistance (and a desire for you to go with their bus company) for some dodgy attempt at simply grabbing your tourist dollars. These dudes will see you on your way quicker than you can say kebap. Meanwhile the buses themselves are super clean, super comfortable and they even have a host walking up and down the isles taking your rubbish and offering you coffee. Now that’s service.
Anyway, so Istanbul. I have to say I didn’t give it the time it deserved. Three lousy nights just doesn’t cut it. A city like this needs serious attention, and I always need extra time for my photo wanderings. However, visits to the various Islamic points of interest, the palace and a hamam put me in good stead for some visual inspiration.
I wandered into this courtyard where a collection of stools had gathered. It’s somewhat of a cliché to photograph locals doing local activities, in the case of Turkey this would mean photographing bunches of men sitting together drinking tea and playing backgammon. I’m never too keen on photographing people without their permission – I much prefer to find the evidence of such activities, and this courtyard didn’t let me down.
Touring the Gallipoli site is a worthwhile experience and therefore important to do if you’re an Aussie and ever in the region. It’s the last known battle site for the ‘gentlemen’s war’ where soldiers on both sides displayed acts of kindness to their enemy. It’s a poignant place, you can still find artillery cartridges in the water. Ironic, really, to see so many gravestones with soldier’s names on them, and their ages – 21, 28, 30 and so on. Meanwhile three generations later young people of the exact same age are visiting the area as tourists and the local economy rests solely on those visitations, particularly on 25 April, the day the ANZACs landed there. The focus within the tour for the most part was on the allied presence here for the nine month campaign, but you can really sense the Turkish pride here too. And so they should be proud – they held off the enemy successfully right here in their own backyard.
A couple of days in the north-eastern island called Bozcaada – what a little gem that place is! Had to have a little play with my pano pics…sorry for the chunky Turkish man, they’re a part of the landscape and really quite unavoidable!
Then a full day of bus riding later and bam a visit to Ephesus, the second largest ancient site in the world….just jaw-dropping history. So much has fallen to ruin and yet you can achieve a sense of its heyday just by the ramblings that are left.
But for all the touristing I did, I have to say it’s the people of Turkey that won the day for me. They are the friendliest and most genuine bunch I’ve ever met. And if you know me, you know I’ve seen a few countries by now, so that’s a reasonably qualified observation. They’ll spot you a $50 US dollar bill to help you out till the bank opens on Monday (I saw this!), they’ll give you the evil eye that takes pride of place in their carpet store (evil eyes are everywhere in Turkey, they keep away evil spirits). They’ll smile at you and pat your cheek and say what a nice person you are, just because you took the time to sit with them outside their shop and have a chat. Invitations to have tea, tea and more tea, with no expectations for money to change hands afterwards, are in plentiful supply. And the tea is really good too. (But not the Nescafe.)