Turkish Delights

‘Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.’ – Gustave Flaubert

I found it helpful to view this country extensively from on, sometimes from under and most memorably…  from above! 

Flying high over Cappadocia

Flying high over Cappadocia

 

The Turkish scenery in places is quite unique.

The landscape in Cappadocia appears surreal and I think even the inimitable Mr Dali would struggle with imagining such a panorama.

 The local guide tells me that Spielberg was inspired by this location to take us to another planet in his first Star Wars movie but my comprehensive, peer reviewed research (ok, I googled it) can’t confirm his story.

 

Fairy Chimneys

Fairy Chimneys

The fact is that about 40 million years ago, repeated volcanic eruptions covered the countryside with a layer of soft rock called tufa while erosion over time has imaginatively created these large mushroom capped columns that the locals likened to fairy chimneys. But, it is man’s creativity and practical need for safe refuge that burrowed deep into the soft rock to escape the harsh climate and other persecutors, as evidenced by the early Christians churches established deep within the underground cities.

‘Please be a traveller, not just a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.’ –  Andrew Zimmern

This country is full of contrasts; exotically indulgent and scarily intense to every sense at times.

Visiting a hamam or traditional Turkish Bath highlights these contrasts.

Led into a warm room, my body is allowed to ‘perspire freely’. It has no problem doing this but I could probably better describe it as ‘sweat like a pig’!

What is left of my steamed carcass is then sacrificed onto a flat, warmed marble bench where I lay face up while my attendant gently splashes shallow buckets of warm and cool water over my now calming body. I realise in hindsight that this was just to lull me into a false sense of security before their real fun begins.

Ms Hyde subsequently emerges with a rough loofah to scrub every part of my relaxed remains to within an inch of my suddenly decreasing life. However, just in the nick of time she ceases and I am flooded with a sense of gratefulness.

This of course is instantly replaced with mounting apprehension as I sight the young Amazonian approaching me again and swinging a large white pillowcase. Memories of sibling and cousin beatings on holiday sleepovers come flooding back and I lay trembling and wondering what tortuous process must follow. As she moves closer, the pillow is dramatically shaken and tossed like a matador teasing his quarry… before being ceremoniously thrown across my now terrified torso.

Ohhh…. what a relief!

Dr Jekyll’s pillowcase is filled with bubbles.

Immediately all apprehension disappears and there is only this feeling of tiny, frothy bubbles popping continuously and I get to enjoy the most indulgent, soapy, slippery massage ever. And as if that is not enough, I sink into the depths of complete decadence with an oil massage and a facial that I never want to end.

‘The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.’  -Samuel Johnson

Pammukale 'cotton castle'

Pammukale ‘cotton castle’

Pammukale means ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish and is a natural site where water emerges from underground springs and deposits calcium carbonate to form travertine terraces. Myriad tourists wander never lonely upon these cloudlike forms and enjoying the cool water falling into pools and the nearby bubbling springs… just like their first Egyptian tourist Cleopatra did, centuries ago.

There is an earthy warmness in the rich, dusty colours that wrap themselves around you daily and cling to your heart. Aromatic spices hypnotically dance in the air around every restaurant and tastebuds are tantalised by aged olive oils, freshly dried apricots, creamy yoghurts and baklava dripping in dark, golden honey and dusted with pistachio. Hmm, but by the far, the best reward on a day when the mercury rises again, is a freezing cold mixture of goat’s milk, sugar and orchid root that magically transforms into a wonderfully thick, sticky icecream… and is always served with a teasing sideshow.

‘Time travel is such a magic concept.’ – Matt Smith

Ancient columns

Ancient columns

The Turkish story goes back to the beginning of time.

It seems the Hittites were the first, followed by the Persian, Roman and Byzantine Empires.

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

The Ottomans rocked in about the 13th Century and their sultans and sultanas enjoyed the fruits of their conquest until Attaturk declared Turkiye a republic in 1923 and dragged all his people into a brave and modern new world. Quite the dapper modernist, hero and reformist statesman, he encouraged the arts and women in education and died in 1937 about 20 years before my own current Prime Minister was born… hmm, interesting how opposite their policies appear. One would think it might be the other way around.

Johnnies & Mehmets

Australia and Turkiye share a tragic chapter in history together.

We will remember them.

We will remember them

The friendship between our peoples today has grown from a mutual respect and admiration of the young men who fort against each other so valiantly in the trenches at Gallipoli.  They called the Aussie Diggers ‘Johnny’ and themselves ‘Mehmet’… they were just normal, everyday guys; sons of mothers who  loved them dearly; brothers of sisters that missed them so much; fathers of children who cried for them and still do. It was a tragic campaign for the Allies in World War 1 and so it was with trepidation but a real sense of honour I made the pilgrimage to ANZAC Cove, Lone Pine and then on to the Turkish Memorial to remember the tragic consequence of war. We must remember because this is the only way we can avoid it reoccurring. We must learn.

I have loved my visit to Turkiye.

I have enjoyed seeing old friends, making new ones and finding new memories.

Ok, I didn’t love the heat… so when I return it will be in cooler weather.

I can’t wait!

Thank you Turkey!

Sana Turkiye ederiz!

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