I fell in love with Turkey as a young backpacker in the late 1980s and have never stopped talking about my experiences since. After 24 years of retelling my tales to anyone who would listen, I returned to Turkey in 2010.
On a glorious autumn morning in November Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth sailed across the Aegean from Athens and kissed the dock at Kusadasi. I was on board this 12 night Mediterranean Highlight cruise with my husband, daughter and my mother.
My old friend, and clever carpet seller, Erol was there to meet the ship as I had told him we were spending a day in his beautiful hometown on Turkey’s Turqoise coast.
We slept in that day, still struggling with the ambitious itinerary – 9 ports in 12 days – and we shuffled off the ship mid morning. I convinced my husband not to go on a tour of Ephesus, simply because I’d been there in another November and I wanted Erol to meet my family.
I got to sit down with Erol in his new shop – Harem Carpet and Jewellery – the first store on the right as you walk from the port through the historic Kervansaray – built around 300 years ago as part of the Silk Road.
Erol took us up to a terrace restaurant where we ate and drank whilst looking out over the port and Queen Victoria.
Before we could say Teşekkür Ederim we were whisked downstairs to Benny’s Leather Shop where, coincidentally, Erol’s daughter worked. As the carpets Erol had sold me 24 years ealier were still looking pretty good in my house in Australia I let slip that we might be interested in buying some leather jackets – that was all they needed to hear.
So we tried some on, were given a good show by Adam (the man starring in the YouTube video) and my daugher and I were given lots and lots of apple cai whilst my husband drank beer. We bought a jacket each, because they convinced us that 3 coats were cheaper than 2. While the jackets were being individually adjusted they tried to tempt me with an array of gorgeous handbags but my holiday budget did have some limits.
To this day we don’t know what the real cost of the coats would be but I suppose their true worth is in how much we love them and wear them rather than what we paid for them, but it did turn out to be the most expensive free lunch we ever enjoyed.
So with full stomachs and empty wallets, the family headed back to Queen Victoria with the loot and I wandered off to photograph Kusadasi and and the fortress on Pigeon Island.
Sometimes the memories we have of a place we have visited are diminished by revisiting the city or country and expecting to see what we first saw with virgin eyes. I experienced no such let down as Turkey was just as wonderful as ever. With reference to Brendan Shanahan’s book, In Turkey I am Beautiful (a book I highly recommend, by the way), in Turkey everyone is beautiful.
Pigeon Island is certainly beautiful and the fort is stoic considering its age and history. I have read many different accounts of when it was built but most agree that it was built in the Ottoman period.
I thoroughly enjoyed the solitude out at Pigeon Island where the play of light upon the water, the stones and the trees created a dream-like quality. Amazingly I sighted only a couple of other people out there so it felt like I was alone in another world, in another time.
If there was a chance of being hypnotised by my surroundings I just had to look up to see Queen Victoria docked across the water, waiting for day’s end and the next port – Istanbul.
It would be my second visit to this intriguing metropolis – I was ready. (to be continued…)