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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Location: Amasra, Turkey

MapThere’s something we need to talk about. In fact, the whole tour group have been discussing this since arriving in Turkey.

Our Australian Government’s official travel advice for Turkey is to “exercise extreme caution” and “reconsider your need to travel”. So, let’s be clear … we are under the watchful eye of some very experienced locals on this tour. Barish, Yussuf and Aberdin have travelled this country for many years, and they know it like it’s their home town. Even so, we have wandered through some very crowded places, such as the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and been surrounded by thousands of people, any one of whom may have wanted to hurt us.

We have never felt threatened or frightened by any place, situation or individual whilst being in Turkey. There is a constant police presence on the streets of every city we’ve visited. They are always armed, with either a pistol on their belt or a semi-automatic weapon draped over their shoulder. This does not bother us at all, in fact quite the opposite – it conveys a sense of reassurance.

The tour group all agree that our Government’s travel warning is not warranted for this country. In fact, it is doing the will of the terrorists, who want to spread fear and create hardship in this wonderful land. The Turks don’t deserve to have their tourist industry turned away by the over-reaction of foreign governments. Of course there is trouble in the extreme south-east near the Syrian border, but we are a thousand miles away from there, both geographically and symbolically.

We’re also being told that Australia expects another terrorist attack, similar to the Lindt Café siege, at some time in the future. Accordingly, the travel warning for Australia should be to “exercise extreme caution” and “reconsider your need to travel”. Does that mean we cannot return home?

We say - don’t let the terrorists win, come and see this fabulous place, and experience the sights, the people, the culture, the food, the friendship. It is no more dangerous than anywhere else in the world. The other day we stopped for morning tea at a tiny village called Agaccami. The café had a group of men sitting on its verandah. They beckoned me over, sat me in a chair, and I had to shake the hand of every one of ten of them. They asked where I was from. They were fascinated about Australia, and particularly Tasmania, and we had a good chat. Only thing was, they knew no English, and I knew no Turkish, but the conversation was between friends, kindred spirits, ordinary people just wishing to learn about the world we live in. As we were leaving, the café owner refused to take any payment for the 15 cups of tea. You don’t charge friends.

That’s the Turkey that awaits you.