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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Friday, 20 May 2016

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

MapOur final day of travelling (except for the long flight home) was an auspicious day in Turkey. National Youth Day occurs every 19th May, and is a national holiday. It commemorates the day in 1919 when Mustafa Kemal landed at Samsun after leaving Istanbul, and decided to disobey his Ottoman leaders to begin an uprising that lead to the Turkish War of Independence, and the Turkish nation being declared in 1923. As we drove from Safranbolu into Istanbul (a big day of over 500 kms), we saw thousands of the distinctive red Turkish flag and portraits of Ataturk draped from buildings, billboards, windows, cars, buses, service stations, offices, schools, flagpoles, even mountain tops. It was great to see a people proud of its history, independence and culture, with no political undertones.

Going south and inland from the Black Sea, we drove through some beautiful forests, with canopies so thick that very little sunlight reaches the ground. Trees grew over the road to such an extent that we drove through tunnels of green. We also drove through tunnels of rock, as several hills had been penetrated by some incredibly engineered roads. Further on, the outskirts of Istanbul seemed to go on forever, it is a huge city. Being a holiday, there were crowds of people everywhere, and most of them were enjoying a day off. Many parks had families whod set up a portable barbeque equipped with a wood fire, going by the tell-tale smoke.

We returned to the same hotel that wed left three weeks ago, having negotiated nearly 4,000 kilometres. The tour concluded with a cruise to the head of the Bosphoros River at the Black Sea, followed by lunch, and the final night dinner on the top floor of the hotel with that fabulous view. It has been a fantastic holiday, but there was one last item on our agenda before closing out this chapter. We went to the hospital where wed spent a month recovering from my motorcycle injury, and visited the orthopaedic surgeon who looked after us seven years ago. Dr Mik greeted us enthusiastically and listened intently on how the treatment had continued once wed returned to Tasmania, and how my foot looked and felt today. His kindness, interest and compassion was remarkable, but not atypical of the Turkish spirit that wed come to know.

We wont miss the cigarette smoke in its restaurants, or the Call to Prayer at 4am, but this is a wonderful place for a holiday. Whilst in the Istanbul hospital seven years ago, I had a blood transfusion and Ive always said that Ive had a little bit of Turkey in me ever since. Now I think Ill always have a little bit of Turkey in me because of the effect that this country has had on both of us. Weve been overwhelmed again by it, and will always sing its praises.